Metro Vancouver’s draft waste plan envisions expanding waste to energy (WTE) within the region. In operation since 1988, Metro Vancouver’s current WTE facility in Burnaby converts 290,000 tonnes per year of municipal solid waste into 133,000 MWh of electricity and 300,000 tonnes of steam (for an adjacent recycled paper mill). The plant has enjoyed a successful 20 year track record of environmental performance and revenues.
In the past, North American facilities have been large centralized operations; however, as in the UK, a smaller multi-site model would allow an increase in district heating possibilities and distributed electrical generation, in addition to reducing concentration of truck traffic to a central facility. The benefits will have to be weighed against the higher initial capital costs when compared with the traditional larger central facility. Locating new facilities where new developments can utilize the recovered energy would put a major dent in the region’s fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions, residential heating. In addition, the electricity could power over 50,000 homes. To ensure against overbuilding, four 200,000 tpy facilities would be necessary for the near term, with other sites planned as necessary.
With a constrained Fraser Valley air shed, today’s facilities can be built so as to have no detectable impacts on air quality. All new facilities have flue gas cleaning that meets the most stringent environmental levels, with normal operation achieving HCl and SO2 in single digit levels of milligrams per cubic meter (mg/m3) and NOx levels of 100 mg/m3 or less (half of the current leading European limits). Locating facilities close to the population center will reduce long haul truck transport by over nine million kms per year.
Each 500,000 tonnes of waste treated through WTE overall reduces net GHG emissions by 480,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalents, while reducing our dependence on fossil fuels.
New facilities must be equipped with boiler designs yielding high overall plant efficiencies. An ultra-efficient WTE facility can serve as an anchor for entire urban centers that use no fossil fuels, achieving a zero GHG footprint. (This is an attractive option for those adopting LEED building standards.) Vancouver already has an excellent model of district heating to over 200 large buildings in the downtown core provided by Central Heat. North Vancouver has its Lonsdale district heating system. WTE has the added benefit for building operators and home owners of decoupling their heating costs from the rising price of fossil fuels.
A typical single facility design and operation could have:
• Waste processing capacity of 200,000 to 250,000 tonnes per year.
• Direct haul to the facility with 24 hour operation to allow commercial vehicles to reduce road congestion during peak periods.
• Totally enclosed buildings of high architectural standard (with the local community involved in choosing and approving the final design).
• Commercially proven designs, utilizing the latest low NOx combustion furnace technologies.
• Steam conditions of 45 bar and 400C to the turbogenerator to ensure the highest possible thermal efficiency, and cycle efficiencies of 50 per cent or higher.
• State-of-the-art flue gas cleaning plant to achieve the best world standards.
• A 30 megawatt turbogenerator with controlled extractions for the highest possible flexibility in supplying a district heating network.
• Ash processing to recover as much recycled ferrous and non-ferrous metal as possible, with further processing and marketing as a commercial product
• Purpose-designed tour and presentation centers to keep the community informed on all aspects of the operation.
• A public contact group to monitor and report on facility operation on a long term basis.
Ron Richter is VP Business Development Canada for Veolia Waste-to-Energy, Inc. in Vancouver. BC. Contact Ron at Ron.Richter@veoliaes.com