Waste management specialist, Interwaste, has launched South Africa’s first refuse derived fuel (RDF) plant at its Germiston depot. MechTech attends the launch and reports.

Interwaste – a leading local waste management business – has announced the launch of South Africa’s very first refuse derived fuel (RDF) plant. The plant aims at reducing waste to landfill and pioneering general, industrial and municipal waste to alternative fuels, ensuring less reliance on South Africa’s vital resources – resources that are carbon intensive. The company expects to see 36 t/a of waste converted to alternative fuel for use in the South African manufacturing sector.

Interwaste RDF refuse derived fuel Mike Nichols bailling“In line with global best practice, Interwaste continually invests in innovative solutions that have the most environmentally sound waste management opportunity at its core, solutions that make us market leaders and place us in a favourable position within the competitive waste management environment,” says Allan Willcocks, CEO at Interwaste. “It is with this in mind, and with a strong focus on aiding our customers to reduce operational expenses, while acting responsibly towards the environment, that we commissioned the RDF plant, which is another market first since the business opened 25 years ago.”

The plant, which was imported in 2015, is located in a facility built by Interwaste at the company’s Germiston depot. It is currently producing a solid recovered fuel to European specified standards, which is equivalent to A Grade coal.

“Through the commissioning of such solutions, companies are able to lessen their reliance on fossil fuels, which have a high environmental impact including: acid mine drainage and reject coal waste and dust, for example. By using RDF, not only are businesses able to drastically improve their emissions profile but they able to pay back their investment within five years, because  the fuel is substantially more economical,” continues Willcocks.

Prior to the implementation of the local plant, Interwaste underwent stringent environmental compliance procedures to ensure all due process was followed and that the facility would operate with a valid licence and the correct environmental authority approvals – which are critical in ensuring sound business practices.

The company has also pioneered the production of alternative fuels within the hazardous waste environment, ensuring that hazardous waste can be diverted from landfill, where such waste is not only expensive to landfill but toxic to the environment if not managed correctly.

“Locally, the playing fields have changed. The implementation of new and pending legislation is forcing companies to move to 21st century solutions, solutions that offer real opportunity for environmental preservation. From an Interwaste perspective, the provision of these fuels has not only opened up in excess of 100 jobs within the sector, but has created a very solid platform from which to protect the environment at large. This is a critical constitutional imperative in line with changing legislation,” states Willcocks.

“However, we are not in this alone, it is up to corporate South Africa to understand the benefits of such solutions to their bottom line, and the environment, in order for us to make the change we want to see. We are positive about the impact of such market innovation and look forward to very exciting times with regards to RDF,” concludes Willcocks.

Interwaste is a leading environmental solutions management company in South Africa and the SADC region, offering holistic environmental solutions ranging from legal compliance, technical services, on-site management services, resource recovery, solid and liquid waste treatment, waste commodity trading, waste logistics, waste disposal and facilities management.

Presenting the technology at a launch event earlier this year, Mike Nicholls, Interwaste’s technical services director, says that prior to establishing local system, best practices in Europe were visited and evaluated.

RDF, according to Nicholls, is dry industrial waste, which Interwaste sources locally by onsite sorting of suitable waste from targeted industries, such as furniture manufacturers and generators of non-recyclable plastic waste. Possible uses for the fuel include power stations, the cement industry, gasification/pyrolysis plants and dedicated RDF combustion facilities. “RDF is particularly well suited to the cement industry, since particulate emissions from the fuel tends to be encapsulated in the end product during the calcining process,” says Nicholls. Calcining is the decomposition of calcium carbonate (limestone) in a rotating kiln to form calcium oxide (lime) during the cement making process.

Properties of the RDF fuel produced by Interwaste include: very high temperature flame (2 000 °C); low residence time (below 5.0 seconds); inherent gas cleaning, particularly in the case of cement kilns; and almost no ash production.

Two forms of RDF fuel can be produced. From wood-based waste, extruded logs and pellets are produced for use as solid fuel. From plastic waste, however, a fuel called 'fluff' is produced by shredding and baling the pre-sorted plastic waste.

Nicholls says that Interwaste can now offer a solid waste RDF with high calorific value, diverting industrial waste to save landfill space. “We are now able to recover the energy value in waste that would otherwise be wasted, for use as a substitute fuel for valuable fossil-based resources and reducing net greenhouse gas emissions,” he says.

The energy generated from RDF is considered to be green energy and could therefore  be eligible for carbon credits and exempted from the Carbon Tax. “Its use is in line with the Department of Environmental Affairs’ waste recovery objectives and qualifies as a contributor to the green economy.

“Available as a dense solid fuel or as ‘fluff’ for direct injection into burners, RDF offers a high degree of flexibility with respect to calorific value; the potential for zero waste to landfill; a significantly lower ash content than conventional fuels such as coal; along with reduced particulate emissions,” he concludes.


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