Tires have a fuel value of 12,000 to 16,000 Btu per pound, slightly higher than that of coal. With existing technology, tire combustion can meet Federal and State environmental requirements. Tires may be burned whole or shredded into tire derived fuel (tdf). Whole tire combustion requires less processing expense; however, most of the plants currently burning tires for fuel do not have the capability to burn whole tires. In 1990, about 25.9 million tires (10.7% of total generation) were burned for energy production. Combustion facilities currently using tires as fuel include:
Tire manufacturing plants
Pulp and paper plants
Oxford Energy has pursued a strategy of developing an integrated waste tire utilization system. Their philosophy is to collect and sort the waste tires, utilizing them for fuel or other applications, with no tires going to landfills. This approach includes culling out the tires in best condition, which can be sold as used tires or retreadable casings. The majority of the tires are used in a whole-tire-to-energy plant. Some tires are selected as raw material for manufacturing processes involving stamping, peeling, or buffing. Other tires are shredded for fuel for cement plants or pulp and paper plants.
The largest scrap tire combustion system is the Oxford Energy plant in Modesto, California. It consumes about 4.9 million tires per year and generates 14 MW of power. A second Oxford Energy power plant, designed to burn about 9 to 10 million tires per year has been build in Connecticut. Two others may be built in Nevada and New York. Also, two Firestone plants have installed pulsating floor furnaces to dispose of scrap tires and other solid wastes; here, process steam is generated as a by-product.
A tire-fueled power station is being built in the United Kingdom by Elm Energy & Recycling (U.K.) Ltd.
Seven cement kilns in the United States utilize about 6 million scrap tires per year to replace conventional fuels. Cement kilns appear to be ideal for scrap tires because of their high operating temperatures (2600°F) and good conditions for complete combustion, which minimize air pollution problems. Also, there is no residue, since the ash is incorporated into the cement product. Of the 240 cement kilns in the United States, about 50 are equipped with precalciner/preheaters, making them most suitable for tire combustion.
It is expected that the use of whole scrap tires will increase in both new and conventional cement kilns, based on two recent patents.
Many furnaces designed to burn wood chips at pulp and paper plants are suitable for burning tire-derived fuel without major modifications. Frequently, only wire-free tdf can be used in these boilers, thus increasing the tire processing costs. An estimated 12 million tires per year are currently being consumed by the pulp and paper industry.
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