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Heat Recovery Systems Vol. 4, No. 5, pp.

385-388, 1984

0198-7593/84 $3.00 + .00


Pergamon Press Ltd

Printed in Great Britain

HEAT

RECOVERY
IN THE INCINERATION
OF HOSPITAL WASTES

J. A. BOAVIDAROQUE and J. M. GRA~A ROCHA


Direcqao-Geral das Constru6es Hospitalares, Lisboa, Portugal

and
A . CANNA DA PIEDADE
Instituto Superior T6cnico
Abstract--The development of the energy crisis has increased the trend of the need to recover energy,
namely in the building sector, where such recovery could show some interesting aspects.
In the case of hospitals, one of the possible methods of heat economy could be the recovery of waste
gas heat resulting from the incineration of wastes (this incineration being mandatory due to hygienic
reasons).
In the present text, the economical feasibility of such waste gas heat recovery, is shown, being in
the order of 60% of the economies resulting when such gas is used to heat water. Also, recovery plants
installed in Portuguese hospitals are described, and considering one of them--the only one presently
working--a critical analysis is made of its performance, and also of the criteria being used to cope
with the problems that have so far appeared.

INTRODUCTION

Garbage has always been the unwelcome companion of Man, who in his daily life generates the
accumulation of food wastes, packages of consumed articles and residues from his work.
With the Industrial Revolution and with the development of urban centers, the problem has
increased, not only due to the higher amount and concentration of the residues, but also due to
the change of its characteristics, namely those connected with plastic "materials. Therefore, the
simple dumping of wastes and their consequential biodegradation is no longer convenient and other
systems are used, namely incineration.
It is estimated that the production of domestic garbage amounts to 3 kg week -~ person -L, which
in a city of half a million inhabitants gives something like 1500 tons of garbage per week. With
an average specific gravity of 960 kg m -3 (Environmental Control and Public Health Course Team,
1974) for the domestic garbage, the volume that it occupies ranges 10,000 m 3, a value that shows
the importance of the problem to be dealt with, specially when one attaches to this volume problem
the effects on public health, which is seriously endangered if no serious steps are taken for the
proper disposal of the wastes.
Also according to the above reference (1974) circa 20~o of the total weight of town garbages is
composed of vegetable products and degradable materials. These, being subject to bacterial
biodegradation give rise to noxious gases and unpleasant smells, and constitute food for rats and
insects, being a constant hazard to the public health and a nuisance to the neighbour communities.
In this scenario, the particular case of hospitals appears. Here, together with the domestic wastes,
there are other wastes with specific characteristics such as organic wastes, bandages, etc. highly
contaminated, that require special manipulation cares, namely the need to avoid transportation
outside the hospital premises, and the need to treat them within strict sanitary conditions. These
requisites make the use of incinerators located in the hospital area mandatory.
Traditionally, no heat recovery from such incineration plants was performed. Presently, with the
energy crisis, the trend is to recover the waste gas heat, namely to produce hot water.
In the present text, an account is given as to the development of traditional incineration plants
in order to recover waste gas heat, and some examples are shown of applications under way.
TRADITIONAL
INCINERATION
PLANTS
PORTUGUESE
HOSPITALS

IN

In Portugal, each hospital has its own incineration plant, generally with two incinerators. Up
to 1975 the plants were designed with the incinerators having individual exhaust systems with gas
385

386

J . A . BOAVIDAROQUEet

al.

--iT

Jnclnerotor
2 WOsll~(:j OffenDer
3 Ch,mney

Fig. 1 Normal incineration plant used in Portuguese hospitals until 1975. Schematic representauon.

washing, so that the gases at the outlet of the stack should have the following maximum values:
Solid particles--150 nag m-3; Carbon dioxide (CO2)--12~/o; Carbon monoxide (CO)--0.5~o.
Figure 1 is a schematic representation of a normal plant.
I N C I N E R A T I O N PLANTS WITH HEAT RECOVERY
The "petroleum crisis" in 1973, and specifically the second 'shock' in 1978/79 (as a resuitof the
Iran/Iraq war) were very important for Portugal, as Portugal imports from this source about 90%
of its primary energy, being the effect of the oil increases therefrom very significant in the Country's
Balance of Payments and external deficit.
The saving of energy in general became therefore mandatory, being the recovery of the heat from
waste gases of incineration plants of hospitals one of the possible ways of saving energy.
As a significant amount of energy is used in hospitals to heat water, it was considered interesting
to study the erection of heat recovery systems from the corresponding incineration plants for that
purpose.
APPRAISAL OF THE ECONOMICAL FEASIBILITY OF HEAT
RECOVERY FROM I N C I N E R A T I O N PLANTS IN
P O R T U G U E S E HOSPITALS
Basic data
(1) the incineration of garbage in hospitals is a must, whether heat is recovered or not;
(2) it is considered possible to recover 50% of the energy produced in such incineration, with
adequate heat exchangers;
(3) the hospital considered has the size of a district hospital, i.e. with an average of 500 beds;
(4) the hospital garbage has the following average characteristics: humidity--70%; density----0.3;
incombustible solids--5%; heat capacity--12.6 kJ kg- 1:
(5) the hospital has an average of: number of beds--500; production of garbage-2 k g b e d . d a y - t ; normal weekly working hours---40h; efficiency of the work of load of the
incinerators--80%; time of burning per load 1 h; number of incinerators in use 2; sanitary hot
water consumption--- 120 It bed. day- t; temperature of cold water from mains--10C; temperature
of hot water to use---60C.
Based on the above data, the incineration plant should have the following characteristics:
capacity of each inciuerator--160 kg load (h); power of the burners of the incinerator--2.35 kW;
total combustion power--928 kW.
According to (2) above, the amount of energy recovered is estimated to be 7.7 x lOS kWh.
On the other hand the average annual consumption of energy for water heating is estimated to
be 12.7 x 105 kWh.
Therefore, the heat recovered allows for an economy of 60% of the conventional energy used
for heating the water. From the economical point of view, the condition that makes the heat
recovery system feasible is that the corresponding investment (at May 1982 values, estimated to
be 1800,000 escudos) should he smaller than the generalized cost of saved energy, calculated by
the formula
CCE

= CE

x Cc x F

The incineration of hospital wastes

387

Incinerotor

HeOt exchanger

3 Washing chomber
4 Chimney

Fig. 2. I n c i n e r a t i o n p l a n t w i t h h e a t r e c o v e r y . S c h e m a t i c r e p r e s e n t a t i o n .

where CCE----cost of the conserved energy; CE--annual value of the conserved energy; C,,--unit
cost of energy; F--updating factor of cost, given by the formula.
( 1 + i~F 1 = ( 1
F = V _ i} L

i~N1

\-(--~1

_J

where: i---capital rate of interest; j---cost of energy rate of increase; N---depreciation period or
average life.
Considering that the cost of energy increases 5% more than the average cost of living and that
Ce= 1.90Esc/kWh
N = 10

(May 1982)

one can calculate the generalized cost of saved energy to be 11,700,000 escudos, i.e. about six and
a half times more than the foreseen investment. Being practically all the equipment installed for
the heat recovery made in Portugal, and considering that the saved energy results from imported
fuel, it is easy to confirm the economical feasibility of the project.

INCINERATION

PLANTS WITH HEAT RECOVERY USED IN


P O R T U G U E S E HOSPITALS

The adopted plants have in the exhaust gas circuit--obviously before the washing chamber--a
counter current tubular heat exchanger, with gas temperatures of 800C outlet (design values).

Table I.
Hospital
Abrantes

Barreiro

Vila Real

Julia de
Matos

District

District

District

Psychiatric

350

500

500

1500

2 kg bed - t

2 kg bed- t

2 kg bed- i

1 kg bed - i

4900 kg

7000 kg

7000 kg

10,500 kg

Incinerators

Two incinerators
of 120 kg load -I
Burner of gas oil

Two incinerators
of 160 kg load -t
Burner of gasoil

Heat
recovery

Two counter current


heat exchanger
recovery units for
hot water production
(10-60C)

Annual predicted
economy

5.4 x 10s kWh

Type of
hospital
No. of beds
Daily average
garbage
weight bed- i
Total weight of
garbage week

One counter current


heat exchanger
recovery unit for
hot water production
(10-70C)

Two incinerators
of 160 kg load-i
Burner of
propane gas
One counter current
heat exchanger
recovery unit for
hot water production
(10--70C)

Two incinerators
of 200 kg load-i
Burner of
thick-fuel-oil
Two counter current
heat exchanger
recovery unit for
low pressure
hot water production
(70-95 C)

7.7 x 105 kWh

7.7 105 kWh

1.2 x 106 kWh

J. A. BOAVIDA ROQUE et al.

388

Table 2.

Reading

Temperature in
combustion
chamber

Temperature at
inlet o f
exchanger

Temerature at
outlet o f
exchanger

2~
3~
a"

700
750
900

440
500
600

220
240
300

l"
2~
3~
4~

840
900
940
1000

420
500
580
640

120
200
220
260

1~
2~
3~
4"

840
800
900
800

420
500
600
560

180
300
260
220

In
2~
3~
4~

740
800
700
900

420
500
480
600

100
180
200
240

Day

Figure 2 is a schematic representation of the designed installations. Such systems were installed
in Portugal in the District Hospitals of Abrantes, Barreiro, Santar~m and Vila Real, and also in
the Psychiatric Hospital Jfllio de Matos, in Lisbon (in this case for production of low pressure hot
water) and have the design characteristics gwen in Table 1.
Of these installations only the one from the Hospital in Vita Real is working at full capacity,
the others being under commission.
OBSERVED RESULTS
As per above, only the Vila Real Hospital heat recovery plant is working. The fa~t that it is the
only one, together with the fact that it has been working for a short period, does not allow yet
for a global evaluation of the obtained savings. Nevertheless we can discuss some of the results
obtained, namely in what regards the temperatures of the combustion gases and the corrosion
problems that appeared.
As for gas temperatures the values of the measurements performed in four successive days are
presented in Table 2.
The temperatures registered deviate from the design values, and also the amount of garbage per
capita was in some cases much less to the design values--these obtained from the foreign literature
available. There has also been found accelerated spot corrosion in the tube bundle.
FINAL CONSIDERATIONS
The heat recovered from exhaust gases of incinerators in Portuguese hospitals is likely to be used
in the production of sanitary hot water, with up to 60~o savings in the energy used to heat these
waters, with the corresponding investments having a payout time of 4-5 yr. Nevertheless, the first
industrial results obtained show that the design values were overestimated and that unpredicted
corrosion problems took place in the heat exchanger installed.
The plants repair is being prepared, as well as the studies that will allow us:
(1) To find the causes of the corrosion phenomena in the tubes by metallurgical analysis of these
and by analysis of the gases.
(2) To change the type of combustion, trying to perform the burning by pyrolysis, in order to
increase the combustion temperature and to reduce the corrosive agents over the tube bundle.
(3) To increase the temperature of the gases at the entrance of the heat exchanger--by decreasing
largely the heat losses between the combustion zone and the heat exchanger.
The changes under study correspond to a further investment, which nevertheless is considered
advantageous, even though a higher pay-off time would be expected.