Choosing Steam or Thermal Oil Technology when Fuelling with RDF?

Processing large amounts of RDF and sending to landfill or overseas can be costly, and with technology now available for smaller distributed sites many businesses are choosing to install their own heat and power plants to provide additional incomes streams and make savings. But how do you identify which technology is correct for your business? And what savings might be made?

When fuelling with RDF there are two main types of boilers, thermal oil and steam. Both of these technologies can be applied to a number of different applications but there are uses which are better suited to one process or the other. A key decision factor is whether you have requirements for process heat and how much. For example, businesses which raise steam for processing such as food suppliers could install a steam boiler and turbine to make large savings throughout the manufacturing process.


For a steam boiler and turbine to generate a meaningful amount of power the system needs to be run at high pressure, so without a need for steam the system size needs to be large enough to justify the cost. Without this demand, a thermal oil boiler would be the most suitable option for fuelling with RDF as it works at small scale with lower pressure making it financially viable for smaller distributed sites.

Thermal oil boilers are suited to burning a variety of fuel types including RDF. The systems are much more flexible than steam, due to boiler temperatures which can be adjusted and used for a variety of different fuel types. For smaller, distributed sites this can be the key to longevity. As any business will want to be aware of long-term factors, it’s important to keep in mind long-term fuel security. 



A good example of the flexibility of a thermal oil boiler and Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) is a site recently installed by Novalux Energy at Goodwood Estate. The boiler system is comprised of a 3.5MW thermal oil boiler and 700kWe ORC to provide heat and power to the hotel and estate. In this case a Sugimat boiler and Turboden ORC will be fuelled by straw and leftover waste from forestry activities on site. If Goodwood Estate wish to convert to fuelling with RDF at a later date, this can be easily achieved. The site can then switch over to fuelling with RDF and be paid a gate fee for accepting waste.

Novalux Energy provides engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) of technology, with turnkey installation and our own UK based team, meaning we can recommend the appropriate technology to align with your business. Without having exclusivity to one technology Novalux can recommend the most suitable system for your business. To visit the Turboden ORC and Sugimat boiler at Goodwood Estate please click here.

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