Plasma gasification: a way to boost the circular economy

By Spyridon Achinas*
Wednesday, 25 September, 2019

Plasma gasification: a way to boost the circular economy

Economic growth in emerging economies is bringing prosperity, rising living standards and overdue relief from poverty, but increased consumption typically increases waste production.

Circular economy

The disposal of waste remains an important issue as the amount of waste continues to rise. Stockpiling or sending municipal waste to landfill has negative environmental impacts and may not be the most efficient disposal solution. An underlying principle of the circular economy is that waste streams are converted into value. Some countries have initiated policies to encourage diversion of waste to other applications, but the lack of project investments is apparent and the problem still persists. With the right technological approach, waste streams can become income streams.

Plasma gasification

Plasma gasification (PG) is a technology that could be used to convert waste that is currently being sent to landfill. The utilisation of PG technology may be expanded in the future with continuing improvements in the technology. Tighter markets and higher prices for other fuel sources, such as gasoline and diesel fuels, could make the products from plasma gasification more attractive and marketable.

The PG process is able to produce a clean synthetic gas (mainly H2 and CO) that can be used to generate electric energy in CHP gas engines or can substitute natural gas. The thermal energy resulting from the gaseous products can be used in a variety of ways. These include the production of steam for generating electricity and thermal energy for the production of heat. The design of the post-treatment equipment used to clean the effluent gases is also crucial for the viable operation of a PG plant. Advanced emission control systems are required to meet regulatory standards.

The percentage of PG facilities producing electrical power and utilising post-combustion products has risen significantly due to demand and deregulation of electricity markets as well as accumulation of waste.

It is essential to obtain a better understanding of PG and its impacts on the environment, society and the economy.

To view a larger image, click here.

  Number of plants Capacity range (TPD)  Types of waste
France 1 150 Cardboard, wood, paper, tissues    
Germany 1 Chemically hazardous soil
UK 4 22–750 Waste, biomass, RDF, mixed
Sweden 1 200 Fly ash
Norway 1 15 Tannery waste
Switzerland 1
Romania 1 240 Calorific waste
Bulgaria 2 90–200
Russia 1 30
North America               
USA 10 4–48 Shipboard wastes, MSW, medical and radioactive waste
Canada 3 50-600 MSW, aluminium dross
Japan 9 6–220 MSW, ASR, sludge, fly ash
China 2 30–150 Biomass, medical waste, incinerator fly ash, oil refinery sludge
India 2 68 Hazardous waste
Taiwan 2 4 Medical and industrial waste, incinerator fly ash, inorganic sludges
Malaysia 1
Australia 3 0.8–1 Chemical waste

An indicative number of plasma gasification plants that are operating worldwide. Includes commercial and demonstration plants.

*Spyridon Achinas is a Research Assistant in the Faculty of Science and Engineering, the University of Groningen, the Netherlands.

Top image credit: ©

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