Historically, waste has been viewed as an unwanted burden and a problem to be overcome with as little resource dedication as possible. In this context, waste management strategies have traditionally focused upon land-filling or waste destruction through incineration technology as the preferred waste management solutions. Massive waste generation was the inevitable result of the then prevailing linear economic model in which goods and services were produced, consumed once or for a limited time period and then discarded. In time it became abundantly clear that this approach was completely unsustainable from the perspective of scarce critical raw materials and environmental protection.

In more recent times, there has been a gradual change in attitude towards waste where it is now being embraced as a valuable resource. This attitudinal change combined with the introduction of advanced thermal treatment technologies, including pyrolysis, has transformed the historic viewpoint whereby the focus of waste management is now upon reforming waste-to-energy as an integral component of the transition to a low carbon, circular and sustainable economic model. A circular economy strategy is a framework in which mankind strives for more added value and well being from every metric of scarce resources; from every kilogram of finite materials, every joule of energy, and every litre of water. One of the pillars of a resource efficient, competitive circular economy is 100% renewable energy generation. On that basis, residual waste fractions arising from agriculture, forestry, waste management processes and general industry needs to be assessed for potential energy and resource recovery.

The impetus for the development of cleaner Waste-to Energy technologies have been accelerated by numerous factors:

– Significant legislative constraints on the land filling of biodegradable waste;
– Greater awareness of the impact on climate change of landfill gas emissions;
– A pervasive and negative image of incineration as an unacceptable waste treatment technique;
– Greater cognisance of the finite nature of natural resources and a desire to recover those resources from waste;
– The desire of end users for the generation of cleaner and greener energy from renewable and sustainable sources.

Premier Green Energy’s goal is to promote the fundamental transition from the current and overwhelming reliance upon fossil-fuel-derived energy generation to a sustainable, renewable and more environmentally friendly energy supply chain.

Evidence of success (results achieved)

PGE has participated in numerous research projects including LIFE and INTERREG funded projects to determine the suitability of feedstocks for thermal treatment to allow the recovery of resources in the form of energy, resources and nutrients.

PGE has a pipeline of projects which has evolved from the pilot scale testing of various feedstocks. Also, a large commercial scale project utilising problematic waste wood products for renewable power generation is due for commissioning early 2018.

Difficulties encountered/ lessons learned

The heterogeneous nature of feedstock makes a pyrolysis or a gasification based process difficult to stabilise to ensure the resultant syngas is compatible with power generation utilising an engine. Gas treatment and conditioning is necessary to achieve a consistent quality of syngas that meets engine specification.

To enhance the efficiency of a process, and to further benefit a circular economy, the proximity of the thermal treatment process to the waste stream is important is assist further decarbonisation of resource recovery. Also, proximity of the process to a heat load further enhances the carbon footprint.

Potential for learning or transfer

Waste management of agricultural, commercial and residential residues is a worldwide issue that concerns one and all regardless of location. Landfilling, land spreading and incineration of these residues is increasingly problematic due to contamination and pollution concerns. The research being undertaken and the challenges that are being overcome by PGE through the development of suitable technologies to treat these waste streams in an efficient, economic and environmentally benign manner can help to address these issues.

Source: Interreg Europe – Rural SMEs