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Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF)

The production of Refuse Derived Fuels involves the mechanical processing of household waste using screens, shredders and separators to recover recyclable materials and to produce a combustible product. Systems involve the removal of inert and compostable materials followed by pulverisation to produce a feedstock which can be incinerated in power stations, pyrolysis and gasification systems, co-incinerated (see previous) in other industrial combustion processes or fluidised bed plant / EfW.

Although RDF plants have been commercially proven in the UK, many of the plants have either closed or are due to be phased out. However a recent new development incorporating RDF is the Neath Port Talbot integrated waste management development and there has been a resurgence of interest in this area due to the Landfill Diversion targets of the EU Landfill Directive and the enhanced interest in residual waste treatment technologies such as MBT, which may be configured to produce RDF.

The Byker plant in Newcastle Upon Tyne was designed to process MSW at a rate of 1,700 tonnes per week and comprised the following components:-

  • primary pulveriser;
  • rotary screen;
  • air classifier;
  • secondary shredder;
  • pelletiser for RDF.

Other examples of Refuse Derived Fuel Plants have been operating until recently in Slough, Berkshire, England and at Pebsham, near Hastings, East Sussex, England.

Strengths and Weaknesses of Refuse Derived Fuel Units



Integrated – offers front end recycling activity, with energy recovery of balance

Requires secure markets for fuel e.g. an industrial estate

Organic fraction can be recycled aerobically (composting) or anaerobically (AD)

RDF is in competition with other fuels

If densified, RDF can be stored for extended periods (coarse RDF is more suited for direct on-site use and cannot be stored)

Processing involves high electrical power consumption and maintenance

RDF can be processed to half the calorific value of coal

Poor UK operating experience of older RDF plants including reliability and air pollution control

Lower level of heavy metals in the RDF

Fuel production space required

RDF can be co-fired with other fuels in a variety of industrial boilers

RDF can cause more damage to boilers and pipework than other fuels

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