Energy from municipal solid waste in Chennai, India : a feasibility study

University essay from SLU/Dept. of Energy and Technology

Abstract: Solid waste management is one of the most essential functions in a country to achieve asustainable development. In India, it has been one of the least prioritized functions during thelast decades. The most common ways to treat waste in India today are open dumping anduncontrolled burning. These methods are causing severe environmental pollution and healthproblems. India is one of the world’s largest emitter of methane gas from waste disposal.Since methane is a strong greenhouse gas, even small emissions have large impact on theclimate. Improper treatment of waste will also affect peoples’ health, first of all by thespreading of toxic compounds from uncontrolled burning and secondly by leakage of sewagefrom the dumping grounds into the groundwater.When waste is incinerated in an incineration plant there are many environmental benefits.First of all, the possibility of using flue gas treatment prevents emissions of toxic compoundsto emit to the air compared to if waste is burnt uncontrolled. Secondly, the amount of wastegoing to the dumpsite will decrease, resulting in a reduction of methane formation and lessleakage of sewage from the dumpsite to the groundwater.Chennai is the fourth largest city in India with a population of 4.3 million (2001 census). It isthe Corporation of Chennai, CoC, which has the overall responsibility for solid wastemanagement in the city. With street sweepers, tricycles and compactors they collect andtransport the waste to one of the two dumpsites in the city; Perungudi in the north orKodungaiyur in the south. Like most municipalities in India, CoC has experienced difficultieskeeping in pace with last decades’ industrialization, resulting in insufficient collection ofmunicipal solid waste and over burdened dumpsites. Another consequence of the rapidindustrialization is the increased demand for electricity. Today there is not enough installedcapacity of power stations in Chennai to meet this demand, leading to daily power cuts.If the waste on the two dumpsites will be left untreated, the dumpsites are only expected to beuseful until the year 2015. To prolong the lifespan of the dumpsites CoC has signed a contractwith the company Hydroair Tectonics, who shall minimize the waste on Perungudi. There is achance that there will be a similar contract on Kodungaiyur as well. This company will build aprocessing plant that will segregate the waste into recyclable, inert, organic and burnablematerial. The inert and organic waste will be processed further into bricks and compost,which will be sold on the open market. The burnable material will be processed into a fluffyfraction called RDF-fluff. In the initial stage the RDF-fluff will be sold to coal-fired industriesas "green coal". In the future Hydroair Tectonics plans to build a combustion unit for burningRDF and generate electricity, which will be sold to the grid.This report will give an overview of the current waste and electricity situation in Chennai andanalyze whether Hydroair Tectonics should build this combustion unit or if they should sellthe generated RDF to industries. The result will be presented in a case study.

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