An Exchange for Energy: Gasification



Our Society produces over 2 billion tons of waste annually. That number is expected to increase by 70% by 2050. While many efforts have been put in place to dispose of this waste, the current solutions cause other problems for the environment. Additionally, the cost of disposing of waste increases as the amount of waste increases, leaving little hope to dispose of this trash. However, there is a solution to this, Gasification. Gasification is a much better way to eliminate waste and even converts it to clean energy. 

Gasification is a safer, healthier way to dispose of trash. In support of it, Waste Advantage states that “Gasification plants produce significantly lower quantities of air pollutants. The process reduces the environmental impact of waste disposal...” Waste Advantage (“Waste Conversion'') Admire. What Waste advantage means by “air pollutants” is toxic ash, carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen, and more which all illustrate that if incineration is releasing all these, it isn’t a solution. Additionally, Landfills (another commonly used “solution”) are releasing Co2 into the atmosphere at alarming rates; however, Gasification eliminates harmful chemicals and repurposes the trash into clean healthy energy. The Global Syngas Technologies Council (GSTC) is a company that is also highly in favor of gasification. They claim that, “Gasification does not compete with recycling. In fact, it enhances recycling programs. Materials can and should be recycled and conservation should be encouraged” (“Waste to Energy”). The way Gasification enhances recycling illustrates that it is environmentally friendly. Apart from being against Incineration and Landfills, gasification supports other environmentally friendly plans. When highly encouraged, these two together could contribute to a healthier world with even more energy. Even though Gasification can help, a big problem comes into play when waste is gasified.

The price of disposing of trash is a primary cause of too much trash. C&EN (the chemical and engineering news) explains that countries are “Faced with the costly problem of waste disposal-” C&EN (“The race is on”) Waste disposal is, as they say costly, meaning it will be expensive to eliminate it. With all the trash being generated yearly, some find it easier to just leave it in landfills or burn it with incineration. While it seems so easy to overlook the smokestacks that are slowly pumping dioxins and chemicals into the atmosphere, it is even easier to overlook the piling garbage in our landfills that birds are unfortunate enough to call “birdseed”. Mike Hart, CEO of Sierra Energy explains the problems, “When you throw away one ton of garbage, every ton is about 6.2 tons of Co2 Equivalent goes into the atmosphere in the form of methane. Methane is 86 times more potent a climate change gas...” CNBC (“How Gasification Turns”) Basically, Methane is being released into the atmosphere. Which isn’t horrible, however, over time it can produce a big problem for us. Waste Advantage reported that “High costs and technology challenges have doomed six gasification projects since 2011.”

Source: Admire, Savannah “Waste Conversion: The Benefits of Gasification” Waste Advantage Magazine, The Advantage in the Waste and Recycling Industry, https://wasteadvantagemag.com/waste-conversion-the-benefits-of-gasification/

The chart above displays that six out of 117 gasification companies have already shut down their facilities. This is because of the exceeding cost of waste disposal. In other words, getting rid of trash is expensive. Even though some companies find it easier to incinerate trash or use landfills, “Processes such as gasification provide more environmentally friendly, economically beneficial methods for producing energy” Waste Advantage (“Waste Conversion”) Admire. They also claim that “landfills...can reach $70 per metric ton in Maine and exceed $100 in other areas of the US.” (“The race is on”). Despite the fact that Gasification is costly, landfills which are the cheapest solution are becoming expensive as well. Nonetheless, companies still use Incineration and landfills because of their cheaper price, however, it is causing many more problems around our world. 

Although a lot is done about our trash problems, the current solutions create more problems for the environment. Early into the video, CNBC writes that “Incineration creates toxic ash and hazardous chemicals called dioxins…” (“How Gasification Turns”) Because of the toxic chemicals released by incineration, the solution of eliminating trash becomes the problem of air pollution. Waste Conversion says, “The gasification of waste has numerous environmental advantages over incineration and other technologies.” Using Gasification can eliminate the many hazardous chemicals currently being produced. Not only can it “recover energy from trash” but additionally, it can “reduce landfill volumes”. What's more, it “has a lower carbon footprint than simply burning trash in incinerators” C&EN (“The race is on”) Gasification is much more beneficial than incinerating trash or dumping it in landfills. It disposes of waste whilst providing clean, renewable energy. This energy can be simple things like charging a phone to provide enough fuel for a rocketship. Overall, Gasification is safe, healthy, and resourceful. It can be a great way to eliminate our waste problem along with the many other problems current efforts cause. 

Not only can Gasification help our trash problem, but, it can even increase our energy. Waste Advantage gives a report on just how much energy gasification can produce when they write, “One ton of MSW can produce up to 1,000 kW of electricity.” Waste Advantage (“Waste Conversion”) Admire. Gasification isn’t some puny solution, it can produce a lot of energy when the trash is put into the process. Think of it this way, if 2 billion tons of waste are generated per year, and one ton of waste can generate 1,000 Kilowatts. It is possible to make 2 quadrillion watts of electricity per year! Or, about 33 trillion light bulbs per year! Nobody needs that many lightbulbs but that energy is needed. The global trash problem could be solved and the global amount of energy could skyrocket if gasification is made a popular solution. Granted, very little trash may be gasified but, over time it is possible to be able to generate billions of watts. Here are the potential resources gasification can produce, “diesel fuel, hydrogen fuel, and ethanol fuel” “electricity, fuels, and chemicals” “55 million L of jet fuel, diesel, and naphtha” and “various kinds of feedstock.” CNBC (“How Gasification turns”) C&EN (“The race is on”) Waste Advantage (“Waste Conversion”) Admire. Gasification is more beyond electricity, it can produce gasoline, chemicals, feedstock, fuel, oil, and probably much more. It is impossible to eliminate all waste, however, Gasification is thorough and efficient. The cost is high, but the cost could lower if Gasification is publicized. The overall point is, the energy that gasification can create, not to mention the process, is safe for the environment. Although it is also important to also explore the many probable cons gasification has, it has a lot of pros. Gasification is not the solution. However, it is one of the solutions that can be used. Although it may not be a huge benefit to gasify trash to fuel, “even if you're making...diesel...the amount of pollution...out of the tailpipe or smokestack is less than the amount of emissions that you're offsetting in the first place.” Mike Hart Sierra Energy CNBC (“How Gasification turns”). Gasification is an Energy Exchanger! No other waste disposal process can do the remarkable things Gasification can.

Gasification is a beneficial and safer way to dispose of trash and create more energy. It is healthy for the environment, disposes of waste, provides healthier and safer plans for the future, and converts trash to energy. Gasification is remarkable! In honest terms, Gasification is not mandatory. In spite of the fact that many people say the world is being destroyed, it’s not as bad as some may think. However, this wasn’t written to say that our world is being destroyed. It was written to illustrate the amazing solution of Gasification. Gasification can get rid of all that garbage so you can play video games longer. Or drive a car farther, paint a beautiful portrait, have medicine on sick days, make breakfast every morning, or even become the first human on Mars. Gasification isn’t a movement to “save the planet” or “stop climate change” it's a way to reverse the damage that is being done and in exchange, have the ability to do your favorite things. Gasification truly is a futuristic and fantastic solution, it eliminates countless other problems and provides humans with energy. But, it’s more than a solution, it’s an Exchange for Energy.

Cited Sources

“The Global Syngas Technologies Council.” Waste to Energy Gasification " GSTC, www.globalsyngas.org/syngas-production/waste-to-energy-gasification/#:~:text=Gasification%20can%20help%20the%20world,needed%20to%20fuel%20economic%20growth.&text=In%20a%20waste%2Dto%2Denergy,usable%20synthesis%20gas%2C%20or%20syngas. 

“Waste Conversion: The Benefits of Gasification.” Waste Advantage Magazine, 23 Oct. 2015, wasteadvantagemag.com/waste-conversion-the-benefits-of-gasification/. 

CNBC. “How Gasification Turns Waste Into Energy.” YouTube, YouTube, 9 Feb. 2020, www.youtube.com/watch?v=zm0jslIE1kk. 

C&EN, cen.acs.org/business/biobased-chemicals/race-repurpose-garbage/97/i42.