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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Organic Output of an MBT plant as a fuel for waste to energy

Simon Munnik

Organic Output of an MBT plant as a fuel for waste to energy

This research investigates disposal options for the organic output material of a Mechanical Biological Treatment (MBT) plant situated in Cambridgeshire, England. In particular, it focuses on the materials use as a waste-derived fuel. Samples of the material were analysed for composition, moisture content and biomass content in an effort to characterise the material. a summary of the results is presented and analysed. The organic output material was found to contain 64% biodegradable material, 24% moisture and 45% biomass. Process optimization will be required to produce a material meeting biomass fuel standards while further analysis will be required to confirm the material's suitability as a solid recovered fuel (SRF).

A roadmap is suggested, describing the decision-making process involved in entering the Waste to Energy sector. The initial linear roadmap was found to be incapable of sufficiently incorporating the iterative nature of the process. In response, an alternative approach was developed using an electrical circuit analogy. The new model consists of four primary components: (a) fuel preparation, (b) technology, (c) customer (utility) network, and (d) project planning. When connected together, the interdependent properties displayed by the complete circuit appropriately represent the decision-making process.

This novel approach identified the barriers associated with key costs and time delays as well as the potential opportunities for profit. The current uncertainty pertaining to future planning regulations was found to be the most critical factor affecting the success or failure of the proposed projects. Landfill abatement and utility sales were found to be more consistent income sources than incentives provided through the Renewables Obligation and the potential sharing of Landfill Tax savings. Prohibitive costs included the building of new infrastructure, meeting Waste Incineration Directive requirements and the hiring of competent planning consultants.


Course Overview


The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.