Hazardous waste as fuel?
WASHINGTON, DC, March 26, 2002 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to allow certain hazardous
waste materials to be burned in special power generating plants
The proposal would exempt some byproducts of petroleum refining
and perhaps other industries from hazardous waste regulations such
as the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). The
materials would be processed, along with fossil fuels such as coal,
petroleum, coke and even municipal solid waste and sewage sludge,
to produce a synthetic gas.
The EPA estimates that from the petroleum refining industry alone, up
to seven to 10 million tons of hazardous byproducts now managed
under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) could be
transferred to gasification systems.
Gasification is a technology that puts coal and other carbon
containing materials under high temperature and pressure to convert
them into synthetic gas. This gas is then used as a fuel to generate
electricity or steam, or as a basic chemical building block for many
uses in the petrochemical and refining industries.
When used as a fuel, the synthetic gas, or "syngas," is cleaner than
almost any fuel in use today and is comparable to natural gas, the
The agency says the gasification proposal will promote increased
energy efficiency while reducing the volume of hazardous waste that
would otherwise be treated and disposed of on land. It will also
conserve natural resources by supplementing crude oil sources in
electricity production, petroleum refining and chemical manufacturing,
the EPA says.
"Today's action is a step forward for the environment and energy self
sufficiency," said Marianne Lamont Horinko, EPA assistant
administrator for solid waste and emergency response. "The agency's
objective is to increase recycling and energy recovery. This proposal
encourages recycling of waste materials by lessening the regulatory
burden on industry, while protecting public health and the
The proposal is part of an EPA initiative to promote flexible,
innovative ways to recycle more wastes while reducing the nation's
reliance on fossil fuels.
"Today's announcement is the first in a series of agency initiatives on
this issue, with more to be announced later this spring," added