Tire Derived Fuel

Tire Derived Fuel

Tire-derived fuel is manufactured by reducing scrap tires into rubber chips, typically of 1-3 inches, being utilized as a fuel source. Tire-derived fuel is a viable alternative to fossil fuels, producing the same amount of energy as oil and 25% more energy than coal. Tire- derived fuel produces less moisture, sulfur, nitrogen and ash residues, which results in lower carbon emissions for the environment.

Industrial Usage

Cement Industry

About 53 million tires per year are consumed as fuel in US cement kilns. The cement industry burns scrap tires as fuel in kilns used to make clinker—a primary component of portland cement. A cement kiln is basically a large furnace in which limestone, clay, and shale are heated at extreme temperatures and a chemical reaction transforms them into clinker. Clinker is ground together with gypsum to form Portland cement.

The use of whole tires as kiln fuel is possible for some type of cement kilns. For these cement kilns, truck loads of whole tires, usually in enclosed vans, are delivered to the end of a conveyor. Tires are manually unloaded from the truck onto the conveyor. The conveyor feeds the tires to a mechanism that inserts one tire at a time into the kiln at specified time intervals. The advantage of utilizing whole tires is that there are no costs to create tire chips. The removal of the steel is unnecessary since cement kilns have a need for iron in their processes. Tire chips may also be utilized because there is very little manual labor involved in handling chips versus whole tires, however, producing chips from whole tires increase costs.

Pulp and Paper Industry

About 26 million tires per year are consumed as fuel in boilers at US pulp and paper mills. Pulp and paper mills have large boilers which are used to supply energy for making paper. This energy is normally supplied by wood waste, however, wood varies substantially in heat values and moisture content, so the mills often supplement the wood fuel with other fuels, such as coal or oil, to make the operation more stable. TDF is also used in many plants as a supplement to the wood because of its high heat value and low moisture content.

The main problem in using TDF in the paper industry is the need to use de-wired tires. The wires often clog the feed systems. Also, the mills sometimes sell the resulting ash to farmers who require the ash to be free of iron. De-wired TDF can cost up to 50% more than regular TDF.

Electric Utilities

About 24 million tires per year are consumed as fuel in boilers at electric utilities. In the electric utility industry, boilers typically burn coal to generate electricity. TDF is often used as a supplement fuel in electric utility boilers because of its higher heating value, lower NOx emissions, and competitive cost as compared to coal. However, only certain types of boilers are conducive to burning TDF.

Cyclone boilers are the most used of all the utility boilers for burning TDF. They are good because they require no changes to be made to the boiler itself which reduces the capital investment. Therefore, the only additional equipment needed is a conveyer to transport the tire pieces into the boiler. Cyclone boilers cannot accept whole tires which increases the cost of obtaining the fuel (the optimum size of the tire pieces is 1 inch x 1 inch and it must be de-wired). Stoker fired units are also economical. In the stoker boilers, the residence time of the fuel is longer so larger tire pieces can be used. The optimum size of these pieces is 2 inches square. This reduces the cost of obtaining the fuel for Cyclone boilers and makes it more economical.

Industrial/Institutional Boilers

Approximately 17 million tires per year are consumed in industrial boilers.

According to a Rubber Manufacturers Association survey in 2004, 19 industrial facilities were using TDF in their boilers to supplement their fuel usage. Industrial boilers are smaller than utility boilers and typically use a variety of fuels. When utilizing TDF, tires are typically shredded. Not all boilers are compatible with TDF. Clumping and clogging are common and preclude the use of TDF in many facilities.

Another impediment is the metal in the tires — if not removed before combustion, it ends up in the ash and can create disposal problems. Each facility must evaluate the impact of TDF on their air emissions and ash disposal. Industrial facilities must apply for the appropriate permits from their state and/or local regulatory authorities before commencing operation.

Dedicated Tire-To-Energy Facilities

Approximately 10 million tires per year are consumed as fuel at dedicated tire-to-energy facilities. A dedicated tire-to-energy facility is specifically designed to burn TDF as its only fuel to create energy.

Even though dedicated tire-to-energy facilities have been demonstrated to achieve emission rates much lower than most solid fuel combustors, there are no known facilities under construction or consideration. The length of time and cost of construction, as well as the deregulation of the utility industry hinders further expansion of this industry.