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Waste-integrated biorefineries: A path towards efficient utilization of waste
Mälardalen University, School of Business, Society and Engineering, Future Energy Center.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-4932-7368
2020 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Waste-management systems have progressed from landfilling and dumping to waste prevention, recycling and resource recovery. In state-of-the-art waste-management industries, waste is separated into various fractions and treated with suitable processes. The non-recyclable organic fraction of waste can be incinerated for combined heat and power (CHP) production, while biodegradable waste can be converted to biomethane through the anaerobic digestion (AD) process. Thermochemical processes such as gasification and pyrolysis provide alternative methods for treating various fractions of waste. This thesis aims to design energy-efficient and cost-effective waste-integrated biorefineries by integrating thermochemical processing of waste with existing WtE technologies.

A system analysis of five process-integration case studies have been performed. The first case assesses the limitations and operational limits of thermochemical processes retrofitted in an existing waste-based CHP plant. The second and third case studies evaluate the feasibility of the current waste-based CHP plant to shift from cogeneration to polygeneration of biofuels, heat and power. In the fourth case study, a new process configuration is presented that couples AD of biodegradable waste with pyrolysis of lignocellulosic waste. The last case deals with the handling of digested sludge from WWTPs by the integration of thermochemical processes.

The findings suggest that waste-integrated biorefineries can utilize infrastructure and products from existing waste industries through process integration and improve the overall process efficiencies and economics. Existing waste-based CHP plants can provide excess heat for integrated thermochemical processes; however, the modifications required are different for different gasifiers and pyrolyzers. Similarly, refuse-derived fuel (RDF) — processed from municipal solid waste (MSW) — can be utilized for production of various biofuels alongside heat and power without disturbing the operation of the CHP. But biomethane and dimethyl ether (DME) showed higher process feasibility than methanol and drop-in biofuels.

The integration of pyrolysis with the AD process can almost double biomethane production compared with a standalone AD process, increasing efficiency to 67% from 52%. The integration is an attractive investment when off-site — rather than on-site — integration of pyrolysis and AD is considered.

Drying of sludge digestate from wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) is a bottleneck for its post-processing by thermochemical processes. However, waste heat from the existing CHP plant can be utilized for drying of sludge, which can also replace some of the boiler feed through co-incineration with waste biomass.

The economic performance of waste-integrated biorefineries will depend on the volatility of market conditions. Finally, assessment of the effects of uncertainty of input data and process parameters on metrics of technical and economic performance is vital for evaluation of overall system performance.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Västerås: Mälardalen University , 2020.
Series
Mälardalen University Press Dissertations, ISSN 1651-4238 ; 322
Keywords [en]
Gasification; Pyrolysis; Anaerobic digestion; Process integration; Aspen Plus; Ebsilon; Techno-economic analysis
National Category
Energy Engineering
Research subject
Energy- and Environmental Engineering
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-49878ISBN: 978-91-7485-476-3 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:mdh-49878DiVA, id: diva2:1463899
Public defence
2020-10-23, Beta + (Online, Zoom), Mälardalens högskola, Västerås, 09:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2020-09-04 Created: 2020-09-03 Last updated: 2020-09-23Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Impact of retrofitting existing combined heat and power plant with polygeneration of biomethane: A comparative techno-economic analysis of integrating different gasifiers
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Impact of retrofitting existing combined heat and power plant with polygeneration of biomethane: A comparative techno-economic analysis of integrating different gasifiers
2017 (English)In: Energy Conversion and Management, ISSN 0196-8904, E-ISSN 1879-2227, Vol. 152, p. 250-265Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

It is vital to identify and evaluate the optimal gasifier configuration that could be integrated with existing or new combined heat and power (CHP) plants to maximize the utilization of boiler operating capacity during off-peak hours with minimal effect on the boiler performance. This study aims to identify technically and economically most suitable gasification configuration and the reasonable operational limits of a CHP plant when integrated with different types of gasifiers. The selected gasifiers for the study are, (i) indirectly heated dual fluidized bed gasifier (DFBG), (ii) directly heated circulating fluidized bed gasifier (CFBG), and (iii) entrained flow gasifier (EFG). The gasifiers are selected on their ability to produce high-quality syngas from waste refused derived fuel (RDF). The syngas from the gasifiers is utilized to produce biomethane, whereas the heat and power from the CHP plant are consumed to run the gasification process. A detailed techno-economic analysis is performed using both flexible capacity and fixed capacity gasifiers and integrated with the CHP plant at full load. The results reveal that the integration leads to increase in operating time of the boiler for all gasifier configurations. The indirectly heated DFBG shows the largest biomethane production with less impact on the district heat and power production. Extra heat is available for biomethane production when the district heat and biomethane are prioritized, and the electric power is considered as a secondary product. Furthermore, the economic indicators reflect considerable dependency of integrated gasification performance on variable prices of waste biomass and biomethane. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier Ltd, 2017
National Category
Energy Engineering
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-37304 (URN)10.1016/j.enconman.2017.09.022 (DOI)000417657000023 ()2-s2.0-85033397695 (Scopus ID)
Available from: 2017-11-23 Created: 2017-11-23 Last updated: 2020-09-04Bibliographically approved
2. Gasification process integration with existing combined heat and power plants for polygeneration of dimethyl ether or methanol: A detailed profitability analysis
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Gasification process integration with existing combined heat and power plants for polygeneration of dimethyl ether or methanol: A detailed profitability analysis
2018 (English)In: Applied Energy, ISSN 0306-2619, E-ISSN 1872-9118, Vol. 226, p. 116-128Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Combustion of waste for cogeneration of heat and power is the most convenient and practical choice to carry out through combined heat and power (CHP) plants. But, seasonal variation in heat demand throughout the year affects the operation of CHP plants. This fluctuation in the CHP operation cause less annual operating hours for the plant equipment and is also not profitable for stakeholders. This study aims to assess the technical potential of integrated gasification process with existing CHP plants for either dimethyl ether (DME) or methanol production through refuse-derived fuel (RDF). Process integration considers that the CHP plant provides the necessary heat for biofuel synthesis during off-peak hours. Mass and heat integration methods are used to develop and simulate the polygeneration processes for heat, power, and biofuel production. Both technical and economic indicators are reported and compared to assess the potential for both biofuels through process integration. Annual operation data of a real CHP plant has been extracted to evaluate the integrated processes. A flexible gasification configuration is selected for the integrated approach i.e. CHP runs at full load to provide the heat demand and only the excess heat of CHP plant is utilized for biofuel production. The energetic efficiencies of the polygeneration systems are compared with the standalone systems. Technical analysis of process integration shows the enhancement of the operational capacity of CHP during off-peak hours and it can produce biofuels without compromising the annual heat demand. Production of methanol through process integration shows ∼67% energetic efficiency while methanol production gives ∼65%. The efficiencies are higher than standalone DME and methanol processes (51% and 53%, respectively) but lower than standalone CHP plant i.e. 81%, however the process integration increases the operating time of the CHP plant with more economic benefits. Economic analysis coupled with uncertainty analysis through Monte Carlo simulations shows that by integrating CHP with gasifier to produce biofuels is significantly profitable as compared with only heat and electricity production. But, DME as a potential product shows more economic benefits than methanol. The uncertainty analysis through Monte Carlo simulations shows that the profitable probability of DME as a product in future is also greater than methanol due to higher DME selling price. The uncertainty analysis further shows that prices of DME and methanol with waste biomass prices in future will have a greater impact on the economic performance of the proposed polygeneration process. 

National Category
Energy Engineering
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-39632 (URN)10.1016/j.apenergy.2018.05.069 (DOI)000441688100011 ()2-s2.0-85047756868 (Scopus ID)
Available from: 2018-06-07 Created: 2018-06-07 Last updated: 2020-09-04Bibliographically approved
3. Opportunities and limitations for existing CHP plants to integrate polygeneration of drop-in biofuels with onsite hydrogen production
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Opportunities and limitations for existing CHP plants to integrate polygeneration of drop-in biofuels with onsite hydrogen production
2020 (English)In: Energy Conversion and Management, ISSN 0196-8904, E-ISSN 1879-2227, Vol. 221, article id 113109Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Over the past few years, there has been increasing research interest in retrofitting existing combined heat and power (CHP) plants with new technologies to co-produce other products. The focus has been on the design of fixed-sized processes for integration into CHP plants without affecting their performance. The primary objective of this study was to test the limits of a CHP plant with respect to retrofitting flexible thermochemical conversion of waste to drop-in biofuels with properties similar to petroleum fuels. Waste conversion to drop-in biofuels also requires significant amount of hydrogen for drop-in biofuels synthesis — Required hydrogen was also produced onsite in thermochemical processes integrated with CHP plant. The secondary objective was to determine the maximum number of days a flexible retrofitted waste-thermochemical process can run annually using only excess heat from a CHP plant, and whether such processes are profitable when operating flexibly. The results show that the selection of heat extraction points for the utilization of excess heat from the CHP plant for energy-intensive processes is critical for maintaining the flexibility of the integrated thermochemical processes. Thermochemical processes integrated with CHP plants were able to operate on approximately 180 days of the year by utilizing only excess heat from the CHP plant. Integration of pyrolysis showed more flexibility than integration of gasification. Onsite hydrogen production was the main limiting factor for the integration of thermochemical process with the existing CHP plant to produce drop-in biofuels. Hydrogen produced with a solid oxide electrolysis cell (SOEC) decreased the overall system efficiency and limited the capacity of the overall process. However, hydrogen production from a water gas shift (WGS) reactor was more expensive. The results also indicated that small changes in the financial parameters have a large impact on the economic performance of the integrated process. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier Ltd, 2020
National Category
Energy Systems
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-49400 (URN)10.1016/j.enconman.2020.113109 (DOI)000572863500001 ()2-s2.0-85087309116 (Scopus ID)
Available from: 2020-07-09 Created: 2020-07-09 Last updated: 2020-10-14Bibliographically approved
4. Enhancing biomethane production by integrating pyrolysis and anaerobic digestion processes
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Enhancing biomethane production by integrating pyrolysis and anaerobic digestion processes
2017 (English)In: Applied Energy, ISSN 0306-2619, E-ISSN 1872-9118, Vol. 204, p. 1074-1083Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The anaerobic digestion of source-separated organic waste is a mature and increasingly used process for biomethane production. However, the efficient use of different fractions of waste is a big concern in anaerobic digestion plants. This study proposes the use of a new process configuration that couples the anaerobic digestion of biodegradable waste with the pyrolysis of lignocellulosic or green waste. The biochar obtained from pyrolysis was added to a digester as an adsorbent to increase the biomethane content and to support the development of a stable microbial community. In addition, the bio-oil and syngas produced by the pyrolysis process were reformed into syngas and then converted to biomethane via methanation. Modelling and simulations were performed for the proposed novel process. The results showed an approximately 1.2-fold increase in the biomethane volume produced. An overall efficiency of 67% was achieved, whereas the stand-alone anaerobic digestion system had an efficiency of only 52%. The results also indicated a high annual revenue for the integrated process compared to that for an alternative treatment (incineration) of green waste.

Keywords
Green waste, Municipal solid waste, Aspen Plus, Process simulation, Performance analysis, Economic analysis
National Category
Bioenergy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-37195 (URN)10.1016/j.apenergy.2017.05.006 (DOI)000412866500084 ()2-s2.0-85019131215 (Scopus ID)
Available from: 2017-11-07 Created: 2017-11-07 Last updated: 2020-09-04Bibliographically approved
5. Synergistic combination of pyrolysis, anaerobic digestion, and CHP plants.
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Synergistic combination of pyrolysis, anaerobic digestion, and CHP plants.
Show others...
2019 (English)In: Energy Procedia, Elsevier Ltd , 2019, Vol. 158, p. 1323-1329Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

The anaerobic digestion of biodegradable fraction of municipal solid waste (MSW) is a widely used process for biogas production. However, the biodegradable fraction of MSW also contains lignocellulosic waste which hinders the biogas production if added to the digester in higher quantity. So it needs to be separated from biodegradable waste and sent for alternate treatment, e.g., incineration, landfilling or compositing. Pyrolysis of lignocellulosic waste to produce biochar, syngas, and bio oil is an alternate treatment to consider. Furthermore, there is a reported correlation between the addition of biochar in the digester and higher biogas production. Previously, we coupled the pyrolysis of lignocellulosic waste with anaerobic digestion plant. Pyrolysis produces the biochar and vapors. Biochar was added in the digester to enhance the biomethane production. The vapors produced in the pyrolysis process were converted to biomethane through the catalytic methanation process. The combination gives the overall efficiency of 67%. In this work, we modified the process concept to increase the integration level of these processes. The main issue with the pyrolysis process is its heat required to operate, while some of its downstream processes also generate excess heat. In this study, the pyrolysis of lignocellulosic waste is integrated with an operating combined heat and power (CHP) plant, by using its existing infrastructure for heat transport among different pyrolysis operations. The combustor of the CHP plant provides the heat for drying and pyrolysis while the excess heat is transferred back to the combustor. The biochar produced from pyrolysis is transported back to the digester as an adsorbent. The process simulation results show that the combined efficiency of pyrolysis with CHP plant reached 80%. If the biochar is sent back to the anaerobic digester, the synergetic efficiency of all three processes, i.e., pyrolysis-CHP and anaerobic digestion was obtained at 79.7% as compared with the 67% efficiency when the pyrolysis was only integrated with the anaerobic digestion process.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier Ltd, 2019
Keywords
Heat integration, Lignocellulosic waste, Municipal solid waste, Biogas, Cogeneration plants, Combustors, Power generation, Pyrolysis, Waste incineration, Anaerobic digestion process, Biodegradable fraction, Biodegradable wastes, Combined heat and power, Lignocellulosic wastes, Municipal solid waste (MSW), Synergistic combinations, Anaerobic digestion
National Category
Energy Engineering
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-43183 (URN)10.1016/j.egypro.2019.01.326 (DOI)000471031701106 ()2-s2.0-85063896503 (Scopus ID)
Conference
10th International Conference on Applied Energy, ICAE 2018, 22 August 2018 through 25 August 2018
Available from: 2019-04-26 Created: 2019-04-26 Last updated: 2020-09-04Bibliographically approved
6. Identification of thermochemical pathways for the energy and nutrient recovery from digested sludge in wastewater treatment plants
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Identification of thermochemical pathways for the energy and nutrient recovery from digested sludge in wastewater treatment plants
Show others...
2019 (English)In: Energy Procedia, Elsevier Ltd , 2019, Vol. 158, p. 1317-1322Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

There are several restrictions and limitations on the emissions and disposal of materials and pollutants related to wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) emphasizing improvement of current processes and development of new methods. Process integration is one way to use all fractions of waste for improved efficiency. WWTPs produces sludge which is usually anaerobically digested to produce biogas and a byproduct called digestate. Digestate is an organic material that contains macro and micronutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium and also contains heavy metals. Digestate is mainly used for agricultural applications because of the presence of nutrients. However, digestate also contains energy in the form of carbon and hydrogen which can be harnessed through various processes and integrated with nitrogen recovery process. This study aims to recover the energy and nutrients from digestate through thermochemical treatment processes. Combustion, pyrolysis, and gasification are assessed and compared in this work. An ammonia stripping method is assumed to recover nitrogen from digestate. The thermochemical processes are heat integrated with ammonia stripping through modeling and simulation. Results show that almost half of the energy present in digested sludge is required for its drying. Moreover, nitrogen recovery also requires much energy. The combustion and gasification of digested sludge give better results than pyrolysis. The heat integration becomes feasible when the auxiliary biogas is also burned along with products from the thermochemical treatment of sludge.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier Ltd, 2019
Keywords
Combustion, Digestate, Gasification, Pyrolysis, Wastewater treatment, Ammonia, Anaerobic digestion, Biogas, Heavy metals, Nitrogen, Nutrients, Reclamation, Sewage pumping plants, Waste incineration, Wastewater disposal, Water treatment plants, Carbon and hydrogens, Macro-and micronutrients, Model and simulation, Process integration, Thermo chemical process, Thermochemical treatments, Wastewater treatment plants
National Category
Energy Engineering
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-43184 (URN)10.1016/j.egypro.2019.01.325 (DOI)000471031701105 ()2-s2.0-85063872188 (Scopus ID)
Conference
10th International Conference on Applied Energy, ICAE 2018, 22 August 2018 through 25 August 2018
Available from: 2019-04-26 Created: 2019-04-26 Last updated: 2020-09-04Bibliographically approved
7. Integrating sludge drying in biomass fueled CHP plants
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Integrating sludge drying in biomass fueled CHP plants
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2021 (English)In: Energy, Ecology and Environment, ISSN 2363-7692, Vol. 6, no 1-12Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Sludge handling through thermal conversion is environmentally friendly, which, however, requires sludge drying. This work proposed to use the waste heat of flue gas (FG) to dry sludge. The integration of sludge drying in biomass fueled CHP plants can clearly affect the performance of downstream processes in FG cleaning, such as flue gas quench (FGQ) and flue gas condenser (FGC). It can further affect the energy efficiency of (CHP). In order to understand the influence, a mathematical model and an Aspen PLUS model were developed to simulate the drying process and the CHP respectively. Based on simulation results, it has been found that the increase of feeding rate of sludge and the moisture content of sludge after drying can decrease the water evaporation in FGQ. An increase of the feeding rate of sludge in combination with a drop of moisture content of sludge after drying can decrease the heat recovery from FG. After sludge is dried, it can be used as fuel to replace part of the biomass fuels. The amount of biomass saving could be influenced by the dried sludge moisture content and flow rate. The simulation results of co-incineration biomass with sludge show that the moisture content of 40% after sludge drying leads to the maximum biomass saving.

Keywords
flue gas quench; heat recovery; sewage sludge drying; CHP; energy efficiency
National Category
Energy Engineering
Research subject
Energy- and Environmental Engineering
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-49877 (URN)10.1007/s40974-020-00187-x (DOI)000616681000001 ()2-s2.0-85091040372 (Scopus ID)
Projects
Wasteman (No. 20170185).
Available from: 2020-09-03 Created: 2020-09-03 Last updated: 2021-03-26Bibliographically approved
8. Uncertainty and influence of input parameters and assumptions on the design and analysis of thermochemical waste conversion processes: A stochastic approach
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Uncertainty and influence of input parameters and assumptions on the design and analysis of thermochemical waste conversion processes: A stochastic approach
2020 (English)In: Energy Conversion and Management, ISSN 0196-8904, E-ISSN 1879-2227, Vol. 214, article id 112867Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Process design is a challenging task for researchers and engineers. Incomplete information and variation in input data affect the outputs and reliability of key performance indicators (KPIs) of the designed process. The efficient utilization of waste is becoming increasingly important, and researchers use simulation and modelling tools for design and assessment of waste conversion processes. The complex nature of modelling of waste conversion processes and uncertainty of technical and financial data result in substantial variation in the KPIs of the designed process. In this study, we identified the critical parameters and assumptions that cause uncertainty in the process design analysis of waste-to-biofuels conversions. We used a stochastic modelling approach to address these methodological challenges and performed Monte Carlo simulations on waste-to-biofuel processes. The identified uncertain parameters and inputs were varied for a whole year with a one-minute time step. Different thermochemical conversion pathways were modelled by varying uncertain inputs and assumptions over the year by applying Monte Carlo simulations. Variations in the system's technical and economic KPIs were observed and compared. The results show that the heterogeneous nature of waste is a highly sensitive parameter, and a small change in its elemental analysis varies the technical performance significantly. Similarly, operating hours, plant size, capital investment, waste, and biofuel price are also very influential parameters on process design. Furthermore, the feasibility of waste-to-biofuel systems depends largely on how researchers and engineers select these parameters. Overall, the results reveal that by including the uncertainty of input parameters and assumptions in process design, the biases in results could be addressed transparently, making the overall assessment more reliable. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier Ltd, 2020
Keywords
Chemical process reliability, Monte Carlo simulations, Stochastic analysis, Waste-to-biofuel
National Category
Energy Engineering
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-47907 (URN)10.1016/j.enconman.2020.112867 (DOI)000534066900009 ()2-s2.0-85083887392 (Scopus ID)
Available from: 2020-05-07 Created: 2020-05-07 Last updated: 2020-09-04Bibliographically approved

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