Investing in the Future Standards of Waste Derived Fuel

With many efforts worldwide to divert waste away from landfill sites and turning waste into energy, companies are beginning to invest in more and more in Energy from Waste (EfW) facilities in a bid to reduce the impact on the environment.

The UK’s principal expert, George Bradley, production manager, Energy and Waste Services, SOCOTEC, has over 40 years’ experience working with preparation and sampling of solid fuels. Last week, George was in Stockholm as part of the International Standards Organisations (ISO) technical working committee, TC 300, undertaking a review of the standards for sampling and testing of solid recovered fuel.  Here, he outlines why the current standards need to be revised for solid recovered fuels, and what factors are considered when producing a new standard.



The need for standard

Representing the UK during my visit to Stockholm to discuss the fuel is very exciting for me.  The waste industry and waste derived fuels such as RDF/SRF have evolved massively since the last SRF standards were written in 2011 and it’s really important that the revised standards accommodate these changes and the associated challenges.


As more and more countries and companies across the world recognise that there is both a financial and environmental benefit producing energy from waste, EfW facilities are growing to meet demand. Energy from waste is, quite literally, the process of generating energy from waste produced from domestic and commercial activities, with new renewable technology recovering energy through combustion / incineration, gasification and anaerobic digestion.


What was once a small market, EfW is fast becoming a greener way to produce energy, especially considering the demands on the recycling and waste management sector to send less waste to landfill.  As well as this benefit, EfW also significantly reduces the greenhouse gas emissions that are released into the atmosphere when waste is sent to landfill, and lessens the reliance on fossil fuels in energy generation.


With this increase in EfW, the need for relevant and practical standards is becoming increasingly important.  Without a standard, the industry is working to different guidelines, different goalposts, and ultimately, to inconsistent levels of quality. Waste is no longer considered ‘waste’.  A commodity in its own right, users of RDF and SRF are now expecting a consistent level of quality.  If a plant is commercially generating energy, for example, there are now regulatory compliance considerations which must be met, to support renewable subsidy claims and ensure the fuel meets a specification to achieve maximum efficiency, and avoid damage to equipment.


Creating the standard

With a standard for SRF, fuel suppliers and end users can be more confident that quality is consistent worldwide. To be consistent across the board, the ISO technical working committee TC300 have gathered to review the feedback from worldwide technical consultants. I, for example, work first-hand within the practical working environment of collecting samples of solid fuels and analysing them.  An important consideration when looking at waste derived fuels is the heterogeneous nature of the material; varying materials, particle sizes and bulk densities within these fuels mean that representative sampling techniques and robust sample preparation methods become even more critical.  This is an area that I will personally be focussing on.

After previous meetings in Helsinki and Tokyo during 2016 and Milan earlier this summer, the meeting in Stockholm sees us reaching a point where the standards are beginning their stages of development.  All of the working group participants were able to share their knowledge and experience when faced with challenges of sampling and analysing these changing fuels and so the new standards will reflect these.  


With this involvement, I, on behalf of SOCOTEC, have been able to contribute future best practice within the industry, where a consistent set of standards can be followed.