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Waste Management 69 (2017) 187–201

Contents lists available at ScienceDirect

Waste Management
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/wasman

Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) production and gasification in a pilot plant

integrated with an Otto cycle ICE through Aspen plusTM modelling:
Thermodynamic and economic viability
Albany Milena Lozano Násner a,⇑, Electo Eduardo Silva Lora b, José Carlos Escobar Palacio b,
Mateus Henrique Rocha b, Julian Camilo Restrepo b, Osvaldo José Venturini b, Albert Ratner c
Department of Mechanical Engineering, The St. Thomas University Tunja, St. 19 #11-64, Tunja, Boyacá, Colombia
NEST – Excellence Group in Thermal Power and Distributed Generation, Institute of Mechanical Engineering, Federal University of Itajubá, Av. BPS 1303, Itajubá,
Minas Gerais State CEP: 37500-903, Brazil
Seamans Center for the Engineering Arts and Sciences, University of Iowa, 3131 Iowa City, IA 52242, United States

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: This work deals with the development of a Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) gasification pilot plant using air as a
Received 19 February 2017 gasification agent. A downdraft fixed bed reactor is integrated with an Otto cycle Internal Combustion
Revised 5 June 2017 Engine (ICE). Modelling was carried out using the Aspen PlusTM software to predict the ideal operational
Accepted 2 August 2017
conditions for maximum efficiency. Thermodynamics package used in the simulation comprised the Non-
Available online 7 August 2017
Random Two-Liquid (NRTL) model and the Hayden-O’Connell (HOC) equation of state. As expected, the
results indicated that the Equivalence Ratio (ER) has a direct influence over the gasification temperature
and the composition of the Raw Produced Gas (RPG), and effects of ER over the Lower Heating Value
Municipal Solid Waste (MSW)
(LHV) and Cold Gasification Efficiency (CGE) of the RPG are also discussed. A maximum CGE efficiency
Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) of 57–60% was reached for ER values between 0.25 and 0.3, also an average reactor temperature values
Syngas in the range of 680–700 °C, with a peak LHV of 5.8 MJ/Nm3. RPG was burned in an ICE, reaching an elec-
Techno-economic analysis trical power of 50 kWel. The economic assessment of the pilot plant implementation was also performed,
showing the project is feasible, with power above 120 kWel with an initial investment of approximately
US$ 300,000.
Ó 2017 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction emissions, reduced excess air requirements during combustion, as

well as, easier storage, handling, and transportation (Bosmans
Refused Derived Fuel (RDF) is the product of the treatment of et al., 2013; Consonni et al., 2005; Rotter et al., 2004; Caputo and
Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) to create a fuel easily burnt in a Pelagagge, 2002), having a LHV remarkably higher (Bosmans
combustion chamber. To produce RDF, waste must first be shred- et al., 2013), varying from 16.1 to 26.3 MJ/kg (dry ash free), in
ded and then carefully sorted to remove all non-combustible mate- MSW having from 12.1 to 22.5 MJ/kg (dry ash free).
rial such as glass, metal and plastics (allowing the reuse/recycling Gasification is a process of conversion of any carbonaceous fuels
of these materials). While shredding and separating is carried out (solid or liquid feedstock) into gaseous fuel, through partial oxida-
using a series of mechanical processes, which are energy intensive, tion with an oxidizing agent (air, O2, H2O vapour, CO2, or their mix-
RDF still has advantages over mixed MSW as a fuel, because of the ture). It can also be defined as a thermochemical process limited to
quality and uniformity of its physical and chemical characteristics, a partial combustion and pyrolysis. Raw Produced Gas (RPG) com-
as well as the fact that converting MSW to RDF results in a higher position depends mainly on the temperature in the reactor, which
Lower Heating Value (LHV). These characteristics lead to a more is in turn influenced by the Equivalence Ratio (ER); H2 content in
homogeneous physical and chemical composition, lower pollutant the RPG ranges from 12% to 40%, CO content ranges from 15% to
30% and CH4 ranges from 4.5% to 9.0%. LHV of the RPG ranges from
⇑ Corresponding author. 4.0 to 13.0 MJ/Nm3, depending on the oxidizing agent used in gasi-
E-mail addresses: mlnasner@gmail.com (A.M.L. Násner), electo@unifei.edu.br fication and the operating conditions, among other factors. Gasifi-
(E.E.S. Lora), jocescobar@gmail.com (J.C.E. Palacio), mateus0@yahoo.com.br cation temperature is one of the most important operating
(M.H. Rocha), jcrestrepol@hotmail.com (J.C. Restrepo), osvaldo@unifei.edu.br parameters affecting the performance of the process due to the
(O.J. Venturini), albert-ratner@uiowa.edu (A. Ratner).

0956-053X/Ó 2017 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
188 A.M.L. Násner et al. / Waste Management 69 (2017) 187–201


Abbreviations Latin symbols

A ashes content C costs (US$)
APM Aspen Plus Model CF cash flow (US$)
BFB Bubbling Fluidized Bed E expenditures (US$)
BWI Bond Work Index ER Equivalence Ratio (dimensionless)
CFB Circulating Fluidized Bed I discount rate (%)
CGE Cold Gas Efficiency IRR Internal Rate of Return (US$)
COFINS Contribution to the Social Security Funding LHV Lower Heating Value (MJ/kg or MJ/Nm3)
ER Equivalence Ratio m_ mass flow rate (kg/s)
FB Fixed Bed NPV Net Present Value (US$)
FC Fixed carbon R revenues (US$)
HHV Higher Heating Value t lifetime of investment (years)
HOC Hayden-O’Connell W _ power (kW)
ICE Internal Combustion Engine X molar fraction (%)
IPCC Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
IRR Internal Rate of Return Greek symbols
LHV Lower Heating Value Η efficiency (%)
MM Mathematical Model
MRA Minimum Rate of Attractiveness Subscripts
MSW Municipal Solid Waste air air
NEST Excellence Group in Thermal Power and Distributed aux auxiliary
CGE Cold Gas Efficiency
NRTL Non-Random Two-Liquid CH4 methane
NPV Net Present Value CO carbon monoxide
PIS Program of Social Integration El electrical
PSD Particle Size Distribution
gas gas
RDF Refuse Derived Fuel gross gross
RPG Raw Produced Gas H2 hydrogen
SELIC Settlement and Custody Rate
IC installation costs
SFC Specific Fuel Consumption MSW Municipal Solid Waste
SRF Solid Recovered Fuel net net
Syngas Synthesis Gas O&M operation and maintenance costs
UNIFEI Federal University of Itajubá
RDF Refuse Derived Fuel
V volatiles content real actual conditions
W moisture content Stoic stoichiometric
Th thermal

balance between endothermic and exothermic reactions involved. Aspen PlusTM modelling, in order to reach better understanding of
The synergy of endothermic and exothermic reactions leads to a gasification processes and to carry out the design, simulation, opti-
high thermodynamic efficiency, higher temperatures favor the mization of gasifiers and to perform process analysis (Shehzad
reactants during exothermic reactions, while the same conditions et al., 2016; Begum et al., 2014; Chen et al., 2013; Ramzan et al.,
favor the products in endothermic reactions (Consonni and 2011; Chen et al., 2010). Several works developed different gasifi-
Viganò, 2012; Martínez et al., 2012; Belgiorno et al., 2003). cation schemes showing promising results in a wide range of
Recent efforts include the application of an equilibrium model potential applications (Hadidi et al., 2017; Kabalina et al., 2017;
to predict performance of commercial gasifiers. Thermodynamic Couto et al., 2016; Materazzi et al., 2016; Vounatsos et al., 2016;
equilibrium calculations, which are independent of gasifier design, Antonopoulos et al., 2012).
may be more suitable for process studies on the influence of the Kabalina et al. (2017) performed a retrofit in a district heating
most important fuel processing parameters. At chemical equilib- and cooling facility to use RDF as fuel in an atmospheric pressure
rium, a reacting system is at its most stable composition, a condi- gasifier with downstream gas clean-up, gas turbine and heat
tion achieved when the entropy of the system is maximized while recovery steam generator, along with heat exchangers for heat
its Gibbs free energy is minimized. However, thermodynamic equi- integration. The authors found that the lower production costs
librium may not be achieved, mainly due to a relatively low oper- for value-added products are achieved at maximum simultaneous
ational temperature (product gas outlet temperatures range from char and Synthesis Gas (syngas) production, with these costs esti-
750 to 1000 °C). These models are simple but inaccurate when mated in 6.1 USD/GJ.
used to calculate tar formation, CH4 generation, and higher hydro- Couto et al. (2016) carried out a thermodynamic evaluation of
carbon yields (Hwang et al., 2014; Niu et al., 2013; Barba et al., wastes gasification according to the First and Second Law analysis.
2011). A thermodynamic method was coupled with a previously
There are many types of gasifiers and gasification processes that developed numerical model by the same authors and this model
confirm the interest and prove the potential availability and capa- was validated using data from a pilot plant scale, with optimal
bility of this technology to produce energy from wastes. RDF gasi- operating point at 900 °C for an ER of 0.25. They found tar content
fication is rather complex and many researchers have focused on decreased 80% when temperature reached from 700 to 900 °C.
A.M.L. Násner et al. / Waste Management 69 (2017) 187–201 189

Materazzi et al. (2016) has studied the wastes gasification to It can be found studies assessing the energy potential of the RDF
transform the solid waste into clean syngas at a commercial scale. obtained from using the combustible fraction of solid wastes as a
For the two RDF materials considered by the authors, carbon con- fuel resource (Dong and Lee, 2009; Consonni et al., 2005), models
version efficiency is independent of feed type, with both efficien- have been applied to MSW and RDF gasification to carry out the
cies higher than 96%. LHV of the syngas is affected by extent of gasification process analysis, obtaining results such as: RPG yield
the exothermic reactions. Cold Gas Efficiency (CGE) remains unvar- and composition, LHV and CGE, however, those studies did not
ied, with values as high as 82%. evaluate separately the different stages in a RDF production and
Vounatsos et al. (2016) evaluated the RDF production, sampling, gasification plant.
characterization and gasification for the potential energy utiliza- Although kinetic models provide essential information on
tion of this fuel in an air blown gasifier. The authors reported a mechanisms and rates, equilibrium models are valuable because
materials recovery facility of 15,000 ton/year of packing waste, they are independent from the gasifier type and they can predict
plastic and paper, developed thermodynamic calculations of the thermodynamic variables as a guide of process design, evalua-
gasification process and found optimum operational temperature, tion and improvement (Chen et al., 2013). Equilibrium models
in terms of carbon conversion and CGE, between 850 and 900 °C. have two general approaches: stoichiometric and non-
Antonopoulos et al. (2012) carried out a non-stoichiometric stoichiometric. Stoichiometric approach requires a clearly
model for a downdraft gasifier in order to simulate the overall gasi- defined reaction mechanism that incorporates all chemical reac-
fication process of residues. The composition of the RPG was calcu- tions and species involved. In non-stoichiometric approach, no
lated by the authors, as well as, the mass and energy balances of particular reaction mechanisms or species are involved in the
the gasifier. Overall thermal energy produced by the gasifier was numerical simulation. To specify the feed the only input needed
considered to be 0.5 MW, with an ER of 0.45 and an operating tem- is its elemental composition which can be readily obtained from
perature range of 800–1200 °C. Authors found that the syngas LHV ultimate analysis data. Non-stoichiometric equilibrium model is
was about (around) 4–6 MJ/Nm3 and was reduced between 23 and based on minimizing Gibbs free energy in the system, without
40% when the feedstock moisture was increased. specifying the possible reactions taking place (Puig-Arnavat
Key objective of this work is to perform a thermodynamic anal- et al., 2010).
ysis and an economic assessment of energy recovery, based on the In order to calculate the ideal operational conditions for reach-
gasification of RDF, also to model it to support project decisions in ing maximum efficiency a non-stoichiometric equilibrium a steady
a pilot plant built at the Federal University of Itajubá (UNIFEI) in state model approach in Aspen PlusTM software is developed in this
Brazil. In the present paper, a thermodynamic simulation model work. Models based on thermodynamic equilibrium have been
was developed in Aspen PlusTM software to determine the technical used widely (Shehzad et al., 2016; Arafat and Jijakli, 2013;
feasibility of RDF production and gasification steps for electricity Begum et al., 2013; Chen et al., 2013; Niu et al., 2013; Ahmed
generation, using the produced syngas in an Otto Cycle Internal et al., 2012; Barba et al., 2011).
Combustion Engine (ICE) in this pilot plant. The study also provides Different authors have developed MSW gasification equilibrium
an economic assessment, with a sensitivity analysis, of the most models in steady state systems to evaluate the main gasification
significant parameters affecting the viability of the proposed process parameters having an impact on the system performance
energy recovery from MSW. and efficiency, like ER, operating temperature and feedstock feed-
ing rate. Table 1 summarizes the main results obtained by these
2. Materials and methods studies, including ER, temperature, gas composition (H2 and CO
molar fractions), LHV and CGE, according with gasification agent,
2.1. Plant configuration and main design assumptions wastes moisture and different types of reactors. These authors
have shown reasonable agreement between chemical equilibrium
The research and development project, whose partial results are predictions and experimental data, noticing the greater the mois-
described in this work, included the design and construction of a ture of the wastes the lower the LHV of the RPG. LHV of the RPG
pilot plant for RDF production through gasification in an air blown ranges from 3.7 to 8.0 MJ/Nm3 when using a mixture of oxygen
downdraft gasifier, integrated with an ICE coupled with an electric and steam as gasification agent. ER values could range from 0.20
generator, to generate electricity. This paper shows the results of to 0.40, reaching temperatures from 600 °C to 1015 °C, when using
the pilot plant project, which involved the simulation of the system the circulating fluidized bed technology and air as an oxidizing
in Aspen PlusTM software, in such a way that it was the starting agent.
point for the initial calculations of mass and energy balances, The pilot plant of MSW at NEST-UNIFEI was divided into three
installed generation capacity and thermal and electric efficiencies. different areas: RDF production, RDF gasification and power gener-
Now pilot the plant is already built and operating at the Excellence ation. RDF production line consists of several steps performed in
Group in Thermal Power and Distributed Generation (NEST) labo- series carrying out unit operations to separate undesirable compo-
ratories, and it is expected to validate the results obtained in the nents and thereby improving the combustible matter, to obtain a
operational tests with this model. RDF that meets the required specifications as fuel, so RDF produc-
MSW is a very complex mixture, characterized by its hetero- tion (mechanical treatment) consists of different stages of MSW
geneity, both in chemical composition and Particle Size Distribu- reception, handling and storage:
tion (PSD), when compared with coal. In this study the RDF was
used like fuel for thermochemical conversion in the pilot plant  Manual or mechanical sorting of heavy materials (compounds
described, and RDF production line accomplished through succes- of higher molecular weight and long chains, inorganics, metals,
sive stages of sorting, screening, shredding, size reduction, sieving, inert materials and glass).
drying and densification. In this context, the detailed mass, energy  Drying of light materials (plastics, paper, organic matter and all
and the material streams balances of RDF production process were residues with lower weight). During the commissioning of the
modeled based on the reported values published by (Rotter et al., pilot plant it was decided to change the operations schedule
2004; Caputo and Pelagagge, 2002), in terms of its chemical com- and size reduction was performed before drying.
position, as proximate and ultimate analysis by (Montané et al.,  Size reduction (shredding and grinding).
2013; Velis et al., 2011; Dunnu et al., 2010a, 2010b).  Briquetting of RDF, packing and storage.
190 A.M.L. Násner et al. / Waste Management 69 (2017) 187–201

Table 1
Summary of operating conditions and performances of wastes gasification units.

Reference Waste type Moisture Oxidizing Aspen PlusTM ER Temperature H2 (%) CO LHV CGE Fixed Bed (FB), Bubbling
(%) agent Model (APM) or (–) (°C) (%) (MJ/ (%) Fluidized Bed (BFB) or
Mathematical Nm3) Circulating Fluidized
Model (MM) Bed (CFB)
Barba et al. (2011) RDF 8.0 Air MM 0.27 1015 29.0 25.0 4.45 34.0 CFB
Niu et al. (2013) MSW 10.0 Air APM 0.35 800 16.0 24.0 5.4 62.0 BFB
Niu et al. (2013) MSW 30.0 Air APM 0.35 800 12.0 25.0 4.8 48.0 BFB
Niu et al. (2013) MSW 50.0 Air APM 0.35 800 8.5 26.0 4.2 38.0 BFB
Chen et al. (2013) MSW 48.0 Air APM 0.30 700 43.0 42.0 5.8 N.A. FB
Al Amoodi et al. (2013) Polyethylene 0.02 Air APM 0.20 727 35.0 25.0 7.1 40.0 BFB
Chen et al. (2010) MSW 48.0 Air APM 0.40 600 42.0 26.0 3.7 N.A. FB
Materazzi et al. (2013) RDF 11.5 O2/Steam MM N.A. 750 35.0 24.0 8.0 55.0 BFB
Mitta et al. (2006) Tires (dry) N.A. Air APM 0.30 950 15.5 8.10 N.A. N.A. BFB
Ramzan et al. (2011) MSW 50.9 Air APM 0.30 650 24.0 30.0 N.A. 54.0 FB
Begum et al. (2013) RDF 12.0 Air APM 0.40 700 5.2 60.0 N.A. N.A. FB
Shehzad et al. (2016) MSW 51.7 O2 APM 0.20 900 28.0 25.0 N.A. 88.9 CFB
Couto et al. (2015) MSW N.A. Air MM 0.30 687 6.20 9.73 7.0 53.0 BFB
Vounatsos et al. (2012) RDF/SRF 26.8 Air APM 0.30 800 25.5 19.4 6.1 54.2 BFB

N.A.: is not available.

In this paper, the maximum thermal power of the gasifier 2.2. Plant stages simulation
(250 kWth) is taken as a starting point, determined by a previous
proposal when carrying out the MSW gasification research project. Fig. 4 shows a comprehensive flowchart to better understand
A LHV for the MSW was determined as 12.0 MJ/kg, according to lit- the simulation process developed in this paper. Simulation started
erature (Niu et al., 2013; Cheng and Hu, 2010), considering MSW with the determination of the untreated MSW mass flow and
moisture content in Brazil is 30% (Gonçalves, 2007). Fig. 1 shows gravimetric composition to calculate RDF mass flow rate and com-
a schematic representation of the integrated three steps installa- position. Model developed in Aspen PlusTM for gasification has as
tion Fig. 2 shows the picture of the pilot plant of RDF production input the elemental decomposition of the RDF based on the ulti-
and gasification installed at the laboratories of NEST/UNIFEI. mate and proximate analysis. This procedure is based on empirical
MSW composition is divided into two main categories: organics correlations developed in an ExcelÒ module interface connected to
(food residue, wood waste, paper, textiles, rubber and plastic) and the RYield (B1). Composition of the RPG from RDF gasification was
inorganics (ash, tiles, glass, metals and other inert materials). Inor- simulated by means of chemical equilibrium reactor in Aspen
ganics can be regarded as inert materials that do not have an PlusTM. Temperature profile in the gasifier along the height was cal-
impact on thermochemical reactions (Luz et al., 2015). Typical culated in a model developed in MatlabÒ software, as described by
average physical composition of the MSW in Itajubá municipality Centeno et al. (2012).
in Brazil without any type of pre-treatment is shown in Fig. 3. A sensitivity analysis was carried out to evaluate the gasifier
A physical-chemical characterization of RDF was carried out performance as a function of the main process parameters. Devel-
through ultimate and proximate analysis. Primary data were esti- oped model calculated the main parameters related to RPG, which
mated based on the gravimetric composition of MSW generated has influence over the power generation in the ICE (RPG yield and
in the Itajubá municipality, as estimated by Gonçalves (2007). Its composition, thermal power generated, Higher Heating Value
average proximate and ultimate analysis was calculated using data (HHV), LHV and CGE), also predicted the steady state regime per-
reported by the IPCC (2006), as these results are stated by Leme formance of a RDF gasification power system coupled to an Otto
et al. (2014) and they are shown in Table 2. Cycle ICE.

Fig. 1. RDF gasification pilot plant layout.

A.M.L. Násner et al. / Waste Management 69 (2017) 187–201 191

Fig. 2. Picture of the pilot plant of RDF production and gasification installed at NEST/UNIFEI laboratories.

Fig. 3. Typical average gravimetric composition of the MSW in Brazil without any type of pretreatment and selection (Gonçalves, 2007).

Table 2
Estimated ultimate and proximate analyses of the RDF from Itajubá.

Parameter Symbol/unit Elemental composition (% as–received basis) and heating value (MJ/kg)
Components Paper Plastics Organic matter RDF
Proximate analysis
Fixed carbon FC 25 0 35 26.3
Volatiles V 70 90 60 67.6
Moisture W 10 0 60 12.0
Ashes A 6 10 5 6.0
Ultimate analysis
Carbon C 44 60 48 49.4
Hydrogen H 6 7 6 6.5
Nitrogen N 0 0 2 1.5
Sulphur S 0 0 0.3 0.3
Oxygen O 44 23 38 36.1
Heating value
LHV MJ/kg 19.83 31.82 12.45 15.20
192 A.M.L. Násner et al. / Waste Management 69 (2017) 187–201

Fig. 4. Flowchart of the simulation process procedure.

Table 3 its function is to extract moisture from the MSW, as the inlet mois-
Parameters considered for calculations. ture of the MSW is considered to be 30%.
Parameters Value Unit
Feeding dryer is fed with hot air (AIR) and it outflow (WET-AIR)
is composed only of moist air, this stream enters a dehumidifier
MSW inlet mass flow rate 312 kg/h
(DU1) represented by a flash separator in Aspen PlusTM and result-
MSW – LHV 12.00 MJ/kg
RDF yield from MSW 50.0 % ing dry air (DRY-AIR) is used as the gasification agent in the pro-
Milling losses 3.0 % cess. Dry flow (DRY-MSW), with approximately 12% of moisture,
Briquetting losses 2.0 % enters a grinding unit (R1) to reduce its SMW particle size. A
Briquetting inlet mass flow rate 109 kg/h
description of the unit operation blocks used in the Aspen PlusTM
Gasifier thermal power 250 kWth
Gasifier inlet mass flow rate 107 kg/h model for drying process is presented in Table S1 (Supplementary

Inlet mass flow rate for all of the existing equipment in the RDF 2.3.2. Milling
production line was calculated and considered the relative loss of MSW drying enhances its grindability, which results in less
material in the size reduction and briquetting operations of the energy consumption during milling. Power requirement of the mill
RDF (2–3%). Table 3 shows the mass flow inlets, thermal power system is calculated in Aspen PlusTM software, determining the
and mass losses in the power generation facility. MSW grindability based on its physical properties, such as, hard-
In Aspen PlusTM it is required to define the conventional chemi- ness, fracture, and tensile strength. Energy consumption for the
cal compounds that will be considered as products of the reactions milling of MSW is proportional to crack length, as indicated by
in chemical equilibrium (C, S, O2, N2, H2, H2O, CO, CO2, CH4, C2H2, Bond’s Law, and it is estimated by the Bond Work Index (BWI),
C2H4, C2H6, H2S), as well as, the characterization of the RDF and which is measured in kWh/t of MSW. The inlet moisture of the
ashes. RDF and ashes were defined as non-conventional stream MSW at the milling stage is 12%, and the description of the unit
in Aspen PlusTM and they were specified through ultimate and prox- operation blocks used in the Aspen PlusTM model for milling process
imate analysis. is presented in Table S2 (Supplementary Material). Such breaking
process creates fragments with the same composition as the inlet
2.3. RDF production flow, which means each solid sub-stream should have a PSD attri-
bute as shown in Table S3 (Supplementary Material).
2.3.1. Drying
Fig. 5 shows the entire process flow diagram with unit opera- 2.3.3. Briquetting
tion reactors used to simulate the process of electricity generation Need of briquetting, in a fixed bed gasification system, arises
from RDF gasification in Aspen PlusTM. The entire process was because all processes taking place in the reactor depend on particle
divided into 4 sub-flowsheets: drying, milling, gasification and size. It was considered RDF was prepared using a screw extrusion
power generation island. First unit process is drying (S1), which press machine which could be adapted from a conventional bio-
A.M.L. Násner et al. / Waste Management 69 (2017) 187–201 193

Fig. 5. Aspen PlusTM simulation flow sheet for the RDF gasification plant.

mass briquetting machine. Briquettes production section is not et al., 2015). Thermodynamic equilibrium model predicts the
presented in the flow sheet in Fig. 5 to simplify it. Power require- maximum achievable yield of a desired product, from a reacting
ment for RDF briquetting for this plant was calculated with data system. In this work, a complete conversion of char it is
from the consulted manufactures/suppliers in Brazil, and it was assumed, also, the tar formed during the gasification was not
estimated in 18 kWh. However, the energy use (per throughput) accounted for.
by the piston press generally decreases with production scale, inlet For the simulation of the fixed bed downdraft gasification pro-
mass flow in the briquetting area is 109 kg/h and briquetting losses cess the following assumptions were considered (Niu et al., 2013;
are 2.0%. Chen et al., 2013):
For the overall mass flow balance of the RDF production pro-
cess, it was considered a MSW input of 312 kg/h, which resulted  Gasification process happens at steady state.
in 107 kg/h of RDF fuel produced. The least costly and best estab-  Residence time is long enough to allow the chemical reactions
lished current practice to produce RDF from MSW is the mechani- reach the equilibrium state.
cal pre-treatment. In this paper, a mechanical pre-treatment plant  Reactor hydrodynamic characteristics are not considered.
was analysed and a manual sorting stage was used to separate  Gasification zone completely isothermal; it means gasification
metals, glasses and inert materials in order to obtain higher calori- temperature is uniform in all of the directions: axial and radial.
fic fractions of mixed organic waste materials for RDF production.  Average particle diameter remains constant during gasification.
Residual waste obtained after sorting out metals and inert materi-  ‘‘Char” is composed only of carbon.
als was dried in order to improve its calorific value, shredded for  Ashes are inert and do not participate in chemical reactions.
size reduction, and put through a briquetting machine. RDF has a  Tar presence is not considered.
higher density (400 kg/m3) and calorific value compared to the  All of sulphur and chlorine compounds are not considered.
MSW (Consonni and Viganò, 2012, Caputo and Pelagagge, 2002).  Nitrogen oxides are not formed.
Of the total input of MSW, approximately 34% could be recovered  No information about reaction pathways and the formation of
in the form of RDF. In the mechanical pre-treatment plant, the intermediates is given.
input waste material (i.e. MSW) was only subjected to mechanical
sorting and no other materials were added to the process. The In the model, only final equilibrium products such as H2, CO,
energy balance of the input waste material stream was calculated CO2, CH4, H2O, O2 and N2 are considered; thus, any other co-
from the sum of energy content of output streams. product formed in secondary reactions is not taken into account.
It was also considered that any high molecular weight hydrocar-
2.4. RDF gasification area bons, such as, oils, tars, phenolic compounds, aromatics hydrocar-
bons were formed during pyrolysis.
Gasification model was developed combining the mass conser- To determine the thermodynamic properties of the components
vation (conservation of atomic species), energy balance (thermo- in the process reactions, the Aspen PlusTM software has several pre-
dynamic energy conservation law) and laws of chemical determined models, and main chemical gasification reactions are
equilibrium. It is considered that chemical equilibrium is reached shown in Table 4; in this work, the thermodynamic model Non-
by chemical reactions; therefore the chemical composition of the Random Two-Liquid (NRTL) was selected, model was employed
RPG can be predicted by minimizing the Gibbs free energy of the to calculate the activity coefficients in the liquid phase, since it
reactants and products involved, model was developed using describes adequately the behaviour of most binaries systems pre-
Aspen PlusTM software using an equilibrium reactor block (RGIBBS). sent in the process. State equation of Hayden-O’Connell (HOC)
Equilibrium models are based on general assumptions, are less was used for modelling the vapour phase, HOC equation is recom-
computationally intensive than kinetic models and are in better mended for highly non-ideal mixtures involved and the possible
agreement with specific types of gasifiers. They are considered a presence of organic acids. In this simulation, the enthalpy and den-
good approach when simulating entrained flow gasifiers or down- sity physical property models selected for both waste and ashes,
draft fixed bed gasifiers, such as in this experimental work (Pandey which are non-conventional components, are ‘‘HCOALGEN and
194 A.M.L. Násner et al. / Waste Management 69 (2017) 187–201

Table 4 tion and reduction reactions, because it handles three phases

Typical gasification reactions (T = 25 °C) (Basu, 2013). chemical equilibrium and has been widely adopted to represent
Reaction Heat of Number and name gasification reactions (Table 4). This equilibrium reactor provides
reaction of reaction an option either to consider all the components present in the sys-
(MJ/kmol) tem as equilibrium products or to restrict them based on some
Heterogeneous reactions specific reactions.
C þ 1=2O2
CO 111 R-1 Char partial combustion A MATLABÒ computer mathematics model, with empirical rela-
C þ O2
CO2 394 R-2 Char complete combustion
C þ 2H2
CH4 75 R-3 Methanation
tions developed by Centeno et al. (2012) was adapted, and used in
C þ CO2
2CO +172 R-4 Boudouard reaction NEST to calculate equilibrium temperature in the reduction zone in
C þ H2 O
H2 þ CO +131 R-5 Water-gas reaction the of gasifier, when the values of incoming air flow (AIR-IN-G)
C þ 2H2 O
CO2 þ 2H2 +90 R-6 Water-gas reaction were varied and RDF (RDF-IN-G) mass flow was constant. Such
2C þ 2H2 O
CH4 þ CO2 -13 R-7 Water-gas reaction
temperature was employed to calculate the composition of the
Homogeneous reactions RPG in the Aspen PlusTM model through the total Gibbs free energy
CO þ 1=2O2
CO2 283 R-8 CO partial combustion
minimization, and after adjusting the ER relation and temperature
CO þ H2 O
H2 þ CO2 41 R-9 Water gas shift reaction
CO þ 3H2
CH4 þ H2 O 206 R-10 CO methanation reaction values from the MATLABÒ software model, the composition of the
CO2 þ 4H2
CH4 þ 2H2 O 165 R-11 CO2methanation reaction RPG was calculated; assumed temperature and RPG components
H2 þ 1=2O2
H2 O 242 R-12 H2 partial combustion were substituted to predict the energy balances.
CH4 þ 2O2
CO2 þ 2H2 O 803 R-13CH4 complete combustion RPG generated in the gasification (GAS-PROD) is fed to a cooler
CH4 þ 1=2O2
CO þ 2H2 36 R-14CH4 partial combustion
(HE2) to bring the gas to the required gas cleaning temperature,
CH4 þ H2 O
CO þ 3H2 O +206 R-15 Steam methane
reforming energy released in the cooling process could be recovered by sup-
plying heat for air preheating. A heat stream leaving the cooler
(HE2) was included, representing the energy that could be recov-
ered during RPG cooling, and this stream was linked to a heat
DCOALIGT”, which were used to calculate enthalpies of formation, stream mixer (Q). RPG cooler output stream (GAS-ASH) is fed into
specific heat capacities and densities of the different compounds. a particle control device using an Aspen PlusTM component separa-
Gasification is simulated into the hierarchical block called G1 tor (SEP) that removes the solid unreacted char and ashes (ASHES
(Fig. 6) that contains a few sub models. Stream of dry RDF (RDF (OUT)) from the cleaned gas mixture (SYNGAS(OUT)). In order to
(IN)) is fed into a yield reactor (B1), whose yields are set by a cal- determine the operating conditions to obtain the maximum
culator block, which in turn determines the mass flow of each com- energy efficiency the developed gasification model could be opti-
ponent in the block outlet stream (RDF-IN-G). In this reactor the mized and conducted an economic evaluation of the optimized
non-conventional stream RDF is converted (decomposed or indi- process.
vidualized) in its constituting components, including carbon (C), ER is the most important operating parameter when air gasifi-
hydrogen (H), oxygen (O), nitrogen (N), sulphur (S), moisture cation is performed. A typical commercial biomass gasifier is oper-
(H2O) and ash specifying the yield distribution according to the ated at an ER value of 0.25 in order to maintain autothermal
RDF ultimate and proximate analyses. Stoichiometric balances conditions. Hence, a range of 0.1–0.5 was selected for this study
were made in an ExcelÒ module interface developed and linked in order to determine the optimum ER for the RDF gasification pro-
to the yields of the reactor block. Enthalpy of the stream RDF-IN- cess. Effects of ER on temperature and product gas composition
G is not identical to the enthalpy of the stream RDF(IN) because were evaluated in the range of 0.1–0.5, in order to determine the
the enthalpies of the constituents that make up a RDF do not equal optimum ER for the gasification process, changes in ER values were
the enthalpy of its individual components, mainly due to the achieved varying the air flow, while the RDF flow was kept con-
chemical bonds. Therefore a heat stream was inserted to feed back stant. Description of the unit operation blocks used in the Aspen
the enthalpy loss of the system. PlusTM model for gasification process is presented in Table S4 (Sup-
Yield reactor output stream (RDF-IN-G) is composed of volatile plementary Material).
and ‘‘char”. This stream is fed into a gasification unit that is
represented by an equilibrium reactor (B2), which works like a 2.5. Power generation island
fixed bed reactor, where gasification is simulated allowing to esti-
mate a RPG chemical equilibrium RPG composition. Gibbs free The software Aspen PlusTM (software) contains several unit oper-
energy minimization of the reaction system is carried out in the ation models required for a complete simulation of a conventional
equilibrium reactor, which can be used to model the partial oxida- power generation plant, including compressors and gas turbines.

Fig. 6. Aspen PlusTM simulation flowchart for gasification unit.

A.M.L. Násner et al. / Waste Management 69 (2017) 187–201 195

However, Aspen PlusTM has not unit operation blocks in its own where X H2 is the molar fraction of H2 (% molar) contained in the
database, for the modelling of ICE, which are most commonly used RPG, X CO is the molar fraction of CO (% molar) contained in the
for generating electric power at low and medium scales. Therefore, RPG and X CH4 is the molar fraction of the CH4 (% molar) contained
the unit operation blocks available in the Aspen PlusTM software in the RPG.
database (compressors, chemical reactors, turbines, heat exchang- For the successful quantitative evaluation of the process, the
ers and mixers) were used to simulate the ICE unit. These blocks CGE is a crucial index to account for the performance of RDF gasi-
will represent the set of processes (isentropic compression, com- fication, because it represents the ratio between the energetic
bustion at constant volume, isentropic expansion and cooling at value of the RPG and the energy in the RDF fed in the gasifier
constant volume) of the engine cycle assumed in this work. and it is defined as follows:
Fig. 5 gives the combination of blocks representing the beha-
ðm  LHV Þ
viour of an Otto Cycle ICE, the cooled and cleaned product gas gCGE ¼ _ gas gas
(SG2) is combined with air (AIR1) in a mixer (M1), and it is then ðmRDF  LHV RDF Þ
fed to the compressor (C1) that raises the pressure high enough where gCGE is the cold gas efficiency (%), m
_ gas is the RPG volumetric
to ensure it could be burned in a combustion chamber (COMB), flow rate (Nm3/s), LHV gas is the lower heating value of the RPG (MJ/
with an air mass flow calculated to guaranty the best engine per- Nm3), m_ RDF is the mass flow rate of RDF (kg/s) and LHV RDF is the
formance. Combustion takes place in an equilibrium reactor and lower heating value of the RDF (MJ/kg).
the exhaust gases are expanded in a turbine (T1), description of The net electrical efficiency is defined as the ratio of the net
the unit operation blocks used in the Aspen PlusTM model for power power generated by the facility, being the gross electrical power
generation islands is presented in Table S5 (Supplementary generated minus the auxiliary power consumption (fans, pumps,
Material). blowers, crushers, etc.) to the energy input (thermal power of the
The ICE electrical power production is 50 kWel. Taking into inlet MSW) being calculated by the Eq. (4):
account a net electrical efficiency of 5.2% related to the input of
MSW and 11.0% related to RDF it can be concluded that it is tech- _
W _
gel;net ¼ _ el;gross el;aux
nically and energetically possible to produce net electrical power, mMSW  LHV MSW
from an air blown downdraft gasifier of RDF, coupled with an Otto
_ el;gross gross electri-
where gel;net is the net electrical efficiency (%), W
Cycle ICE. In next section, it will be determined if this system is
economically viable for Brazil when selling electricity to the grid _
cal energy generated (kWel), W el;aux is the auxiliary power consump-
at market prices (without subsidies). The main operational param- _ MSW is the mass flow rate of MSW (kg/s)
tion of the system (kWel), m
eters for the simulation of the Otto cycle ICE are shown in Table 5. and LHV MSW is the lower heating value of MSW (MJ/kg).

2.6. Process evaluation methods 2.6.2. Economic feasibility evaluation methods

All prices are expressed in American dollars (US$); a spread-
2.6.1. Thermodynamic analysis and performance assessment sheet was developed to analyze the economic performance of the
The ER is defined as the ratio of the amount of actually air sup- most significant parameters affecting the feasibility of the pro-
plied to the gasifier to the required stoichiometric amount of air. posed energy recovery from MSW in a pilot plant. Main goal of
ER is commonly used to quantitatively indicate the extent of com- the spreadsheet is to assist in projects decision making process
bustion in the combustion/gasification process and it is defined as focused, both, in energy recovery from MSW and over indicators
follows: commonly used in economic feasibility studies such as cash flow
_ air =m
ðm _ RDF Þreal analysis, obtaining the Net Present Value (NPV) and Internal Rate
ER ¼ ð1Þ of Return (IRR).
_ air =m
ðm _ RDF Þstoic
NPV and IRR are standardized financial tools, to assess the prof-
where m _ air is the mass flow rate of air (kg/s), m
_ RDF is the mass flow itability of projects, a given scenario is considered economically
rate of RDF (kg/s), numerator refers to the actual condition (real) attractive if it has the highest IRR and the NPV is greater than zero.
verified at the time of measurement and the denominator refers NPV is an indicator of how much value the project adds to the
to the stoichiometric condition (stoic). investment and refers to the present values of all costs and associ-
ER and temperature affect significantly the heating value of the ated revenues being calculated according to Eq. (5):
product gas, product gas content of H2, CO and CH4, which makes it
CF n
suitable for it utilization as fuel in ICE and gas turbines for power NPV ¼ n  C IC ð5Þ
production. The LHV (MJ/Nm3) of the RPG is calculated by: n¼1
ð1 þ iÞ
ð107:98  X H2 þ 126:36  X CO þ 358:18  X CH4 Þ where NPV is the net present value, CFn is the annual cash flow,
LHV ¼ ð2Þ
1000 being the difference between Revenues (R) and Expenditures (E),
Operation and Maintenance Costs (CO&M), i is the Discount Rate,
CIC is total capital costs of investment, taken as the Installation Costs
Table 5 (IC), and t is the lifetime of the investment (20 years). The IRR is cal-
Main operational parameters of the Otto cycle ICE (Heywood, 1988). culated as the discount rate, which makes the NPV equal to US$
Parameter Unit Value 0.00, using the IRR economical spreadsheet.
Working fluid Air
Inlet air pressure Bar 1.0 3. Results and discussion
Inlet air temperature °C 25
Inlet air mass flow kg/h 300
Outlet compressor pressure Bar 3.0
3.1. RDF production
Compressor efficiency % 70
Combustion chamber temperature °C 1200 Sorting of the recyclables materials can generate RDF with a
Combustion chamber pressure Bar 12 more uniform chemical and physical characteristics, obtained
ICE efficiency % 20
RDF product will have a high heating value as fuel to be used in
Electrical generator efficiency % 95
the gasification process, because the materials’ recovery process
196 A.M.L. Násner et al. / Waste Management 69 (2017) 187–201

(ceramics, glasses, metals, etc.) has significant advantages, such as 3.2. RDF gasification
reduced ashes contents, less residual rates of carbon (in both flue
gas and ashes) and lower toxic and hazardous emissions. 3.2.1. Model validation
Thus in this case, although most of the equipment and pro- In this section, a validation of the gasification simulation results
cesses for RDF production may be analogous, the sequence in will be presented for a case from which experimental results were
which these steps are placed is determined by the type of solid available. Due to the lack of experimental data referred to RDF
waste that is managed, and also by the materials recovery goals gasification of the NEST research group, it has been necessary to
of each facility and expected efficiencies. In this sense, the compar- use reported experimental data for biomass gasification, obtained
ison of the different configuration lines of RDF production makes by Galindo et al. (2014) in a downdraft gasifier with two stage
possible to determine the key factors that influence the perfor- air supply, to validate the model. Biomass used in their experiment
mance of the process, such as efficiency of mass productivity, was eucalyptus wood pellets with a moisture content of 8%. The
RDF moisture and ash content, heating value of RDF product and simulation was done for product gas composition, such as, H2,
processing costs. CO, CO2 CH4 and N2 using the experimental conditions for eucalyp-
Therefore, RDF characteristics vary greatly according to its tus wood.
source and the manufacturing line scheme that produces it. For this RDF gasification model developed was used to compare the
reason, to evaluate the performance of the thermal treatment these experimental data with the theoretical results of chemical equilib-
fuels will undergo is important, nevertheless, the use of RDF must rium model based on Gibbs free energy minimization carried out in
be carefully assessed, as the overall energy efficiency is lowered this work. In general, the results of the equilibrium model overes-
due to the energy consumption associated with its production. timate the amount of CO and H2, underestimate the yield of CO2
It has been estimated that 312 kg/h of MSW are required to pro- and predict an outlet stream free from CH4, tars and char, devia-
duce 107 kg/h of RDF, assuming that 50% of total MSW are recy- tions lead to disagreements upon the LHV of the RPG, and from
clables (ceramics, metals, plastics, glasses, etc.), water flow in the the results showed in Fig. 8, it can be concluded that predicted val-
separated MSW total flow is about 43 kg/h; according to real ues are in good agreement with the reported experimental data,
(actual) operation of MSW handling, there were considerable and the performance of a biomass downdraft gasifier can be
material losses in the milling (3%) and briquetting (2%) operations. approximated reasonably well by the equilibrium model.
A mass and energy balance diagram of the RDF production process The standard deviations for all the tests were calculated, based
(sorting, drying, milling, briquetting) and RDF power generation on data from Fig. 8, having an average value of 2.8%. Also, a number
(gasification and power electricity generation) are provided in of simulations were made for various ER at the inlet of gasifier in
Fig. 7. order to identify the theoretically ideal operating conditions.

Fig. 7. Mass and energy balances diagram of the pilot plant.

A.M.L. Násner et al. / Waste Management 69 (2017) 187–201 197

Fig. 8. Comparison of experimental and theoretical data the of syngas composition.

Fig. 9 shows a proportional increase of the gasification temper- complete combustion) and R14 (CH4 partial combustion) from
ature with the increase of ER, an increase in temperature favours or Table 4. Further results show a higher ER value as achieved by sup-
drives endothermic reactions forward to products, and drives plying a greater amount of O2 in the gasifier, which causes higher
exothermic reactions backwards to reactants, and an ER increase share of the RDF combustion. Recent studies have shown similar
leads to an increase in fuel consumption, causing the system to trends as the observed in this simulation (Galindo et al., 2014;
be nearer to the combustion regime. Also, the tar formed during Mitta et al., 2006).
the gasification was not accounted for. Caballero et al. (1997) evaluated the effect of bed height and air
The temperature is directly related with the product gas com- ER over the air gasification of dried sewage sludge, in bubbling flu-
position, moisture and amount of tars, and also is related with idized bed. The authors found that with an ER increase, concentra-
the quality of the RPG. The principal focus of the temperature influ- tions of H2, CO and CH4 decreased while that of CO2 increased.
ence is related to the gas LHV and the release of secondary contam- Furthermore, Arena et al. (2010) studied the fluidized bed gasifica-
inants, such as, tars and particulates, which may foul the prime tion of five alternatives of waste-derived fuels obtained from MSW
movers coupled to the gasifier for energy conversion. and also found similar changes in gas composition when increasing
H2, CO and N2, lower concentrations of CO2, CH4, H2O, higher ER.
hydrocarbons and N2 are the main components of the RPG. Reac- Thus, a preliminary analysis indicates that the RPG is relatively
tions took place at elevated temperatures, indicating, as expected, rich in CO (15–25%) and H2 (12–20%) being, the major contributors
an increase in carbon conversion, with the increase of the tem- to the LHV of the RPG alongside CH4 (Galindo et al., 2014; Arena
perature and higher residence time and the product gas quality et al., 2010). ER effects over the gas LHV and the gasifier CGE were
also improved. An increase of ER will cause a decrease of H2 con- analysed and the results are showed in Fig. 10. Thus, an ER increase
tent due to its oxidation, as the presence of O2 in the system results in a LHV decrease and this can be explained by the char
increases. Other studies show similar results regarding the beha- complete combustion (R2) and the increase in the volume of
viour of H2 (Niu et al., 2013). When operating with higher ER val- non-combustible gas (N2), however the CGE has a maximum value
ues, a greater O2 flow enters the reactor, favouring oxidation when the ER is equal to 0.25.
reactions, causing a decrease in CO concentration and an increase Higher efficiencies, in the range of 57–60%, can be achieved
in CO2 concentration, as observed a behaviour explained by reac- within a temperature range of 650–700 °C, a similar performance
tions R2 (char complete combustion) and R8 (CO partial combus- was observed by Ramzan et al. (2011). Authors studied three types
tion) from Table 4. of biomass: MSW, food waste and poultry litter and carried out a
Therefore, with a temperature increase, the reduction of the wide range of variations in the ER and moisture content. Effects
concentration of CH4 could be attributed to reactions R13 (CH4 over syngas composition and LHV were studied as well as, gasifier

Fig. 9. Gasification temperature and syngas composition variation with ER.

198 A.M.L. Násner et al. / Waste Management 69 (2017) 187–201

Fig. 10. Syngas LHV and gasifier efficiency variation with ER.

efficiency, obtaining a value of 71% for CGE from food waste when 30 °C (the temperature required for the operation of the ICE), a
the ER value was equal to 0.3. Maximum CGE of MSW conversion Sankey diagram of energy flow balances of the pilot plant modelled
was 54% for an ER of 0.28. Poultry wastes had the lowest CGE with is shown in Fig. 11.
a value of 45% when the ER was equal to 0.2. Efficiency of the plant, measured as the percentage of the total
energy content of a power plant’s fuel that is converted into elec-
3.3. Power generation island tricity, was calculated. Assuming the MSW as the input fuel, the
calculated efficiency was 5.2%. Nonetheless, if RDF is assumed as
When air is used as the gasification agent the RPG has high input fuel the efficiency is higher (11%). Sankey diagram in
concentrations of N2, resulting in a reduced LHV, usually not Fig. 11 shows the following key interactions in the entire MSW
higher of 6 MJ/Nm3, in this case the RPG is classified as a poor to power process:
quality fuel gas. Otto cycle ICE’s are traditionally used with
downdraft gasifiers and significant research has been done  49% of the energy of the incoming MSW feedstock is converted
studying and improving the operation of ICE fuelled by RPG, to the RDF fuel product.
hence, engines require undergoing certain design modifications  51% of the energy of the incoming MSW is sent to recycling and
in order to be able to run on RPG. Efficiency of ICE is 20% when landfills final disposition.
using a poor quality RPG as fuel (Luz et al., 2015; Leme et al.,  Around 58% of the incoming RDF energy could be converted as
2014; Basu, 2013; Martínez et al., 2012). RPG.
The gasifier presented an average CGE of 58%, and RPG contains  20% of product gas energy could be converted to electrical
a thermal power of 254 kWth after cooling to a temperature of power.

Fig. 11. Integrated RDF production, RDF gasification and power generation Sankey diagram flow.
A.M.L. Násner et al. / Waste Management 69 (2017) 187–201 199

These figures are typical and may vary slightly, depending on associated with the implementation of mechanical pretreatment
the selection of mechanical pretreatment process, gasification, process, gasification section and power generation plant. Other
gas clean-up, conversion and power generation technologies. parameters related with the operation considered in this section
are presented in Table 7.
Minimum Rate of Attractiveness (MRA) is equivalent to the Set-
3.4. Evaluation of the economic feasibility of the pilot plant
tlement and Custody Rate (SELIC) special system average, at the
time of the projection fulfillments. The Interest rate (MRA) is usu-
Preliminary economic analysis using the Brazilian manufac-
ally 12% annually and it was considered for purposes of calculating
turer’s reference costs are presented in the Table 6. The fixed cap-
the NPV. Likewise, possible costs related to environmental issues
ital costs of investment for a pilot plant implementation include
were not considered in this analysis, and the possible sale of by-
equipment, installation, labour, contingency and all other cost
products of the process was neither considered. For comparison,
Table 6
it was assumed that the thermal efficiency of the engine remains
Data used for the economic evaluation of the RDF power plant (elaborated by the
authors with data from the consulted manufactures/suppliers). constant for all the generation capacity, in this case 20%. On the
other hand, the efficiency of the engine rises with the increase of
Parameters Value (US$)
its generation capacity.
Investment 295,644 Pilot plant is planned to work 6500 h/year, and it will generate a
Operation and Maintenance costs (O&M) 14,782
total of 279,500 kWh/year, therefore, annual savings could reach
Equipment depreciation costs 10,128
Contingency and fees (PIS/COFINS and Brazilian fee) 9319
US$ 13,845/year and the NPV calculated for this power was US$
Total costs 329,873 –230,728, which means project is not viable for such power capac-
ity. Fig. 12 shows value of NPV starts to become positive from an
installed capacity of 120 kWel. Similarly, at this point the IRR
Table 7 reaches a value above the assumed 12% discount rate (MRA). With
Parameters of economic evaluation of the RDF power plant. an installed capacity above 120 kWel, the construction of the plant
proves to be economically viable, installed capacity scenarios are
Parameters Unit Value
presented in Figs. 13and 14 for NPV and IRR, respectively.
Operating plant hours h/year 6500
Tariff paid for MSW disposal in the landfill defines the economic
Installed power MW 0.05
Disposition waste cost in Itajubá (fuel cost) US$/ton 16.29 feasibility of the system. Table S6 (Supplementary Material) pre-
Lifetime of the investment years 20 sent it as an avoided cost and it varies for different regional collec-
Minimum Rate of Attractiveness % 12.0 tion system. Itajubá is one of the cities with lowest MSW disposal
Electricity tariff cost (CEMIG, 2014) US$/MWh 42.60 tariff among several cities of Brazil, letting to confirm that this
analysis in another location could be more feasible.

Fig. 12. NPV economic assessment results for different installed power.

Fig. 13. IRR economic assessment results to different installed power.

200 A.M.L. Násner et al. / Waste Management 69 (2017) 187–201

Fig. 14. Sensitivity analysis of the NPV results for different values of the electricity tariff.

Analysing residue disposal tariff for the 50 kWel power plant, peratures between 650 and 700 °C, the gasifier CGE reaches
such system became feasible with values higher than US$ 34/ton. between 57 and 60%, meaning that it was possible to obtain a
Electricity tariff cost was also analysed and it was found that the RPG with a LHV in the range of 5.6–5.8 MJ/Nm3, which are the
system becomes feasible with electricity commercialization tariffs expected average values when air is used as gasification agent.
higher than US$ 142.00/MWh, as seen in Fig. 14. RPG impurities are removed by a cleaning system, despite its
Economic indicators demonstrate that ensuring the financial LHV clean gas can be used successfully in ICE for power generation,
viability of RDF power plant may be possible taking into account maintaining a reasonable efficiency.
the negative fuel cost (because it was considered as avoided dispo- Net energy efficiency of the pilot plant is 5.2% based on the
sition cost and a disposal tariff is paid). Investment costs for these MSW overall energy, and 11% based on the RDF energy at the gasi-
kinds of plants are higher than those for fossil fuel plants, being fier inlet, it was found also RDF production and use can also result
clear that utilization of MSW for power generation cannot be prof- in a positive financial net benefit, starting from a 130 kWel power
itable without financial support. capacity, economic viability possible from a power output of 120
Furthermore, being a new process that requires an initial kWel, as it achieves a rate of return of 18% on the discount rate with
research effort on the effective selection of handling technologies, an investment around US$ 300,000. Findings of this research work
it may lead the investor to perceive an additional risk and, conse- provide key information about technical and economic aspects of
quently, a higher return on the investment will be required. Taking MSW treatment that can be used as a basis for RDF gasification
this into account, a sensitivity analysis of the IRR of the project is plant designs and exploitation. Current study based on RDF compo-
recommended. Private investor and the energy policy decision sitions calculated according to the MSW gravimetric composition,
makers must take into consideration that the promotion of RDF a future study devoted to MSW disposal in Itajubá will provide
energy for electricity generation represents an innovative project, more precise and reliable data.
with strategic, social and environmental gains that may hardly
be addressed by a financial analysis. In particular, and according Acknowledgements
to the present Brazilian policies, a more favourable and guaranteed
energy tariff is required to tackle the still perceived risk of these The authors wish to thank the financial support provided by
types of projects. the Electrical Company of Minas Gerais (CEMIG) through the
Research and Development project (R&D) ANEEL/CEMIG GT n°
418, ‘‘Gasification of Municipal Solid Wastes (MSW) for Electric-
4. Conclusions ity Generation in Brazil”. The authors also recognise the collabo-
ration of the Brazilian National Research and Development
Present study was proposed to investigate the feasibility of pro- Council (CNPq), The Minas Gerais State Research Support Foun-
ducing RDF from MSW in Itajubá region, and to evaluate its utiliza- dation (FAPEMIG) and the Coordinating Body for the Improve-
tion as an alternative fuel for power generation through ment of Postgraduate Studies in Higher Education (CAPES) for
gasification. According to the hypothesis posed in this study, it is the funding of R&D projects. And finally, the support of graduate
possible to conclude that the RDF production and its subsequent students and the productivity grants that allowed the accom-
use as fuel for gasification instead of MSW offer benefits in terms plishment of the research projects whose results are included
of heating value and homogeneity obtained by pre-treatment pro- in this paper.
cess. Results of the analysis show despite a recovery fraction of
approximately 34%, according to the mass balance, the use of
Appendix A. Supplementary material
RDF fuel (moisture: 12.0%, ash: 6%, LHV: 15.20 MJ/kg) has clear
energy technical advantages when compared to MSW, considering
Supplementary data associated with this article can be found, in
the physical and thermal properties of these fuels. Furthermore,
the online version, at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.wasman.2017.08.
49% of MSW energy inlet would be used as RDF fuel.
This paper presented the development of a downdraft gasifier
model with a thermal power input of 916 kWth. The modelling of
RDF gasification process shows that RDF is a good quality fuel
(LHV of 15.20 MJ/kg), which can be used to produce fairly high Ahmed, T.Y., Ahmad, M.M., Yusup, S., Inayat, A., Khan, Z., 2012. Mathematical and
quality gas (LHV of 5.8 MJ/Nm3). computational approaches for design of biomass gasification for hydrogen
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