Process simulation development of a clean waste-to-energy conversion power plant: Thermodynamic and environmental assessment

Po Chih Kuo, Biju Illathukandy, Chi Hsiu Kung, Jo Shu Chang, Wei Wu

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Waste-to-energy (WTE) conversion technologies for generating renewable energy and solving the environmental problems have an important role in the development of sustainable circular economy. This paper presents a novel high-efficiency WTE power plant using refuse-derived fuel (RDF) as feedstock by integrating torrefaction (T) pretreatment with plasma gasifier (PG), solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC), and combined heat and power (CHP) system. The combined impacts of torrefaction conditions (i.e. temperature and residence time) and steam-to-fuel (S/F) ratio on the energy and environmental performances of the proposed T-PG-SOFC-CHP power plant without CO2 capture (System I) is first evaluated. Results show that torrefaction of RDF prior to plasma gasification provides better syngas quality and therefore the system electrical efficiency (SEE) and CHP efficiency (CHPE) of System I can be markedly boosted compared to that of untreated RDF. However, the integration of torrefaction unit shows a negative effect on the energy return on investment (EROI) due to high energy demands for torrefaction and plasma gasification. Overall, the values of CHPE of System I range from 47.25% to 55.39% when the torrefaction temperatures of 200 and 250 °C are adopted. In contrast, the torrefaction of RDF at 300 °C is not a recommended condition for operation in the T-PG-SOFC-CHP power plant because of noticeably negative energy and environmental impacts. Moreover, to prevent the risk of carbon deposition on the SOFC anode, a recirculation ratio (RR) of the anode off-gas of 30% is required. Finally, the introduction of oxy-fuel combustion technology into the T-PG-SOFC-CHP system for CO2 capture (System II) allows to achieve a zero direct CO2 emission WTE power plant. However, this results in an energy penalty of about 5.40–6.77% associated with the CO2 capture and compression process.

Original languageEnglish
Article number128156
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • CO capture
  • Energy and environmental analysis
  • EROI
  • Gasification
  • Process integration
  • Waste to energy conversion


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