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I have been running an experiment during the burning of private sensitive paperwork, The paper is screwed up into twists and stacked vertically in a cast steel container. The container is about 300mm wide and 450mm deep, which was surplus from a solid fuel to gas AGA conversion. A grate has been fitted to the bottom. When full, the top of the fill is lighted by means of a blowtorch, for convenience. The fire gradually burns down and after about 1 minute, the whole top area is a flame which resembles a low pressure Bunsen flame. This flame is sustained by the gasses produced by the carbonisation of the contents. Virtually no smoke escapes as the whole of it is burned. During the carbonisation phase I have put various substances into the container to see what happens. Anything and everything capable of producing gas when heated contributes to the flame. This seems to indicate that most landfill waste could be transformed into a useful gas product. The process is an analogy of a continuous retort. If material is fed in during the carbonisation phase there is no limit to the length of the process. Left to its own devices the burn has three distinct phases:-

1. Establishment of the fire during which a developing flame spreads broad and deep.
2. Carbonisation during which the flame is constant until the fuel has been almost used. About 70% of the time.
3. Residual small fire with extensive very hot ash. Then cooling.

With suitable design the gasses could be produced from a continuous retort which is fed with waste under pressure by means of a feed screw, the gasses could be refined for use as fuel gas or the chemicals extracted from the gas as a raw material. This process is, after all, only a similar one which was used to produce ’’Town Gas’’ from coal before natural gas arrived. Anyone ever heard of a GASWORKS????? The solid product would be mostly carbon, which would be easily separated from the metals etc and could then be stored away down worked out mines thus fulfilling the need to remove carbon from the environment.
All waste could be retorted and the useful things such as glass and metals recovered from the retort product thus removing the need for multifarious schemes requiring householders to be an unpaid sorter. Only one bin per household and no jobsworth nitpicking rules about what goes into what bin would go a long way to improve the attitude of the general public. Of course it might also help to relieve the landfill problem.
I find it hard to believe that this has not already been thought of. I wonder if an oil company has bought the rights of the process and is sitting on them.

Brian Churchyard.


One Response

  1. This is already being done in the Netherlands and in other locations

    But it’s burned directly, instead of trying to make methan out of it. It’s more efficient to simply use the energy to generate electricity, and use the rest-heat for warming homes than to have a incomplete burning with a lower rendament. Carbon capture can remove the CO2 out of the gasses if you would want to make it climate neutral.

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