In recent years, factors including limited landfill capacity, increasing costs of fossil fuels, and increased pressure to actively recover value from waste in the form of materials and energy have encouraged municipalities throughout North America to advance waste management strategies that utilize waste-to-energy (WTE) technologies as an alternative to landfilling. Currently, utilization of alternative conversion technologies, including gasification, is limited to small-scale or pilot municipal solid waste (MSW) to energy facilities in North America. Though limited history of environmental performance when using MSW as a primary feedstock has delayed public acceptance of facility proposals, municipalities are now moving forward with alternative conversion technology applications.

In Florida, two entities have received permits from the Department of Environmental Protection to proceed with construction of gasification facilities — Geoplasma, Inc. in St. Lucie County, and INEOS New Planet BioEnergy in Vero Beach. In Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, Enerkem GreenField Alberta Biofuels has received a permit from Alberta Environment to begin construction of a gasification facility that will produce bioethanol from post-recycled MSW.

Since 1996, no new greenfield MSW-processing mass burn facility has been constructed in the U.S., though facilities in Hillsborough County, FL; Lee County, FL; and Olmstead County, MN have undergone expansions, and in Honolulu, FL, a 900 TPD unit is currently under construction. In recent years, two municipalities have received permits to proceed with construction of mass burn WTE facilities and have made significant progress toward implementation: The municipalities of Durham and York, Ontario, Canada and The Solid Waste Authority of Palm Beach County, Florida.

This paper will provide a direct comparison of the expected environmental performance of the recently permitted gasification facilities to the expected environmental performance of the recently permitted mass burn WTE facilities, as established by permit applications and emissions modeling studies. Comparison of emissions of particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, and hydrogen chloride will be performed on the basis of one ton of feedstock processed. Emission of these pollutants at the recently permitted facilities discussed above will be contrasted with emissions experienced at currently operating WTE facilities within North America.

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