Four technologies are investigated which produce energy from municipal solid waste (MSW): incineration, gasification, generation of biogas and utilisation in a combined heat and power (CHP) plant, generation of biogas and conversion to transport fuel.
Typically the residual component of MSW (non-recyclable, non-organic) is incinerated producing electricity at an efficiency of about 20% and thermal product at an efficiency of about 55%. This is problematic in an Irish context where utilisation of thermal products is not the norm. Gasification produces electricity at an efficiency of about 34%; this would suggest that gasification of the residual component of MSW is more advantageous than incineration where a market for thermal product does not exist. Gasification produces more electricity than incineration, requires a smaller gate fee than incineration and when thermal product is not utilised generates less greenhouse gas per kWh than incineration. Gasification of MSW (a non-homogenous fuel) is, however, not proven at commercial scale.
Biogas may be generated by digesting the organic fraction of MSW (OFMSW). The produced biogas may be utilised for CHP production or for transport fuel production as CH4-enriched biogas. When used to produce transport fuel some of the biogas is used in a small CHP unit to meet electricity demand on site. This generates a surplus thermal product.
Both biogas technologies require significantly less investment costs than the thermal conversion technologies (incineration and gasification) and have smaller gate fees. Of the four technologies investigated transport fuel production requires the least gate fee. A shortfall of the transport fuel production technology is that only 50% of biogas is available for scrubbing to CH4-enriched biogas. (C) 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.