A new study, published in the Journal of Loss Prevention in the Process Industries, raises serious concerns about the safety of treating mixed waste via gasification.

The academic paper, written by gasification expert Dr. Andrew N. Rollinson, is entitled ‘Fire, explosion and chemical toxicity hazards of gasification energy from waste’. The article highlights the hazards of gasification and discusses relevant historic incidents and underappreciated engineering fundamentals that indicate that gasification of mixed waste can be significantly more risky than conventional incineration.

Gasification hazards identified by Dr. Rollinson include: flammable, toxic, and corrosive gas mixtures; the auto-ignition of stored feedstocks; multiple explosive atmospheres due to both over-pressure and under-pressure; and heightened risk at times of start-up, shut-down or during testing.

The paper identifies how these risks are made worse by a widespread lack of stakeholder understanding, a desire to operate at high outputs, and a reluctance to learn lessons from decades of unsuccessful attempts to operate gasification on a mixed waste feedstock.

The study concludes that: “If the waste industry is to avoid further process losses, it must learn from the lessons of gasification history and the lessons of risk assessment developed through major chemical process accidents of the past. At present however, risk is being aggravated by a reluctance to disclose or address these failures, preferences for novelty, a lack of stakeholder understanding, and a desire to operate beyond technological capabilities”.

Shlomo Dowen, National Coordinator of the UK Without Incineration Network (UKWIN), commented on the implications of this research, stating: “This is a valuable contribution to the available literature that should be required reading for anyone interested in, or indeed making decisions about, waste gasification technologies. From UKWIN’s perspective, the risks associated with gasification are not worth taking because gasification and other forms of incineration destroy valuable resources that should be re-used or recycled as part of our move towards a more sustainable and circular economy”.

The paper is published in Volume 54 of the Journal of Loss Prevention in the Process Industries, July 2018 (doi.org/10.1016/j.jlp.2018.04.010) and is available electronically from https://authors.elsevier.com/a/1X0cq3O6UQP6UB or

Dr. Andrew Neil Rollinson PhD, MSc, BSc (Hons), AFHEA, MRSC is a research engineer at Loughborough University. For more information about Dr. Rollinson see his profile at: http://www.lboro.ac.uk/departments/abce/staff/andrew-neil-rollinson/

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