Plasma Gasification

Some types of gasification use plasma technology, which generates intense heat to initiate and supplement the gasification reactions. Plasma gasification or plasma-assisted gasification can be used to convert carbon-containing materials to synthesis gas that can be used to generate power and other useful products, such as transportation fuels.

In an effort to reduce both the economic and environmental costs of managing municipal solid waste, (which includes construction and demolition wastes) a number of cities are working with plasma gasification companies to send their wastes to these facilities. One city in Japan gasifies its wastes to produce energy. In addition, various industries that generate hazardous wastes as part of their manufacturing processes (such as the chemical and refining industries) are examining plasma gasification as a cost-effective means of managing those wastes streams.


Here are the top ten facts about the plasma gasification of municipal solid wastes:

1. It reduces the need for landfills.
Sometimes called “artificial lightning,”” plasma can have temperatures that can exceed 7,000 degrees centigrade — that’s three times hotter than fossil fuels and hotter than the surface of the sun.  Plasma gasification instantly converts organic materials into synthesis gas, often called “syngas,” and melts inorganic materials, which when cooled, become rock-like and can be sold as construction materials. With no remaining waste to deal with, landfills become obsolete.

2. Existing landfills can be mined for energy.
In many regions it would be more cost-effective to take municipal solid waste to a plasma gasification plant for energy production than to dump it in a landfill. When plasma gasification is fully developed, even existing landfills could be economically mined for energy production, environmental cleanup and land reuse.

3. It’s energy efficient.
Plasma gasification of 1 ton of average municipal solid wastes would send about 815 Kilowatt-hours of electricity to the grid. This is 20 to 50 percent more electricity to the grid than any other emerging thermal waste-to-energy technology.  “Less than 4% of the energy produced at a plasma gasification plant is used to power the plasma torch systems”.

4. It’s working in other countries.
Since 2002, The Mihama-Mikata plasma gasification facility has processed 204 tons of municipal solid waste and 4 tons of sewage sludge per day, producing steam and hot water for local use.  Since 2009, Maharashtra Environmental has been converting over 30 types of hazardous waste into clean energy in India .

5. It can produce ethanol fuel.
If all the municipal solid waste in the United States was processed by plasma gasification, over 5 percent of the U.S. electrical energy requirements could be produced. This amount of power is equal to the amount of hydropower produced in the United States, or equal to about 25 nuclear power plants. Similarly, the 2007 U.S. Energy Act recommends that “garbage” be used to replace edible foods such as corn to produce ethanol. It was estimated that waste could produce up to 30 percent of the 36 billion gallons of ethanol required by the year 2022.

6. It can produce the most renewable energy.
Plasma processing of municipal solid waste in the United States has the potential to create more renewable energy than the projected energy from solar, wind, landfill gas and geothermal energies combined.

7. It’s clean burning.
Because of the high temperatures, the low volume of gas emissions and the dissociation of organic compounds, gaseous emissions from plasma gasification waste processes are much cleaner than from other kinds of gasification or incineration processes.

8. It reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
In landfills, garbage produces methane, a greenhouse gas. But if that garbage were sent to a plasma gasification facility, it would not have a chance to produce methane. What’s more, the energy generated could replace energy made at a coal-fired plant. In fact, for every ton of municipal solid waste sent to a plasma gasification facility for power production, 2 tons of CO2 emissions could be reduced from the atmosphere.

9. It gasifies more than garbage.
At least 15 companies in the United States and Canada are actively developing plasma gasification projects. In addition to municipal solid waste, the plants will process industrial waste, biomass, coal, coke and other carbonaceous materials. The plants will produce electricity as well as ethanol, methanol, diesel fuel, hydrogen and other syngas-based fuel products.

10. It has a future.
Plasma gasification could play even more important roles in the fields of clean coal gasification, secondary oil recovery, and oil shale and tar sands recovery processes. Truly. Plasma gasification is an incipient environmental blockbuster, ready to leap ahead of current concepts of waste disposal, energy production and environmental cleanup.