Despite protests, cement factory sees waste tires as ‘green’ fuel

A cement factory spews blacks smoke in Hualien County on Oct. 17, 2017. Residents of scenic eastern Taiwan may not be convinced that waste tires are a source of “green” fuel, but a manager at a cement factory in Hualien County says waste tires are more eco-friendly than coal and can be used to replace it in making cement. (CNA)

TAIPEI (CNA) – Residents of scenic eastern Taiwan may not be convinced that waste tires are a source of “green” fuel, but a manager at a cement factory in Hualien County says waste tires are more eco-friendly than coal and can be used to replace it in making cement.

Factories that use waste tires as fuel have been found to generate fewer carbon emissions than those burning coal, said Taiwan Cement Corp. (TCC) Senior Vice President Huang Chien-chiang (黃健強) in a recent interview with CNA, citing European Union data.

The EU’s 2010 report on energy source efficiency and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions shows that when burning waste tires as a fuel, a cement factory produces 0.244 kilograms to 0.355 kg of CO2 to get one kilogram of cement clinker.

Using sub-bituminous coal as a fuel, CO2 emissions for the same process and yield are 0.288-0.384 kg. Brown coal is even worse, generating 0.303-0.404 kg of CO2 emissions to make the same kilogram of cement clinker, according to the European report.

Huang argued that recycling waste tires as a source of fuel can effectively reduce the use of fossil fuels.

“Judging from the EU data, using waste tires as fuel while producing clinker is relatively friendly to the environment,” he said.

That’s because tires are made of rubber and refined carbon black, Huang explained, a composition that is simpler than that of coal, which makes controlling and managing pollutants produced by burning tires easier than those produced by burning coal.

The factory operator noted that in 2013, the 28 EU countries along with Norway, Sweden and Turkey produced a total of 2.88 million metric tons of waste tires, and 1.42 million metric tons, or 49 percent, were consumed as a substitute fuel.

Of those waste tires used as an alternative fuel, 91 percent were delivered to cement factories, Huang said.

That’s because the extremely high heat in a cement kiln, which reaches temperatures of up to 1,600 degrees Celsius, can completely dissolve waste tires without producing any black smoke, unlike when people burn tires in the open, he said.

Huang’s advocacy of waste tires as a fuel comes as the Environmental Protection Administration was forced to withdraw an experimental program to have TCC’s Hoping factory use waste tires as a fuel instead of coal because of strong protests by local residents.

The experiment began at the Hualien-based cement factory in May but was called off on Nov. 1 after protesters showed photos taken in July of dense smoke billowing from the plant and said they smelled repellent odors when they took the pictures.

The disposal of waste tires has been a challenging problem in eastern Taiwan. In July more than 400 waste tires were found dumped on a hiking trail in Taroko National Park, one of Taiwan’s most popular scenic attractions.

By Wei Shu and Elizabeth Hsu