A circular economy is an industrial system that is restorative or regenerative by design. It largely builds on material cycles on the one side (reuse, recycling), and biological cycles for nutrients and carbon on the other side, with energy requirements provided by renewable sources and as efficient as possible.
The role for energy-from-waste is currently to treat those fractions of waste that cannot be recycled or recovered to produce power and/or heat; but there are evolving trends to valorise such waste and residues in higher value applications such as liquid fuels or chemicals, for instance through chemical recycling methods.
This session considered the role of bioenergy from waste & residues in the circular economy, presented examples of modern waste-to-energy systems and looked into promising conversion routes such as gasification.
Inge Johansson, Researcher, RISE Research Institutes of Sweden, Sweden
The role of bioenergy from waste & residues in a circular economy
Daniel Roberts, Research Director, Energy Technologies, CSIRO, Australia
Syngas to biofuels and circular chemicals
Michel Chornet, Executive Vice President, Engineering, Innovation & Operations, Enerkem, Canada
Waste & residue based gasification routes
Jitka Hrbek, Senior Scientist, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna, Austria
Copenhill – An example on how to work with social acceptance of waste processing
Mar Edo, Researcher waste management, RISE Research Institutes of Sweden, Sweden
- Following the trend to move from a linear towards a more circular economy, processing of unrecyclable waste fractions is no longer only about producing power and/or heat. There are real gains in emerging pathways, such as chemical recycling via gasification.
- Chemical recycling of waste can lead to low carbon intensity transport fuels or circular chemicals. Enerkem has developed their technology (gasification of waste, followed by methanol or ethanol production) in the past 20 years and is now in commercial roll-out.
- Several other waste gasification projects are in operation / in development worldwide, most still focused on power/heat production; however more complex product-oriented projects are emerging, e.g., to produce methane, transport fuels or chemicals. The combination with carbon capture and storage is also gaining attention.
- Companies are under immense pressure to decarbonise in the coming decades. They realize there is no silver bullet and they look for scalable solutions. Waste-derived fuels and chemicals can be a relevant component in their strategies.
- When installing waste-to-energy plants, as well as emerging technologies to process waste, social acceptance is key. Waste processing plants can be integrated in urban areas, conditional to openness, communication and involvement of local communities. The Copenhill plant in Copenhagen (which also feeds into the local district heating grid and integrates recreational) is a good showcase.