Waste to Energy Recovery

Waste to Energy Recovery

Waste to Energy Recovery

Waste-to -energy recovery is the conversion of unrecyclable waste to heat, electricity, or fuel through such processes such as combustion, pyrolysis, landfill gas recovery (LFG), and anaerobic digestion. Apart from electrical energy, the fuels obtained from waste to energy recovery methods include methane, ethanol, and methanol. These fuels are combusted either for electrical generation or to provide process heat in industries. This is a paper on waste-to-energy recovery and the commercial applications of the energy obtained.

Waste to energy recovery is referred as the first fuel option because of the numerous benefits it offers. Reddy opines that the main benefit realized from waste to energy recovery is environmental conservation (60). By substituting fossil fuels such as coal and petroleum products with energy from waste, the overall greenhouse emissions are reduced. Fossils fuels combustion is the main contributor to environmental pollution and global warming. Secondly, extraction of energy from waste is more economical than the use of conventional fuel, which leads to huge operational costs reduction in companies. Firms that recover energy-from-waste save on electricity and fuel costs and may even earn extra income from carbon credits.

Energy recovered from waste has numerous commercial applications. Young lists process heating and electrical generation as the major application of energy from waste (7). The first and direct application is the provision of heat energy. According to DuBois and Arthur, Waste matter such as bagasse in sugar factories is combusted to generate steam which is then piped for process heating (14). Alternatively, the heat energy obtained can be used for electricity generation through steam turbines. In waste energy steam power plants, steam is generated at high pressure and used to drive turbines coupled to electrical generators. Gaseous fuels such as methane are combusted in internal combustion engines which produce torque for generators. Energy from waste is used to compliment or completely replace conventional energy forms such as grid electrical supply.

Figure 1: 3.2MW landfill gas recovery project based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Source: Waste Management World.

American Environmental Landfill (AEL) commissioned a Landfill Gas Recovery project in 20 June 2013. The plant, located near Tulsa in Oklahoma generates 3.2MW of power but has the capacity to churn out 4.8MW (Messenger, par. 2). The plant was designed and installed by Monatuk Energy, a company that is based in Pittsburgh and is also responsible for its operation and maintenance. The plant combusts methane from the landfill and converts the heat energy to electricity through steam turbines, after which the power is then fed to the grid.


DuBois, Edgard, and Arthur Mercier. Energy Recovery. New York: Nova Science Publishers, 2009. Internet resource.

Young, Gary C. Municipal Solid Waste to Energy Conversion Processes: Economic, Technical,  and Renewable Comparisons. Hoboken, N.J: Wiley, 2010. Internet resource.

Reddy, P J. Municipal Solid Waste Management: Processing, Energy Recovery, Global Examples. Hyderabad, India: BS Publications, 2011. Print.

Messenger, Ben. Oklahoma’s First Landfill Gas to Energy Project Operational. Waste Management World, 20 June 2013. Web. 18 May 2006.

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