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Taiwan Cement sees burning tires as viable 'green' fuel

Taiwan Cement exec says waste tires are an eco-friendly alternative as source of fuel for making cement

Somerset tire fire 1986. (Image from flckr user Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources)

Somerset tire fire 1986. (Image from flckr user Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- After the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) halted a trial usage of waste tires for fuel at Taiwan Cement Company's (TCC) cement plant in Hualien due to protests by local residents, a senior executive of the company in an interview with CNA said that tires are a "green" alternative to coal.

In the recent interview, TCC Senior Vice President Huang Chien-chiang (黃健強) said that using waste tires for fuel can alleviate the problem of the disposal of such tires in eastern Taiwan, reduce coal consumption, and cut down on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

His comments came after local residents complained about thick smoke pouring out of TCC's Hoping plant which had a noxious odor, where the EPA had been running an experimental program to allow the factory to use waste tires for fuel. Residents also complained that they had not been notified of the trial run using tires for fuel in advance before it began in May, prompting the EPA to halt the experiment on Nov. 1.

According to Huang, cement plants in various countries around the world use waste tires as an alternative to coal for fuel. Huang asserted that the usage of waste tires can reduce the consumption of carbon-emitting fossil fuels and the high temperature at which they are burned at such a high temperature in the cement kiln that they are completely consumed and do not emit the black smoke seen when burned by the public outdoors.

Huang claimed that the composition of tires, primarily rubber and refined carbon black, is simpler than coal, making the exhaust pollutants easier to control. He cited an EU report published in 2010 on energy efficiency and CO2 emissions which stated that when using waste tires as fuel, a cement plant generates 0.244 kilograms to 0.325 kg of CO2 to produce one kilogram of cement clinker (nodules used to make cement).

In comparison, the EU report stated that sub-bituminous coal generates 0.288-0.384 kg to product one kilogram of CO2 to make one kilogram of cement clinker, while Brown coal generates 0.303-0.404 kg in terms of CO2 emissions for the same amount of cement clinker. However, Huang did not mention that the same reported showed fuel oil (0.232-0.310), liquefied petroleum gas (0.189-0.252), and natural gas (0.168-0.224) all produce less CO2 than waste tires to make the same quantity of cement clinker.

The disposal of tires is a major issue for the tiny island country of Taiwan where land is at a premium as toxic substances can leach into the soil, they serve as breeding grounds for mosquitoes, and many have been illegally disposed in public areas, such as a hiking trail in Taroko National Park where 400 were found dumped in July.

In an interview with the Guardian, Vyvyan Howard, senior lecturer in toxicopathology at Liverpool University said "Tyre burning emits ultra-fine particles that have a toxicity all of their own. "The toxicity is even stronger if this contains metals such as nickel and tin, which you get when you throw the whole tyre into the furnace. If the metal content of the particles goes up, then there is going to be an increasing impact on health."

Awareness of cement operations in Hualien has increased since June, when a petition against the extension of the mining rights of cement producer Asia Cement Corp. (ACC) in Taroko reached over 100,000 signatures following the death of filmmaker and environmentalist Chi Po-lin (齊柏林) in a helicopter crash on June 10.

The ACC cement mine in Taroko was featured in Chi's film 2013“Beyond Beauty—Taiwan from Above”because of the devastation it had wrought on a large, ever-growing swath of Taroko National Park.

Updated : 2022-05-28 06:54 GMT+08:00