Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Biofuels in Edmonton: How does it all work?

The Edmonton Waste-to-Biofuels project enables us to use garbage as a resource. When combined with current recycling and composting initiates we will be able to achieve 90% diversion of waste from landfill. Read on for an overview of what's involved in the process.

Pre-processing (Sorting the garbage)

Garbage is sorted by people and machines into three streams: organic materials for composting; metals for recycling; and non-recyclable, non-compostable waste for conversion into refuse derived fuel. This is done at the Integrated Processing and Transfer Facility(IPTF). Integrated means to combine multiple things into a single unit, and that's exactly what the IPTF achieves. It's a waste transfer operation, a pre-processing operation, and a refuse derived fuel plant all wrapped into one. All residential garbage is taken here and processed.

Refuse Derived Fuel(RDF) Plant (Preparing the feedstock)

Refuse Derived Fuel prepared at the Edmonton Waste Management Centre
The City is responsible for converting waste to RDF, a material less than 2” in diameter which is free of inerts and metals. This will be achieved by a mechanical system that sorts and shreds waste. Keep your eyes peeled for a future blog which will dive into the details of RDF.

Conversion to Biofuels

The Waste-to-Biofuels Facility will convert 100,000 tonnes of municipal solid waste into biofuels annually. It will be built, owned and operated by Enerkem. The process involves heat, pressure, advanced chemistry and the use of cutting-edge catalysts. The RDF is heated up in an environment with little oxygen, this means the material will turn into a gas rather than combust. It has a positive energy balance, since gasification requires less energy than it produces. A significant portion of the water in the system is reused in a closed-loop. The process can be broken down into four steps. Check out edmontonbiofuels.ca for process details.

Enerkem’s 4-step process 

Advanced Energy Research Facility

The AERF is a pilot plant used to test feedstock for conversion into fuel or other green chemicals. The facility welcomes top researchers from Alberta, Canada, and around the world, particularly those specialized in thermo-catalysis. The facility focuses on researching innovative technologies for converting waste to biofuels.
Pilot gasification system at the Advanced Energy and Research Facility


The Waste-to-Biofuels Facility is scheduled to be in operation in 2013 and at full capacity in 2015. The newest addition to the construction project is a 70,000 lb gasifier which is an important part in the process to transform waste into biofuels.
Gasifier for the Waste-to-Biofuels Facility at the Edmonton Waste Management Centre
We look forward to passing on details as we learn more about this exciting project!

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