On February 19-20, 2020, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) hosted a workshop in Arlington, VA. In recent years, BETO has expanded its portfolio beyond traditional biomass feedstocks to include using waste resources, such as municipal solid waste (MSW), biosolids from municipal wastewater, and industrial waste gases. To date, the majority of these investments have focused on reducing the cost and improving the performance of technologies to convert these wastes into fuels, products, and power. In support of this effort, BETO’s Feedstock Supply and Logistics subprogram is investigating research and development opportunities to lower the delivered cost and improve the quality of MSW for these conversion strategies. As a result, BETO conducted a workshop to understand the current state and potential trajectories of technologies to support MSW as a feedstock for producing fuels, value-added products, and power. In evaluating the future of MSW as a feedstock, the workshop focused on the following:
- Optimal handling and quality control methods, including preprocessing to reduce feedstock variability
- Supply and composition of existing waste streams
- Resource mobilization via collection, transport, sorting, and decontamination
- Feedstock characterization and quality impacts on conversion process yield, kinetics, and profitability
- Sustainability analyses, specifically cost considerations and life cycle implications
Municipalities, federal agencies, and academic, technical, and industry experts provided insight into these focus areas. Participants had an opportunity to bring their own perspectives and expertise to bear in collaborative small group discussions on several topics.
Central questions include the following:
- How does current technology and infrastructure for MSW processing work, or not, for creating conversion-ready feedstocks?
- What are the fundamental characteristics necessary for creating high quality, conversion-ready MSW-based feedstocks?
- What portions of MSW are most appropriate for a Waste-to-Feedstock paradigm (i.e. not as recyclable, reusable, or reducible as other components; less energy dense, etc.)?
- How can DOE leverage current capabilities into Waste-to-Feedstock trade-off analysis to identify upper and lower bounds of feedstock quality characteristics that result in economic viability for downstream processes?
- What are the potential economic, social, and environmental consequences (i.e. costs and benefits) of increasing the readiness of MSW as a feedstock?
To view presentations from the workshop, visit the workshop presentations web page.