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Procedia Materials Science 10 (2015) 513 518

2nd International Conference on Nanomaterials and Technologies (CNT 2014)

Energy Generation from Municipal Solid Waste by Innovative


Technologies Plasma Gasification

M. Rajasekhara*, N.Venkat Raob, G.Chinna Raoc, G. Priyadarshinid, N. Jeevan Kumare


a,c,d

Vardhaman College of Engineering (Autonomous), shamshabad - 501218, Hyderabad, India


Narasimha Reddy Engineering College, Kompally, Medchal 500014, Ranga Reddy, India

Abstract

The growing population all around the world has increased the quantum of solid waste the disposal of which has
become a complex task to the municipal authorities. In search of a suitable remedy to this problem we have arrived
at a number of varieties of waste management methods and strategies for dealing with municipal solid waste. These
technologies help to generate energy in the form of heat, electricity and fuel and also remarkably reduce the
diversion of biomass waste from landfill. The process of plasma gasification is one among those successful proven
technologies of producing energy from waste. Gasification is a process in which a solid material containing carbon,
such as coal or biomass, is converted into a gas called syngas which contains hydrogen and carbon monoxide. The
focus of the paper is to analyze the process of plasma gasification and also to propose a critical assessment of MSW.
It also aims to compare the performance of the process to that of the conventional energy recovery methods.

Published
by Elsevier
Ltd. This
2015
2015The
TheAuthors.
Authors.
Published
by Elsevier
Ltd. is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license
(http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).
Peer-review under responsibility of the International Conference on Nanomaterials and Technologies (CNT 2014).
Peer-review under responsibility of the International Conference on Nanomaterials and Technologies (CNT 2014)
Keywords: Municipal Solid Waste; Pyrolysis; Gasification; Hydrocarbon; Energy; Syngas; Plasma Arc
* Corresponding author. Tel.: +919985024240
E-mail address: mrajasekhar@outlook.com

1.

Introduction

Higher standards of living of ever increasing population have resulted in an increase in the quantity and variety
of solid waste generated. It is now identified that if generation of waste continues indiscriminately then very soon it
would be beyond rectification. Hence, management of solid waste has become very important in order to minimize
the adverse impacts of municipal solid waste on the environment. Waste other than liquid or gaseous is called solid
waste, it can be classified as municipal, industrial, agricultural, medical and sewage sludge. Solid waste also can be
classified as garbage, rubbish, pathological waste, industrial waste and agricultural waste. Garbage refers to the
putrescible solid waste generated during meat preparation, fruit and vegetables. The moisture content of these

2211-8128 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license
(http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).
Peer-review under responsibility of the International Conference on Nanomaterials and Technologies (CNT 2014)
doi:10.1016/j.mspro.2015.06.094

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M. Rajasekhar et al. / Procedia Materials Science 10 (2015) 513 518

wastes is about 70 % and heating value of around 6x10 6 J/Kg. Rubbish, the another type of solid waste consists of
25% of moisture and 15x106 J/kg of heating value. The examples of rubbish wastes are paper, rubber, leather,
metals, glass, ceramics etc. Dead animals and human wastes are called pathogenic waste containing 85 % of
moisture and 2.5x106 J/Kg heating value. Refuse is very heterogeneous in composition and the geographical,
temporal, and seasonal variations in its composition make it difficult to define a typical refuse. The solid refuse
generated in urban areas contains particles of various sizes and types and consists of dust, vegetable leaves, waste
paper, large paper board cartons, glass bottles, worn out tyres and night soil.
Table 1: composition of city refuse (% by weight)
Composition
Kanpur

New Delhi

Calcutta

Bangalore

Paper

1.35

5.88

0.14

1.5

3.20

Putrescible matter

53.34

57.71

47.25

75.2

59.37

Dust and ash

25.93

22.95

33.58

12.0

15.9

Metals

0.18

0.59

0.66

0.1

0.13

Glass

0.38

0.31

0.24

0.2

0.52

Textiles

1.57

3.56

0.28

3.1

3.26

Plastics, leather

0.66

1.46

1.54

0.9

1.1

Stones and wooden matter

18.59

6.4

16.98

18.9

16.4

500

520

540

578

580

Density (Kg/m3)

Mumbai

The amount of refuse collected from urban areas in India is of the order of 0.3 kg to 0.5 kg per person per day
excluding night soil. Improper handling of solid waste leads to health hazard and cause damage to the environment.
The waste can be collected efficiently before the waste disposed effectively.
2.

Collection and Transportation of Solid Waste

Efficient collection and transportation are essential parts of the overall solid waste management programme. The
basic mode of refuse collection in India is from communal storage points. The waste is collected in bins with
capacity of 100 to 500 liters and placed at intervals of 50 to 200 meters. Daily collection of solid waste from bins is
essential because the organic matter in the bins may tend to decompose rapidly. Another kind of waste collection
methods block collection and kerbside collection are practiced in developed countries. Block collection is the
process of conveying of waste by individuals to the waiting vehicles with the help of containers. In kerbside
collection, the containers are placed on the footway in advance of the collection time and to be retrieved later.
Transportation of the collected waste constitutes a key stage in the overall waste management system. In India, no
single mode of collection is effective, economical and efficient due to congested and narrow roads. Hand cart
collection is the best method in narrow and congested roads where the waste can be brought by individuals and
transferred to the main transport vehicle.
3.

Disposal of solid waste

The process of selecting the right waste disposal method is a complex one due to the heterogeneity in the urban
waste. Appropriate method of waste disposal can save money and avoids future problems. The most predominant
methods used for treating municipal solid waste are open dumping, sanitary land filling, incineration and
composting. Open dumping of solid waste is practiced mostly in India because it is cheap and requires no planning.
In general, low lying areas and out skirts of the city are the places for dumping the waste. Open dumping create
nuisance to the public by breeding of the flies, rats and mosquitoes. It is also a source of objectionable odors and
causing air pollution but it helps to decrease the volume of the waste. Sanitary land filling is the method of disposing
of solid waste according to the standards. The waste is dumped in the pits covered with High Density Polyethylene
liner (HDPE) to avoid ground water contamination and the waste is compacted in thin layers within small area. The
end products of the solid waste after digestion are Carbon dioxide and methane. The only disadvantage of the
sanitary land filling is ground water pollution from leachates. Incineration involves burning of solid waste at high

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515

temperatures where 75 % of the waste can be converted in to ashes, metals and unburned combustibles. This residue
must still be disposed in different manner. Incineration may lead to the contamination of the air unless designed the
plant properly.
4.

Plasma Gasification

Gasification is a process in which a solid material containing carbon, such as coal or biomass, is converted into a
gas. It is a thermo chemical process, means that the feedstock is heated to high temperatures, producing gases which
can undergo chemical reactions to form a synthesis gas called syngas. Syngas mainly contains hydrogen and carbon
monoxide, and can then be used to produce energy. Pyrolysis vaporizes the volatile component of the feedstock as it
is heated. The volatile vapors are mainly hydrogen, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, methane, hydrocarbon gases,
tar, and water vapor. Since biomass feedstock tend to have more volatile components (70-86% on a dry basis) than
coal (around 30%), pyrolysis plays a major role in biomass gasification than in coal gasification. Gasification further
breaks down the pyrolysis products with the provision of additional heat, some of the tars and hydrocarbons in the
vapors are thermally cracked to give smaller molecules, with higher temperatures resulting in fewer remaining tars
and hydrocarbons. Steam gasification - this reaction converts the char into gas through various reactions with carbon
dioxide and steam to produce carbon monoxide and hydrogen. Higher temperatures favor hydrogen and carbon
monoxide production, and higher pressures favor hydrogen and carbon dioxide production over carbon monoxide.
The heat needed for all the above reactions to occur is usually provided by the partial combustion of a portion of the
feedstock in the reactor with a controlled amount of air, oxygen, or oxygen enriched air. Heat can also be provided
from external sources using superheated steam, heated bed materials and by burning some of the chars or gases
separately. This choice depends on the gasifier technology. There are then further reactions of the gases formed,
with the reversible water-gas shift reaction changing the concentrations of carbon monoxide, steam, carbon dioxide
and hydrogen within the gasifier. The result of the gasification process is a mixture of gases.

Fig.1. Process of Converting Trash to Gas

5.

Introduction to Gasifier types


There are different gasifiers for conversion of biomass in to gas, are mentioned below.

5.1. Updraft fixed bed


The biomass is fed in at the top of the gasifier, and the air, oxygen or steam intake is at the bottom, hence the
biomass and gases move in opposite directions. Some of the resulting char falls and burns to provide heat. The

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methane and tar-rich gas leaves at the top of the gasifier, and the ash falls from the grate for collection at the bottom
of the gasifier.
5.2. Plasma
Untreated biomass is dropped into the gasifier, coming into contact with electrically generated plasma, usually at
atmospheric pressure and temperatures of 1,500-5,000C. Organic matter is converted into very high quality syngas,
and inorganic matter is vitrified into inert slag.
5.3. Downdraft fixed bed
The biomass is fed in at the top of the gasifier and the air, and oxygen or steam intake is also at the top or from
the sides, hence the biomass and gases move in the same direction. Some of the biomass is burnt, falling through the
gasifier throat to form a bed of hot charcoal which the gases have to pass through.
5.4. Entrained Flow
Powdered biomass is fed into a gasifier with pressurized oxygen and/or steam. A turbulent flame at the top of the
gasifier burns some of the biomass, providing large amounts of heat, at high temperature (1200-1500C), for fast
conversion of biomass into very high quality syngas. The ash melts onto the gasifier walls, and is discharged as
molten slag
5.5. Bubbling Fluidized bed
A bed of fine inert material sits at the gasifier bottom with air, oxygen or steam being blown upwards through the
bed just fast enough (1-3m/s) to agitate the material. Biomass is fed in from the side, mixes, and combusts or forms
syngas which leaves upwards and operates at temperature below 900C to avoid ash melting and sticking.
6.

Principal feedstock preparation steps for biomass gasification

6.1. Sizing
Smaller particles have a larger surface area to volume ratio, and the gasification reaction occurs faster when there
is a larger biomass surface area. Smaller particles can also be suspended in gas flows more readily, and if very
small, the particles may act like a fluid. Achieving the correct feedstock sizing for the gasifier is important. Crude
sizing operations include chipping, cutting and chopping, but in order to get very small ground particles, pulverizing
milling equipment is needed, this is an energy intensive process. A screening process is often used to ensure any
remaining larger particles and extraneous materials are removed.
6.2. Drying
The removal of moisture contained within the biomass by evaporation, typically using temperatures between
100C and 120C. Drying requires a significant amount of energy in order to evaporate the large mass of water. This
heat can be provided externally, or extracted from the gasifier syngas or other plant process steps. Gasification
efficiency increases with drier biomass, but drying costs also increased quickly below 10% moisture.
6.3. Torre faction
A mild thermal treatment (approximately 30 minutes at between 200C and 300C, in the absence of oxygen)
resulting in a low-oxygen content, dry and relatively brittle product. Torrefied wood is much easier to grind than
untreated wood, using 80% less energy for a given sizing, and with a significant increase in milling plant capacity.

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6.4. Pyrolysis
The thermal degradation of biomass in the absence of oxygen, whereby the volatile parts of a feedstock are
vaporized by heating. The reaction forms three products: a vapor that can be condensed into a liquid (pyrolysis oil),
other gases, and a residue consisting of char and ash. Fast pyrolysis processes are designed and operated to
maximize the liquid fraction (up to 75% by mass), and require rapid heating to temperatures of 450C to 600C, and
rapid quenching of the vapors to minimize undesirable secondary reactions. The resulting liquids and solids can be
ground together to form a bio-slurry for gasification
6.5. Plasma Gasifiers
Plasma gasification usually takes place in the absence of a gasification oxidant, with some gas (e.g. air, oxygen,
nitrogen, noble gases) only present to produce the plasma in the jet or arc, for the provision of heat. Extremely high
temperatures (greater than 5,000C) ensure that the feedstock is broken down into its main component atoms of
carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. These quickly re-combine to form hydrogen and carbon monoxide gases, thereby
producing a very high quality syngas, with no methane, hydrocarbons or tars. Other plasma gasifiers work at lower
temperatures (from 1,500C to 5,000C, but still well above EF conditions), producing some tars and hydrocarbons,
which are then immediately cracked. Plasma torches have highly adjustable power outputs, hence temperatures and
syngas components can be controlled. Since plasma gasification usually uses waste feedstock, chlorides levels can
be high, which can lead to high levels of impurities (such as dioxins and metals) in the syngas, although many of the
heavier elements are vitrified and hence safely removed.
Conclusion
As it has been one of the best proven methods for treating municipal solid waste it may be employed in every
municipal corporation. Treatment of solid waste by various other methods may involve certain difficulties for the
complete disposal of residues. As far as plasma gasification is concerned the total disposal of residues is possible
hence there will be no need of leaving any residues that may cause further problem. In order to make it more
accessible and affordable to all, the equipment related to the process may be made available at reasonable expenses
by innovative design.
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