Plasma Arc Gasification: Eliminating Landfills by Converting Waste into Clean Energy

Plasma Arc Gasification garbage to energy

plasma arc gasification technology

Dirty diapers, concrete, sludge, even hazardous biomedical waste can be transformed into energy using plasma arc gasification technology.

With millions of tons of waste being generated every year and nowhere to put it, scientists have developed a method of converting any waste - no matter how toxic or dangerous - into a clean fuel gas, without causing any pollution. 

What is Plasma Arc Gasification?

plasma arc gasification delft university netherlands

Turning human waste into energy using plasma arc gasification technology at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands.

Plasma arc gasification is an advanced technology and an environmentally friendly method of converting hazardous waste into commercially valuable by-products. 

It is a high-temperature process whereby organic portions of waste solids (carbon-based materials) are converted to a combustable gas while inorganic materials and minerals produce a glassy, rock-like substance called vitrified slag. The synthesis gas (syngas) is produced in an environment that's oxygen deficient and is comprised of carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrogen (H2).(R)(R)(R)(R)

The high temperatures used during this process are generated by converting a gas into plasma using an electric arc in a torch.  Plasma arc gasification is the processing of organic fractions of waste solids (carbon-based materials) within a reactor containing a plasma torch.  The reactor for such a process typically operates at 4000°C - 7000°C (7200°F - 12,600°F).

How does it work?

plasma torch cutting metal plasma arc gasification

Plasma is so hot that it can cut through metal like butter.

Plasma, also called the 4th state of matter, can exceed temperatures of 7,000 degrees centigrade - that's three times hotter than petrochemical fuels burn, and hotter than the surface of the sun.

Inside the chamber, two electrodes create an electric arc so hot, that it breaks down materials into their atomic elements. Even though the materials are being exposed to intense heat, they are not being burnt or incinerated. According to Plasco Energy scientist Andreas Tsangaris, "Plasmagasification works in the absence, or near absence of oxygen. Therefore it's a process of decomposition, and not combustion." The result is energy produced from emission-free molecular deconstruction.

5 Types of Gasification Technologies Compared

A comparative study by Dr. Gary Young explored the 5 different types of available gasification technologies for their efficiency, environmental impact and economic viability.(R)  The 5 thermal technologies ourlined by Dr. Young for dealing with waste are:

  1. Pyrolysis
  2. Pyrolysis/Gasification
  3. Conventional Gasification
  4. Plasma Arc Gasification
  5. Incineration

Although all have their own advantages and disadvantages, plasma arc gasification stood out as the most efficient thermal gasification process.  It was also determined that plasma arc gasification is the most profitable or 'economically viable' method of processing waste.

"A plasma arc gasification facility at a capacity of 907 tonnes/day of waste (1000 tons/day) generates a net annual revenue before taxes of between $15 million and $23 million per year, depending upon the selling price of electricity. Capital cost is about $154 million," wrote waste management world.(R)

Plasma arc gasification is currently being used by a number of companies commercially as a method of dealing with waste and has been tested for the gasification of many waste types including municipal solid waste, biomass, industrial waste, and hazardous waste.(R)

According to a study by the Worldwatch Institute, growing prosperity and urbanization could double worldwide municipal solid waste production by 2025 - from 1.3 billion tons to 2.6 billion tons.  That's a LOT of garbage.  But this statistic is only disheartening to those who don't know about plasma arc gasficiation.  The only thing to worry about is NOT using this technology. 

The remarkable development of plasma arc gasification technology has instantly transformed all of the most highly-toxic and environmentally detrimental waste into commercially valuable, renewable, and sustainable resources. 

Which Wastes Can be Converted into Energy?

Long gone is the myth that human beings haven't developed a way of dealing with plastic.  (Why does our society try to make us feel guilty about the use of plastic materials when the technology to cleanly convert into energy as all other sources of garbage exists and is economically viable?).

The following is a list of all the products that can be converted into energy and other useful products using plasma arc gasification:

  • Waste wood
  • Wood pelletes and wood chips
  • Aluminum wastes
  • Plastics
  • Industrial wastes
  • Municipal solid wastes
  • Auto-shredder residue
  • Coal
  • Petroleum coke
  • Agricultural wastes
  • Grass
  • Corn stover
  • Crop residues
  • Mill waste
  • Sewage sludge
  • Black liquor

Useful Byproducts of Plasma Arc Gasification

The fuel gas produced by plasma arc gasification can be used to generate electricity, produce fresh water, heat and cool buildings, power vehicles, and virtually anything else we need energy for.

A small amount of rock-like glassy by-product, called "vitrified slag", can be safely used by the metals industry, the construction industry, or as road bed material for building highways.

Advantages of Plasma Arc Gasification

"Plasma gasification can create more renewable energy than the projected energy from solar, wind, landfull gas, and geothermal energies combined."
- Georgia Institute of Technology

The primary advantages of using plasma arc gasification technology for dealing with waste include:

  • Clean destruction of hazardous waste(R)
  • Preventing hazardous waste from reaching landfills(R)
  • No harmful emissions from toxic waste(R)
  • Production of an inert product called vitrified slag, which is useful as a construction material(R)
  • Processing of organic materials into combustible gas, which can be used to generate electric power(R)
  • Safe way to destroy medical wastes(R)

How Much Energy Can We Produce Using This Technology?

The world produces approximately 1.3 billion tons of municipal solid waste annually, and plasma gasification of 1 ton of average municipal solid wastes would send about 815 Kilowatt-hours of electricity to the grid.
Let's do a little math...

1,300,000,000 (tons of municipal solid waste per year) x 815 kWh (electricity)= 1,059,500,000,000 kWh

At the mid-peak time of day, hydro in the U.S. costs about 10.9 cents per kWh.

1,059,500,000,000 kWh x 10.9 cents/kWh
=
$115,485,500,000

If the world used all of their "garbage" to produce energy using Plasma Arc Gasification Technology, we would generate about $115.5 billion in clean energy every year.  Plasma arc gasification of municipal solid waste has the potential to create more energy than the projected energy from solar, wind, landfill gas and geothermal energies combined.

Of course, it takes energy to power this technology, but given the fact that we can be eliminating hazardous waste from our environment at the same time, the multiple benefits make it even more worthwhile.  We need to think of it less as a commercial way to make money and more as a collective effort to clean up our environment with the added benefit of energy production in the process.

Additionally, Gerard Morin's hyperdrive appears to be able to create motion at no charge, and could in theory be used to generate the energy required to power these plasma arc gasification plants for free.

Countries Using Plasma Arc Gasification Technology

There are currently 5 companies using plasma arc gasification technology, capable of processing 200 tonnes of waste per day.(R)(R)(R)(R)(R)(R)(R)(R)(R)(R)

Although we need many more Plasma Arc Gasification plants across the world, here are a number of developments in recent years regarding the implementation of the technology.

  • Developing rapidly across Europe, companies such as UK-headquartered Advanced Plasma Power (APP) has formed a joint venture to gasify thousands of tonnes of waste unearthed from a landfill mining project in Belgium.
  • Since 2002, two commercial waste-to-energy plasma gasification plants have been operating successfully in Japan.
  • In December 2012, the city of Ottawa, Ontario signed a deal with Plasco Energy to build a 150,000 tonnes per year Plasma Arc Gasification waste-to-energy facility.  According to the Ottawa Citizen, "Plasco has two major things it needs to do: sell its technology to other markets, China is very interested, and build a full scale working processing plant in Ottawa."  Newly appointed CEO Raymond Floyd has just what it takes to make that happen.
  • Plasco has already signed a letter of intent with one of China’s largest state owned enterprises called Shougang.  When it goes through, the agreement will bring Plasco Energy technology on line by 2017, a plan that will convert about 3,000 tons a day of Beijing’s garbage into clean fuel.

Conclusion

With the advent of plasma arc gasification, no longer is there a need to feel guilty or pay for the use of non-biodegradable plastics.  There are certainly better alternatives, such as biodegradable plastics made from hemp for example - and we should definitely switch to using these instead of conventional plastics - but plasma arc gasification technology has afforded humanity the opportunity to redeem ourselves by eliminating all toxic chemical wastes we've ever produced and released into the environment.

I think it's time we use the technology we have available to render landfills obsolete and eliminate all toxic waste from the world.  Afterall, we've only got one world in which to live. 

Once a complete environmental cleanup has been accomplished, we can focus on switching over all industrial endeavors to non-pollutant practises and begin regenerating nature and maximizing the health of all humans and other creatures in the natural world.

Plasma arc gasification represents enormous hope for our future.  It is a safe and efficient road we can take to generate a completely safe and restored environment.  And all that remains is for each individual to share this information with everybody they know until it is implemented universally and all toxic waste pollution vanishes from our world forever.

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