Kristin Smith

Kristin is a member of the Recycling Today staff.


Fueling discussion

Industry Events

Turning waste into fuel and energy was a popular topic at events held during the spring.

June 5, 2014

Waste-to-energy (WTE) facilities and refuse-derived fuel (RDF) producers have been turning waste into valuable electricity, steam and boiler fuel for decades. Anaerobic digestion (AD) continues to develop as an option to create energy and fuel from organic material. WasteExpo 2014 and the 22nd North American Waste-to-Energy Conference (NAWTEC) provided perfect backdrops for operators, engineers and technology providers to share their expertise in these fields with those interested in learning more.

AD projects continue to develop in the United States and Europe. Understanding how to effectively move those projects forward was the focus of a session during WasteExpo 2014 which took place at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, April 30-May 1.

Drivers & barriers

Michelle Spruth, a project manager in Illinois for Netherlands-based CB&I, shared the firm’s experience with implementing a dry AD facility at a landfill in Packington, U.K. The landfill there only had about 400,000 tons or about 1.5 years of capacity left.

“Everyone wanted us to finish up landfilling and get out,” said Spruth. “Constructing a new waste treatment facility was a big blow to them.”

CB&I put together a communications plan and looked at more than 200 sites before deciding to locate the AD facility at the existing landfill. Austria-based Strabag was selected as the AD technology vendor on the project.

Spruth detailed “Lessons learned” on the project, which included engaging regulators and stakeholders early; flexibility in design to accommodate local needs; and phasing of operation with other operations or surroundings.

“You have to plan for the long and short-term,” she advised.

Kyle Goehring, regional sales manager for Eisenmann Corp., Crystal Lake, Illinois, shared how several large players in the private industry have waste reduction goals and how places like Connecticut, Vermont, Massachusetts and New York City have policies in place aimed at food waste reduction.

He also showed that while 28 percent of municipal solid waste is made up of food waste and yard waste, only 1.6 percent of food waste is being diverted. For food processors and restaurants, however, an even larger percentage of the waste stream is made up of food. According to Goehring, the Hamilton, Ontario-based restaurant chain Tim Horton’s conducted a waste audit and determined 69 percent of its waste was organic.

Eisenmann’s AD technology is a two-stage digester process, Goehring described. The company is currently working on project for CR&R in Perris, California, to process food and yard waste from the waste company’s 2.5 million customers. It is being built to produce 1 million diesel gallon equivalents (DGEs) of compressed natural gas per year.

The Eisenmann digester is designed to accept between 0 and 50 percent solids. “Our technology really worked for them because it’s flexible,” said Goehring.

Marc Rogoff of Long Beach, California-based SCS Engineers talked about anaerobic digestion as a “technology whose time has come.”

He offered 10 key feasibility questions that those considering AD should ask. They are:

  1. Does the technology work?
  2. What is the strength of the company?
  3. Does the technology fit with the current solid waste program?
  4. Can you provide waste supply?
  5. What are the project’s siting needs?
  6. What kind of permits will be needed?
  7. Are markets available for products and energy?
  8. What are the financing risks?
  9. What are the costs?
  10. What if the project fails?

He said areas where tipping fees are between $70 and $100 can consider treatment technologies such as AD for their waste, but added compost and digestate revenues don’t exist everywhere.

C&D diversion differences

Anthony Colosimo, CEO of Des Moines, Iowa-based Phoenix Recycling, and Kevin Herb, president of Broad Run Recycling, Manassas, Virginia, both process C&D materials but have different ways to achieve their high diversion rates. During WasteExpo 2014, the two recyclers shared their approaches to attendees during a session on the topic of C&D recycling.

Colosimo told attendees that Phoenix Recycling “processes a little differently than most places.” Biomass fuel makes up the majority of the facility’s end products. The company uses a negative sort to eliminate the material that it does not want in the fuel, including metals. It also uses an eddy current separator as part of its nonferrous separation system.

Phoenix produces a biomass fuel through a grinding process and can make its product into a pelletized or fluff form, depending on customer specifications. Colosimo estimated the facility achieves an 80 to 90 percent recovery rate from its process. He added that Phoenix does not own a landfill so it needs a high recovery rate “or it will cost us.”

According to Colosimo, biomass has the potential to offset coal consumption. He even referred to the Midwest as “the Saudi Arabia of biomass.” He estimated that the United States uses 45 million tons of coal per year for power generation. He suggested that power plants offset at least a percentage of their coal and replace it with biomass.

“All can co-fire our product if they chose to do so,” he said. “The problem is they are switching to natural gas.” Despite switching to natural gas, Colosimo said biomass can be used as a renewable fuel in these power plants that still have existing coal-fired boilers, even as they transition to using natural gas.

Unlike Phoenix Recycling, Broad Run Recycling produces a variety of end products from the mostly clean construction debris it receives. Wood, metals, aggregates, wood-derived fuel (WDF), rigid plastics and cardboard are all separated and recycled at the Washington-area facility. Being located in the nation’s capital and becoming a certified facility through Recycling Certification Institute (RCI) has caused the facility to grow, according to Herb.

Washington has a goal of being the “greenest” city in the country, and Herb said, “We needed a way to prove to customers, ‘I really am doing what I say I am doing.’”

He also pointed out that 90 percent of all U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) projects apply for C&D recycling credits. In the new version of LEED, expected to take effect in 2015, companies will earn an additional point for using a C&D recycling facility like Broad Run that has its diversion rate certified by a third party.

Broad Run added five trucks to its fleet in 2013 and achieved a five-month return on investment (ROI) on a baler for rigid plastics, Herb told attendees. The facility is currently processing 650 tons per day and is on track to increase that to 750 tons per day by the end of the year, according to Herb.

WTE capacity development

NAWTEC held its 22nd annual conference in Reston, Virginia, in early May. During the opening plenary session, Ted Michaels, president of Washington, D.C.-based Energy Recovery Council (ERC) shared data from the “2014 ERC Directory of Waste-to-Energy Facilities.” (available at )

According to the directory, 84 WTE facilities in 23 states have the capacity to process more than 96,000 tons of waste per day with a baseload electric capacity of 2,769 megawatt hours. Four facilities are inactive and one is under construction. Of the facilities, 64 are mass-burn, 14 are RDF and seven are modular. The facilities have a combined throughput of 96,249 tons per day (tpd).

Michaels said the industry is “very much operating its existing capacity smoothly.”

Then at a later session titled “WTE Capacity Development,” several WTE facilities shared the different approaches they are taking to expand capacity. Patrick Carroll, director of facilities management for the Solid Waste Authority of Palm Beach County, West Palm Beach, Florida, reported that the authority’s new WTE facility, which will be its second facility, is at 78 percent completion. The project which includes three 1,000 tpd boilers has a total cost of $674 million. The facility is expected to be complete in 2016.

A new WTE facility also is under construction in Durham, Ontario. The Peel Energy Recovery Centre is expected to be operational in November 2014 and will be operated by Covanta of Morristown, New Jersey. HDR, Omaha, Nebraska, provided the environmental assessment, communication and procurement services.

Gioseph Anello, manager of waste planning and technical services for the Regional Municipality of Durham, said it had been 20 years since a WTE facility had been built in Ontario.

“One of our biggest challenges was our regulators,” Anello said. The facility will be built to process 300,000 tons per year of Peel, Ontario’s residential garbage to produce usable energy, such as steam or electricity, and to recover recyclable metals.

Matt Clark, senior vice president of RRC, Maple Grove, Minnesota, shared details on the firm’s expansion of the Perham Resource Recovery Facility (PRRF) in Minnesota. RRC is the engineer on the project which includes the addition of a waste heat boiler, air pollution control equipment and plant systems to increase the facility’s combustion capacity. The project also includes a new materials recovery facility (MRF), which will recover ferrous and nonferrous metals, plus other recyclables, prior to combustion. Clark said the 100 tpd expansion cost $29 million. “You can build a small project at a competitive cost,” he told attendees.

Jim Warner, CEO of the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority (LCSWMA), Lancaster, Pennsylvania, discussed the authority’s purchase of the Susquehanna Resource Management Complex (SRMC) from the city of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in what is considered the first public-to-public acquisition of its kind.

The city of Harrisburg was in receivership for $370 million in debt which included debt incurred from the facility. LCSWMA negotiated a deal with the receiver to purchase the WTE facility for $130 million. The authority closed on the deal Dec. 23, 2013. The deal included a 20-year tipping fee schedule for Harrisburg waste generators that starts at $190 per ton and gradually increases to $260 per ton. Dauphin County waste generators outside of Harrisburg must pay from $80 per ton to $120 per ton during that same time period.

The deal also included a 20-year power purchase agreement with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Department of General Services. LCSWMA is investing $22 million in improvements to SRMC which sits on 59 acres. The authority is now managing 900,000 tons of waste per year, according to Warner. He said because of the transaction LCSWMA now has a AA Standard & Poor’s credit rating.

NAWTEC was held at the Hyatt Regency in Reston May 7-9, 2014. Visit for more event coverage.


The author is managing editor of Renewable Energy from Waste and can be reached at

Fall destinations
More opportunities to learn about waste-to-energy are available in the fall, including the Renewable Energy from Waste Conference in San Jose, California, Nov. 17-20. For a complete list of upcoming conferences, see our Datebook.


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