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Energy recovery

With a calorific value equivalent to that of good quality coal, end of life tyres are used as an alternative to fossil fuels. The increase in the price of oil and the necessity to preserve resources could favour the development of this type of application.

The specifications are:

  • The calorific power of 1 passenger car tyre is equivalent to 7.6 litres of oil (lower sulphur content);
  • ELT have a similar calorific value as a high quality coal, with the advantage that the emissions of (heavy) metals are much lower (see graph below);
  • The incineration residue can also be used as replacement for other raw materials (e.g. raw material in clinker for cement industry);
  • The complete combustion of 1 tonne of ELTs generates 647 kg of CO2 from biomass

Cement kilns

The cement sector is the main application for energy recovery and new kilns are increasingly equipped to use end of life tyres as supplementary fuel. This is not astonishing since ELTs offer a high net calorific value comparable to petroleum coke and even higher than coal.

Energy-intensive industries use ELTs to reduce their fuel expenses and comply with air quality and pollution control regulations. ELTs are cheaper than coal and petroleum coke; thus, ELTs use generates savings. Many countries around the world now require companies to annually report their CO2 emissions. Using ELTs as fossil fuel alternative enables companies to report lesser fossil CO2 emissions. Moreover, companies participating in cap-and-trade schemes like the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme can also obtain carbon credits when they have low fossil CO2 emissions. Carbon credits have monetary value and can be sold or traded.

Assuming all ELTs that were energy recovered in 2011 would be co-incinerated in cement kilns, 1.55 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents would be saved annually.

The EU cement sector requires about 26 million tonnes of fuel equivalent (coal) per annum for the production of 266 million tonnes of cement [1] and the total annual arising of ELTs is 2.65 million tonnes! Even if all Europe's ELTs were sent to cement kilns they would only represent about 12% of the total amount of fuel required by the cement industry. Even if for technical reasons, tyre derived products should not exceed 20%, this still leaves great leeway for this market sector.

Thermal power stations

This particular application is underdeveloped in the EU but much more widespread in the US.

Pulp and paper mills

Again the elevated cost of energy could create openings for use of tyre derived products in this sector.  At present this application is not developed in Europe but it is quite common in the US (this represents 13.8% of US 2009 ELT generated tonnage). [2]

Market outlook for tyre derived products

The various market segments face different challenges and the rising cost of energy will no doubt remain a critical factor and stimulate market growth for tyre derived products used as an alternative fuel.

[1] Sustainable Cement Production - Co-processing of alternative fuels and raw materials in the European Cement Industry, CEMBUREAU, (2009)
[2] Scrap Tire Markets in the United States, 2009 Edition (Preliminary data), Rubber manufacturers Association, (April 2010)