A Circular Economy Fuelled by Global Standards

Posted by George Bradley on 11-Jan-2017 09:42:12
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As the creation of a zero-carbon economy becomes an increasingly important priority, greater attention is being paid to solid recovered fuel (SRF) – fuel produced entirely from materials found in non-hazardous waste. George Bradley, business manager, Energy & Waste Services, ESG, is now the UK’s principal expert representing the British Standards Institute (BSI) on the International Standards Organisation’s (ISO) TC 300 Solid Recovered Fuel Technical committee. Having just returned from the group’s second plenary meeting in Tokyo, George explains its objectives and the importance of setting standards for testing and sampling SRF.


Incorporating waste into the energy generation cycle

Creating a truly circular economy is the key to a sustainable and environmentally responsible future. This means reducing our reliance on finite fossil fuel sources, such as oil, coal and gas, at the same time as maximising the potential of our waste products.


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By diverting waste away from landfill sites and incorporating it into the energy generation cycle, we are able to significantly reduce mankind’s impact on the environment. Currently, this is being carried out by recovering solid fuel sources from non-hazardous waste. In recent years, the huge growth in the green energy sector has resulted in these materials becoming valuable commodities for power generators.


During the last ten years, more and more countries have recognised the financial and environmental benefits that come from making use of solid recovered fuels, developing their own methods of handling, sampling and testing them in terms of calorific value and chemical composition. Now, as the world becomes more globalised, there is an increasing need for industries everywhere to ensure standardised levels of quality across their supplies.


Global standards

Solid recovered fuels, for example, are made up of a wide range of materials, the sources of which will vary from country to country. Inconsistent fuel quality has a direct impact on the efficiency and performance of generation equipment, and could also result in higher levels of emissions. This means energy companies must test the quality and consistency of their stock, particularly if they are in receipt of any green subsidies. To do this, stringent sampling and testing practices are carried out to ensure a robust fuel supply.



Between 2009 and 2012, European (EN) solid biofuel and SRF sampling and testing standards were developed and rolled out across the continent. I represented BSI on the Working Group Committees during the review of the standard methodologies.


In order to standardise the approach to examining SRF around the world, ISO are developing global international standards to support its use, particularly in power and heat generation schemes. This means that everyone working with solid recovered fuels and solid biofuels will be able to work from the same documents when carrying out sampling and testing procedures. I am delighted that I am able to, , represent BSI on a global scale on two ISO technical committees (ISO/TC 300) (ISO TC 238) helping to bring the existing EN standards into internationally recognised guidelines.


Next steps 

To date, there have been two plenary meetings, earlier this year in Helsinki and more recently in Tokyo, which have allowed ISO stakeholders from around the world to discuss next steps and assign responsibilities for the next 12 month period. The Tokyo meetings were a great success – despite a major earthquake and demonstrated ISO’s ability to bring globally renowned experts together in the name of a common cause.


One of the key challenges for the group is encouraging representation from a greater number of countries. While it may take some time to achieve this, particularly from those countries in the southern hemisphere, it is vital that higher standards of SRF and solid biofuels are reached. This will benefit energy producers globally by helping them to meet global regulatory requirements and safeguard any environmental subsidies received.


In my role at ESG, I assist clients who are using solid recovered fuels and solid biofuels, to understand the complexities of the sampling and testing requirements that need to be complied with in order for them to successfully assess fuel quality and meet the stringent requirements of OFGEM in their ROC / RHI subsidies. My presence on these technical committees has provided ESG with the necessary background and first-hand experience to advise clients with the most up-to-date guidance and share invaluable insights about the future of the sector.


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Topics: Energy, EfW, SRF