fuel now in greater demand
by Brian R. Hook
Higher energy costs are driving demand
for tire-derived fuel (TDF) across parts of the country, especially
along the Gulf Coast into parts of the South Atlantic states.
“In part of the country, we’ve
seen a very significant spike in the use of scrap tires as fuel,”
said Michael Blumenthal, senior technical director at the Rubber
Manufactures Association. He said the TDF market from Texas through
Florida up to Virginia is basically sold out. “I’ve
talked to a number TDF sales people and they can’t get enough
supply. There is more demand for TDF than availability of TDF,”
Blumenthal, who tracks the scrap-tire
industry for the Washington D.C.–based rubber products trade
association, said the main factor behind the demand is the rising
cost of more traditional fuels. Also, the southern part of the
country has a strong pulp-and-paper industry and there are a significant
number of cement kilns in the region.
Pulp-and-paper mills consume a lot
of energy. Mills often supplement wood fuels, which vary in heat
values and moisture content, with other fuels such as coal or
oil to stabilize operations. The mills use de-wired tires to avoid
clogging the feed system.
The cement industry also burns scrap
tires as fuel for its kilns, which are basically large furnaces.Some
kilns are able to use whole tires, instead of using tire chips.
The removal of steel from the tires is often unnecessary since
kilns need iron for part of the process.
is used as a supplement at both kilns and mills because of its
low cost and its relative high-heat value, Blumenthal said. Tires
have 15,000 Btu units per pound. In comparison, natural gas has
18,000 Btu’s per pound. It is estimated that tires produce
25 percent more energy than coal and the same amount of energy
President George W. Bush told
the nation that the United States has a serious energy problem
during his State of the Union Address in late January. For the
first time President Bush said: “America is addicted to
oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world.
The best way to break this addiction is through technology.”
The challenge to find alternative
fuels to replace oil by the President, however, is not the reason
behind the current increase in the use of scrap tires as fuel,
Blumenthal said. “I think the President is behind the curve
as far as tire-derived fuel is concerned. Tire-derived fuel in
the last couple of years has increased on a very nice scale.”
Blumenthal said he is currently
gathering the results for his bi-annual study on the number of
tires being used for fuel. He estimated that more than 290 million
scrap tires were generated in the country in 2003. Nearly 100
million of those tires were recycled into new products and 130
million were used as tire-derived fuel in various facilities.
That is about 45 percent of all generated tires, up from 25.9
million tires in 1991.
Blumenthal gets his information
from both the public and private sectors. He first talks to state
regulators. Then he double-checks the numbers with the major suppliers
of TDF. “I don’t have any published data yet. But
I do know that there are more facilities using tires today than
there were a couple of years ago,” Blumenthal said.
“Because of the increase
in TDF, we’re going to see a slight decline in tires going
into other applications,” he said. “There are only
so many tires.” Blumenthal said the scrap-tire industry
is still very regionally orientated. Other types of facilities
using TDF include industrial boilers and large-scale utility boilers.
Blumenthal said his preliminary research shows that these markets
have remained stable over the last few years.
The Energy Information Administration
estimates that TDF consumption across the country in 2004 was
38.4 trillion Btu’s for electric only plants, combined heat
and power plants, and steam only plants. The statistical agency
for the U.S. Department of Energy in Washington D.C. does not
follow the entire TDF market across the country.
Fred Mayes, chief of the renewable
information team at the EIA, said TDF is too small of a market
for the agency to track. Therefore the agency estimates the use
of TDF as one of the fuel sources in a category it refers to as
non-electric renewable energy.
“When costs go up, you
have to reassess all fuels and things that were previously not
usable suddenly may have a value,” Mayes said. He said some
of the costs related to using tires as fuel should be allocated
to waste disposal. “With waste of any kind, part of the
cost of energy that you get out of them is just a waste disposal
cost. Those can be kind of difficult to determine, but that cost
The U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) would prefer to have all tires recycled. Roxanne
Smith, an EPA spokeswoman, said it is not possible to recycle
some tires. She said it is better to recover the energy than landfill
the tires. The EPA estimates ash residues from TDF may contain
lower heavy metals content than some coals.
International Paper Co. wants
to add another TDF facility to its portfolio of eight pulp-and-paper
mills across the country. The Stamford, Connecticut-based paper
and forest products company wants to test TDF at its mill in Essex
County, New York. Donna Wadsworth, a spokeswoman for International
Paper, said the project has been delayed from gaining approval
due to opposition from next-door state officials in Vermont.
International Paper would not
reveal details of its fuel mix for specific facilities, citing
competitive reasons. It would also not reveal whether the levels
are higher or lower than in the past. But the company estimates
the TDF project in New York would provide fuel costs savings of
$3.7 million a year by supplementing its current mix with TDF.
International Paper also estimates
that TDF at the New York facility would consist of small chips
of processed scrap tire with 95 to 98 percent of the bead wire
removed. The material would be fed into the boiler along with
bark. Anticipated volume usage of TDF would be three tons per
hour, representing 10 percent of the fuel mix.