Maximising the potential of waste materials is a key step towards true sustainability and, in 2017, there is a growing amount of pressure for power companies to limit the impact of their businesses on the environment.
Solid recovered fuels (SRFs) are now valuable commodities which are being traded and burned to produce green energy around the globe. According to the Environment Agency (EA), around three million tonnes of waste-derived fuel was exported from the UK last year.
As an increasing number of countries recognise the financial and environmental benefits of using SRF for power generation, there is a greater need for industries in all regions to ensure a standardised approach to handling these materials. Sampling and testing SRF is a vitally important process within the energy generation cycle because feedstocks can comprise a variety of materials with different chemical properties.
Generally, SRFs have a calorific value of 17-22 mega-joules per kilo. But inconsistent fuel quality can cause major issues for boilers, directly affecting the dependability and performance of generation equipment. Differing calorific properties may also result in unintended levels of emissions which, if discovered, can result in inadvertent ineligibility for receipt of green subsidies.
So energy companies need to take steps to ensure consistency across their SRF stocks, and carry out stringent and standardised sampling and testing. In the past few years, European (EN) SRF sampling and testing standards have been developed and implemented across the continent to ensure a reliable fuel supply.
This year, these regulations are being scaled up to cover the whole world, with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) developing new standards to support the handling of SRF for all countries. This means that everyone dealing with such fuels will, finally, be able to work from the same documents when carrying out sampling and testing procedures.
ESG offers a comprehensive range of tests approved by the UK Accreditation Service on SRF, covering moisture, content, calorific value, biogenic content, contaminants, waste composition analysis and loss on ignition.
In my role, I represent the British Standards Institution on the ISO technical committee, ISO/TC 300, helping to bring the existing EN standards into internationally recognised guidelines. There have so far been two plenary meetings, in Helsinki and more recently in Tokyo. These enabled stakeholders from SRF-handling industries around the world to outline next steps and assign responsibilities for the year ahead.
The meeting in Tokyo was very productive but it is clear that some challenges lie ahead. One issue is encouraging representation from more countries because it is only through widespread corroboration, acknowledgement and adoption that the new ISO standards will be considered successful.
Engaging all nations, especially some of those in the southern hemisphere, is proving difficult but I am confident it is achievable. This being said, it’s fantastic to have such a strong and growing international focus around alternative, green fuel development.
Defining solid recovered fuel
Setting the standards
- Unlike refuse-derived fuel, SRF has a strict definition. This has an effect on regulatory compliance considerations, such as obtaining a Transfrontier Shipment of Waste licence for imports or exports from the UK. A recent Eunomia report suggested that there could be a future for advanced conversion technologies, such as gasification plants, to produce SRF.
- The European SRF specification, BS EN 15359, was developed by the European Committee for Standardisation technical committee for solid recovered fuel. The spec covers the SRF prepared from non-hazardous wastes including municipal solid waste, C&I waste and sewage sludge.
- WRAP has also produced a classification scheme to define the quality of fuels made from waste.
- A number of companies offer SRF testing services, but some have chosen to set up in-house teams. In 2015, Axion Polymers invested in laboratory and testing facilities to ensure consistent quality of its SRF products and satisfy its end markets.
It installed a lab-scale furnace unit at its Shredder Waste Advanced Processing Plant in Trafford Park, Manchester, and recruited a quality control team working within ISO 9001 operating procedures.
George Bradley is business manager for energy and waste services at ESG