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Is waste as a feedstock an attractive opportunity for Downstream producers?

Can waste processing be integrated with existing downstream fuel and petrochemical technologies to assist with both waste management and climate change goals?

A strategic shift to use clean technologies to reduce emissions is required to meet IPCC’s pledge to reach net zero GHG targets by 2050, to keep global warming below 1.5oC. Various types of waste pose a risk on climate change as well as health, pollution of land, air and water. Despite policies enforced by many countries worldwide to reduce waste generation, the total waste quantity generated is still growing at an unprecedented rate. In 2018, the World Bank estimated that waste generation will increase as much as 70% from 2.01 billion tonnes to 3.40 billion by 2050. Approximately 40% of waste generated worldwide is not managed properly and instead dumped or openly burned.

Gasification, an advanced thermal treatment process (ATT), converts the carbonaceous fractions of various feedstocks into valuable gaseous product known as synthesis gas and has lower emissions and higher efficiencies than incineration technologies. The ability of gasification to produce a syngas from a wide range of waste feedstocks provides the opportunity to divert biodegradable waste from landfill and convert it to valuable renewable products, including power, synthetic natural gas (SNG), chemicals, liquid transport fuels and H2. These high value product routes can also be carbon negative while integrated with carbon capture providing opportunity to meet climate goals.

In many countries, the economic incentives for any form of waste-to-energy plant have not been attractive compared to landfilling or mass burning. Government regulations and policy interventions combined with strict emission regulations are urgently required to decrease disposal of waste directly to landfill and to promote recycling and thermal treatment to valuable end use. Several other factors such as landfill tax, waste tipping fees, incentives associated with renewable products play critical role to make such waste to renewable product projects economically viable and attractive to investors.

This paper will present a case study of waste processing options for integration into existing refinery/petrochemicals facilities and discuss the key challenges that need to be addressed to make this processing route and attractive opportunity.

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