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Gasification and Pyrolysis Treatment of Hazardous Waste


In the development of the PyroArc concept utilisation of by-products and energy

efficiency have been regarded as important as complete decomposition of harmful and
toxic compounds. It is obvious that even if new groups of materials will be regarded as
hazardous the total amount of hazardous waste will decrease because of increased
recycling, reuse and substitution of toxic products. For this reason a new treatment
process should be able to treat practically all kinds of waste materials so the volume
needed to form the basis for an economically viable plant can be achieved without
extensive transportation.

Electric Air
Solid Waste Energy

Liquid and
gasoues Plasma
waste generator



Secondary air

Pre-heated air
Gas cooling & cleaning

Slag & Metals Fly Ash Clean Gas Hot water

or steam

Figure 1
The PyroArc Concept

To achieve the desired properties the PyroArc process is designed as a two-stage

process. Solid waste material is charged to a shaft furnace to gasify the organic part to
a partly oxidised pyrolysis gas and to smelt the inorganic part to a slag and metal melt.
The pyrolysis gas is then completely decomposed together with liquid and gaseous
waste material in a plasma augmented decomposition reactor. In this way the
conditions for each reaction (gasification, decomposition and smelting) can be
optimised and no material will escape the process without being exposed to
sufficiently high temperature. The products leaving the process are: fuel gas, leach
resistant slag, molten metal and small amounts of secondary dust which normally can
be used for zinc and lead recovery.

The PyroArc process is schematically shown in Figure 1.

The core of the process is the decomposition reactor (Figure 2) where the unique
properties of the plasma technology is utilised to decompose organic materials into
simple gas molecules. The pyrolysis gas from the shaft gasifier, containing tar and
chlorinated hydrocarbons, is introduced into a mixing zone in the decomposition
reactor just in front of the plasma generator. In this zone the strong dynamic forces of
the plasma jet are utilised to achieve an intensive mixing of the jet itself with the
pyrolysis gas. Secondary air is added to control the degree of oxidation of the
produced fuel gas. The mixing zone is followed by an expanding reaction zone and an
equalisation zone which gives a total retention time of 0.3 - 0.6 s.

The plasma generator has three important purposes:

• Initiate the decomposition reaction instantaneously by high energy density.

• Improve the mixing conditions to ensure that the complete gas volume has
reached the necessary temperature level.

• Control the temperature level of the decomposition reactor by adding heat

energy in an easily controlled way.

Since no toxic or carcinogenic organic compounds are stable at the reactor temperature
(1200-1300°C) the most important features are complete mixing and instant initiation
of the decomposition reactions. All test data also show a complete dissociation of
hydrocarbons and halogenated hydrocarbons.

There is no indication of recombination of halogenated hydrocarbons. If this should
occur it has to be a result of incomplete decomposition since no recombination is
possible as long as there are no hydrocarbons present in the gas.

Analytical procedure is well developed for dioxins. Dioxin content of the fuel gas has
therefore been used as a confirmation of decomposition. In all tests (with material
varying from household wastes to concentrated PCB oil) the dioxin equivalent has
been well below 0.1 nanograms per cubic meter of fuel gas.

While solid waste has to be gasified before the resulting gas can be treated in the
decomposition reactor, gaseous and liquid material can be injected directly into the
mixing zone. If no solid material is to be treated the treatment plant consists only of
the decomposition reactor.

The degree of oxidation of the produced fuel gas is controlled by additions of

secondary air. The CO and CO2 content of the produced gas are controlled and the
ratio CO2/CO+CO2 is kept between 0.2 and 0.4. Below 0.1 HCN starts to form which
should be avoided especially if wet gas cleaning is applied. If the gas is oxidised to a
ratio above 0.5, NOx will start to form. Since de-NOx equipment is costly this should
be avoided. Normally the NOx content of the fuel gas is 10-30 ppm, even if the waste
material contains highly NOx- forming compounds like nitrates, etc.

Plasma zone Decomposition Chamber
1200 C Fuel gas
Retention time:
Secondary air 0.3 –0.6 s
Liquid waste

Gas from shaft gasifier 500-800 C, Liquid and gasoues waste

CnHm (CL, S, N) ---> CO, CO2, H2, H2O, (HCl, H2S, N2)
Degree of oxidation of fuel gas: 0.2< CO2/CO+CO2<0.4

Partial combustion: 90 - 98 %
The need for heat energy is covered by:
Electric energy 2 – 10 %

Shaft Gasifier

Decomposition of the organic material is based upon complete mixing and high
reaction rates between gas components. Solid waste materials have therefore to be
gasified prior to its final decomposition in the plasma reactor.

Gasification of solid materials is a slow reaction making it difficult to utilise the

properties of the plasma generator. The gasification of solid waste is instead based on
heat energy generated by partial combustion of carbon to carbon monoxide. This is
possible in a counter-current flow reactor with efficient heat exchange between
ingoing material and outgoing gases and by use of preheated air or oxygen for the
partial combustion. For gasification of solid material a shaft reactor design is therefore

Shaft Gasifier
Solid waste

To decomposition reactor

Fuel gas with



Evaporation of water and

500-1400°C volatile matter

Air + oxygen
Partial combustion and
melting of non combustable
1500-1600°C material

Molten slag and metal

Figure 3

A shaft gasifier have the following advantages:

• High thermal efficiency

• Efficient heat exchange between gas and solids

• Easy to design “completely sealed”

• No material can “escape” without having been gasified or completely melted

• Well proven reactor design with long lining life

The solid material is fed into the shaft gasifier through a lock hopper system.
Preheated air is introduced through tuyeres in the lower part of the shaft and the
produced gas flows up the shaft counter-current to the descending solid materials. A
short insulated duct from the top of the shaft carries the gas to the decomposition

From reaction point of view the shaft can be divided into three zones: The partial
combustion and vitrification zone, the carbonisation zone, and the evaporisation zone.
In the lowest zone, the partial combustion and vitrification zone, the carbon in the char
coming down from the carburisation zone is combusted to carbon monoxide by the
preheated air introduced through the tuyeres. The heat energy generated from the
partial combustion increases the temperature in this zone to 1450-1550°C. At this
temperature all inorganic material melts and forms a homogeneous slag. Since most
waste materials are relatively high in silica this slag is glassy and has good leaching
resistant properties. If the waste materials are low in silica, silica-rich slag former is
added to give the right properties to the slag.

Metals behave differently in this zone which can be exemplified by the following

• Metals with lower affinity to oxygen than iron (like Cr, Cu, Ni, Ag, Au) are
collected in a molten metal pool which is tapped from the shaft separately.

• Metals with higher affinity to oxygen than iron (like Al, Ti, Mg Ca) are oxidised
and dissolved in the slag (iron can be reduced to molten iron if extra coal and
limestone is added to the charge).

• Volatile metals like zinc and lead are evaporated and leave the gasifier with the

In the middle zone the ingoing material is carburised at a temperature of about
1000°C. The carbon remaining in the waste material (carbon fix) forms a low grade
char with a carbon content of 15-30%, the rest being inorganic material. In spite of the
low carbon content the energy released during the partial combustion in the lower
zone is sufficient to melt the inorganics.
In the upper zone all material with a high vapour pressure like water and hydrocarbons
are evaporated and leave the shaft with the gas. This gas consists mainly of carbon
monoxide and nitrogen and has a high content of tar components, most often
chlorinated hydrocarbons, hydrogen and water vapour. The temperature of this gas
depends mainly on the water content of the ingoing waste material and is normally
within the range 400-700°C.

Gas Cleaning

The produced gas leaves the decomposition reactor at about 1200°C and is either
cooled by recirculating cleaned gas to below 800°C or quenched with water. After this
pre-treatment the gas is cleaned in a conventional gas cleaning system, the design
being dependent on local conditions and emission demands. Some differences from
gas cleaning in conventional incineration plants can be noted.

• The gas volume from the PyroArc process is only 30-40% of the volume from
an incinerator.

• The gas is a combustible fuel gas.

• The gas is practically free from dioxins and hydrocarbons.

• The gas contains only 10-30 ppm NOx.

• Sulphur is present mainly as metal sulphides.

• Mercury filters are efficient down to a certain remaining level. The mercury
emission after mercury removal depends therefore on the gas volume rather than
the total ingoing mercury level. For a process like PyroArc with low gas
volume, this means lower mercury emission.

• Zinc and lead leave the PyroArc process with the off gases and are captured in
the gas cleaning system either as secondary dust or venturi sludge. In both cases
the zinc and lead contents are so high (20-25%) that recovery of these metals is
economically feasible.


Fuel Gas

The produced fuel gas is a lean gas with a heat value of about 4 MJ/m3 and a carbon
monoxide plus hydrogen content of 35-40%. This gas can be used in a boiler or a gas
engine for power generation. Since the gas is low in NOx and lean it generates only
small amounts of NOx during combustion. NOx removal will not be necessary.


The properties of the produced slag depend on the composition of the waste material.
In most cases it will be relatively high in silica which gives a glassy structure and good
leaching resistance. Suitable slag formers (e.g silica) can be added to influence the slag
Leaching tests of slag from the process show very low leaching values.


Metals with a lower affinity to oxygen than iron can be recovered as molten metal and
tapped separately from the shaft. This is interesting for some waste categories like
computer scrap from which a copper alloy containing nickel, tin, silver and gold can
be produced.

Secondary products from gas cleaning

These products are:

• Dust or sludge containing zinc-lead.
• Alkaline salts.
• Spent mercury filter mass.
The zinc-lead dust can often be used for metal recovery.
The alkaline salts contain all chlorine present in the waste material and after proper
treatment in a water treatment unit it can possibly be used for de-icing or has to be
disposed of either as effluent water or as solid salt after drying depending on the local
conditions. If a mercury filter is applied there will be a certain amount of filter mass
which has to be sent to a special deposit.

Energy Balance

A flow sheet of the PyroArc process is shown in Fig. 4. The PyroArc process is
characterised by a high overall thermal efficiency (90-94%). The main portion of the
generated energy is the heat value of the produced fuel gas (70-80%) while sensible
heat of the gas stands for 20-30%.

2-10 % of the ingoing energy is electrical energy supplied by the plasma generator.
The main influence on the power consumption comes from the variation in water
content of the ingoing waste material. The water content has such a strong influence
because it decreases the partial combustion by adding already oxidised hydrogen. The
water vapour also represents an additional ballast gas that has to be heated to 1200°C
together with the other gases in the decomposition reactor.

The importance of the water content is illustrated by the results from tests with
household waste:
When the process is operated on untreated household waste including all the food
(representing mostly water) the power consumption was 23% of total ingoing energy
while operating on RDF gave a power consumption of only 2% of ingoing energy.

The high ratio of fuel gas makes the PyroArc process suitable for power generation
from waste material. For smaller units (up to 8 tonnes/h) a gas engine is probably the
most economical choice. With efficiency (power/energy in gas) of 35% it gives a gross
power efficiency of 25% and net power efficiency (after deduction of power for the
plasma generator) of 20%. By addition of a steam circuit the gross power efficiency
will increase to 40% and the net power efficiency to 35%.

PyroArc - Heat and material balance, example
Waste material: RDF

Energy balance, GJ/h

In Out
Solid waste: 105,0 Gas, combustion: 74,9
Amount 6700 kg/h Blast air: 1,58 Gas, sensible heat: 34,1
Energy 105,0 GJ/h Secondary air: 3,39 Slag+metal: 1,26
PG, reactor: 3,38 Heat losses: 3,18
Total, in: 113,4 Total, out: 113,4

Blast air Secondary air: Electric energy: Air, 25 C:

2817 Nm3/h 6276 Nm3/h 3,44 GJ/h 256 Nm3/h
416 C 400 C 955 kW
1,58 GJ/h 3,39 GJ/h

Solid waste PG



Heat losses:
GJ/h 0,48
GJ/h 1,26
GJ/h 1,44
Gas temp: 1300 C
Produced gas: 17242 Nm3/h
Dry gas: 14860 Nm3/h
Clean gas: 15579 Nm3/h
Heat of combustion: 74,9 GJ/h
Sensible heat: 34,1 GJ/h

Composition Dry Clean

CO: 20,9 24,2 23,1 %
Slag Metal CO2: 6,1 7,0 6,7 %
676 kg/h H2: 15,9 18,4 17,6 %
1,26 GJ/h H2O: 13,8 -- 5,0 %
N2: 43,1 50,0 47,6 %
Other: 0,3 0,4 %
Total: 100,0 100,0 100,0 %

Figure 4

Pilot Plant

The PyroArc process has been tested in the ScanArc pilot plant since 1986. The test
furnace has a capacity of 300-700 kg of solid wastes per hour, depending on waste
composition, and a capacity of 50-500 kg of liquid or gaseous waste per hour. The
plant is equipped for continuous operation up to four days. Dry or wet gas cleaning
systems can be used.

Waste materials tested so far with good results are:

• RDF (Refuse Derived Fuel) from household waste
• Mixture of wood and plastic
• Spent tyres
• Car-fluff from car shredding
• Electronic scrap
• Hospital waste
• Chlorinated solvents
• PCB oils
• Freons, halones
• Scrap from refrigerators
• Batteries
• Oil filters
• Paint
• Tannery waste
• Dried sewage sludge

The pilot plant tests have clearly shown the versatility of the PyroArc process on
converting various waste materials into a clean fuel gas and a non-leachable slag.


The PyroArc process has by extensive pilot test series proven its versatility to convert
most types of waste materials into a clean fuel gas and a leaching resistant slag. The
process meets the most stringent environmental demands while the amount of
secondary products, which has to be disposed of, is kept to a minimum.
The pilot plant is still used for tests requested by customers and for new waste material
Tests have been made on conversion of traditional fuels like biomass, coal and waste
oils into fuel gas for efficient power generation. The possibility to combine
“traditional” fuels and waste materials to optimise power generation is an interesting
option for the PyroArc process which also makes it possible to follow a varying
demand for energy.


The growing environmental concern has highlighted the waste handling and waste
processing for at least 20 years. Authorities, industry, politicians and the public
opinion have changed their stand points a couple of times during this period but we
can now see some converging general ideas which seems to be accepted by most
parties. Some of these ideas are:

• Rather build smaller plants to serve local areas than big centralised plants.

• Generation of energy is an accepted recovery alternative to recycling for most

waste materials.

• Processing of household waste will be exposed to the same stringent emission

limits as processing of hazardous waste.

• Landfill should be avoided as far as possible.

From these ideas a possible future scenario can be drawn characterised in smaller
plants serving local areas processing all waste, municipal, industrial, and hospital
waste, generated in that area. Depending on local conditions the plant can generate
power or energy for district heating. The waste material should be separated at the
source in food and garden waste for composting, valuable material for recycling and
all the rest going to a processing plant for energy recovery.

Such a solution should make waste processing more acceptable to the public opinion
and avoid long distance transportation of hazardous waste. The PyroArc waste to
energy process is designed for such a scenario.


ScanArc Plasma Technologies AB Tel.: +46 (0)290 767800

Box 41 Fax: +46 (0)290 20075
813 21 HOFORS Email: mail@scanarc.se
Sweden Web: www.scanarc.se