No. The INNOVA pyrolysis plant produces clean emissions and inert solid residues.
This very worrying concern is frequently imputed to traditional technologies like incineration.
As the Municipal Solid Waste includes chlorine-containing materials, like PVC, during its oxidation in incinerators dioxins and furans (organochlorides) are produced. These elements are bioaccumulative, that is, they do not degrade easily and thus accumulate in vegetal and animals, concentrating in the many phases of the food chain. These elements are proved carcinogenic and are produced on the normal operation conditions of incinerators, where chlorine, oxygen and hydrogen coexist.
Another problem of the incinerators are the heavy metals. As the Municipal Solid Waste are sent directly to the furnace, the batteries and other heavy metal containing products are found in the incineration products, that is, the flue gasses and the ashes.
Even when modern and efficient filters are used in incinerators, these technologies only reduce the concentration of dioxins, furans and heavy metals in the flue gasses and concentrate them in the so called flying ashes, that are retained in the filters. These ashes present high dioxin and furans content, that are hazardous, and if not properly disposed can contaminate soil, air and water, entering in the food chain.
The INNOVA technology, as it does not uses oxygen avoids the possibility of producing these carcinogenic elements. INNOVA technology also do not produce flying ashes, as the syngas is cleaned before any combustion occurs. The use of a Municipal Solid Waste pre-treatment system also allows the segregation of batteries before it enters in the pyrolysis reactor, guaranteeing that the heavy metals will not be found in the pyrolysis products (syngas and ashes).
- Is there any INNOVA plant in Brazil?
The first INNOVA facility in Brazil is under construction in the Science and Technological Park of Unicamp, at the State University of Campinas. This will be the first facility of its kind in Brazil.
As any other novelty, the solutions of treatment and energy recovery face the normal market hurdles for introduction and diffusion, mainly because they are not known by the society.
Beside the pyrolysis plant under development in Brazil the INNOVA technology was used in Italy for the development of three plants, in operation since 2007 and 2013.
Similar technologies were used in Waste to Energy plants mainly in Europe and Japan, where the Rotating Drum Slow Pyrolysis is used for decades.
See references of the Rotating Drum Pyrolysis.
Successful examples operate for more than 30 years continuously, treating many types of residues, with more than 90% of availability.
- Is the INNOVA technology economically feasible?
Yes, the INNOVA technology can guarantee an attractive solution under an economic point of view and with competitive costs comparing to the landfills.
This attractiveness is mainly due to its simple construction and operation and due to the commercial use of many resources that the waste can offer, that is, electricity, thermal energy, recyclables, carbon credits, biochar, waste treatment service, etc.
- What are the treatment capacities of each INNOVA plants?
The INNOVA plants are modular and can treat a quantity between 10 tons and more than 1,000 tons of waste per day, using side-by-side modules.
Although the technology can be used for high capacities, the Solid Waste National Plan says that 98% of the open dumps in the country are sited in municipalities with less than 100,000 inhabitants, that is, the environmental situation is worst in the countryside, in small and medium size cities.
For this reason INNOVA focus specially in cities with population between 50,000 and 200,000 inhabitants, because these are the cities that most need appropriate solutions.
- Can the INNOVA technology treat other kinds of waste beside the Municipal Solid Waste?
Yes, like in other pyrolysis plants in Europe and in Japan, the INNOVA technology can be used with clinical waste, old drugs, sewage sludge, contaminated soil, residual biomass, industrial residues, etc.
See references of the Rotating Drum Pyrolysis
For a better economic result, although, INNOVA focus specially in residues that have no commercial use and that present a cost of disposal.
- What is the difference between pyrolysis and other technologies?
There is a wide variety of thermal processes used to convert organic residues, like Municipal Solid Waste, in energy. Although each technology presents different solutions, all the types of thermal processes can be classified in four different types: combustion, gasification, plasma and pyrolysis.
Combustion or incineration is the direct burning of waste in a moving grate, with the use of the hot flue gasses for steam and energy production.
Gasification uses a partial combustion, with less air then necessary for complete combustion. After the first gasification chamber, the gases produced are sent to an oxidizer for full combustion. The heat of the flue gasses are then used to produce steam and energy.
Plasma uses an electric arch, similar to the one used in metal smelting in order to heat the waste and convert it to syngas. The syngas produced can be either cleaned or burned to produce steam. For low heat value fuels like food waste, the amount of electricity consumed in order to convert it to syngas is higher than the amount that can be retrieved from the syngas as electricity, making the plasma a negative efficiency process.
Pyrolysis uses an external source of heat in order to heat the biomass or the waste in a reactor without oxygen. As there is no oxygen, there is also no combustion, and for temperatures above 400°C, the organic matter starts a thermochemical decomposition process producing gas, liquid and solid fuels.
Among the pyrolysis technologies, the Slow Rotating Drum Technology is the most indicated for the treatment of solid waste.
Get to know the Rotating Drum Pyrolysis
No matter what is the technology chosen, the final result is quite similar, the waste is converted in flue gasses (steam and carbon dioxide) and in a inorganic residue (glass, metals, stones, ceramic, etc.), that is around 10% of the original weight.
- Does the INNOVA pyrolysis plant limit waste sorting?
No, on the contrary, the INNOVA pyrolysis plant can be operated in an integrated way with a recyclable sorting facility.
Other kind of technologies like incineration have difficulties in handling low heat value residues and therefore, diversion of recyclables from incinerators might be a problem for these technologies.
As nearly half of the Brazilian waste stream is made of food waste and other organics with high water content, the heat value of Brazilian waste is normally between 1,800 and 2,100 kcal/kg.
Thus, when a higher degree of segregation is carried for plastics and paper, the heat value of the waste can be lower than 1,800 kcal/kg and the incineration will need auxiliary fuel to sustain, that is not desirable in an economic point of view. For this reason, it is said that incinerators compete with recycling.
The INNOVA technology does not have this problem. The INNOVA plants can treat food waste and high moisture content residues, sewage sludge and other residues with heat value below 1,800 kcal/kg without any difficulty and with no use of auxiliary fuel. The only difference is that it will need a greater amount of waste in order to produce the same amount of energy.
In this way, the sorting of recyclables do not impact on the operation and on the economy of the INNOVA plant, on the contrary, it allows to receive a higher quantity of waste for its treatment.
For this reason INNOVA considers very important the waste sorting activity, due to its social, economic and environmental point of view and we offer an integrated solution of waste sorting and pyrolysis, because no matter how efficient is the waste sorting facility, there will always be a big quantity of waste that cannot be recycled and will need other kind of treatment.
The waste sorting facility developed by INNOVA receives the unsorted waste and through automated equipment, select and send to the sorting belt just what is really worth sorting, like PET, aluminum cans, plastic bags, packing, paper, cardboard. This solution avoids health risks and increases the quantity of recyclables that each worker can recover.