Research and Development
Cleaner Energy through Innovation
As a renewable energy world leader, Covanta Energy remains focused on researching advanced Energy-from-Waste (EfW) technologies aimed at improving our environmental performance and growing our business. Our current research and development strategy focuses on three major areas:
- Developing enhanced emission control systems to further drive down plant emissions
- Designing new systems to improve plant efficiency, operating performance, ash management, and economic competitiveness
- Monitoring and evaluating commercial viability of alternative EfW conversion technologies
Leading the Way
In 2008, Covanta Energy focused on the reduction of NOx emissions at both existing and new EfW facilities. We reviewed the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) annual inventory of emissions from all US EfW facilities between 1990 and 2005 and discovered that while emissions of mercury, cadmium, and lead dropped by nearly 95 percent, nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions dropped only 24 percent. It was apparent to us that there was room for progress.
The reduction of NOx from 1990 to 2005 was adequate for compliance purposes, but inadequate for our goal of a significant total reduction beyond compliance. Today, Covanta is implementing one of two proprietary technologies it has developed to reduce NOx at certain facilities, thus reducing NOx to below compliance limits. As a result of this technology, Covanta has reduced NOx to the lowest concentration in the North American EfW industry. An independent peer-reviewed assessment concluded that typical lifecycle NOx emissions from EfW are already lower than typical coal, oil and natural gas facilities per unit of electrical generation. Implementation of our advanced technology will further reduce lifecycle NOx emissions of EfW relative to traditional generation.
Covanta consistently researches innovative ways to improve existing thermal processes and convert municipal solid waste (MSW) to a liquid fuel. We investigate these technologies through independent peer review, direct inspection and pilot projects of technologies with the greatest promise. For example, we have constructed and are now operating a pilot plant that will evaluate the potential of converting shredded MSW and certain segregated components to diesel fuel. Other projects will investigate alternative processes for the thermal treatment of MSW.
We are committed to conducting our operations with minimal impact on the environment. To that end, we believe that our continued research and development efforts will improve and expand the availability of both evolving and proven technology.