Continental Research and Engineering, LLC (CR&E) is applying its thermal treatment engineering and operations expertise to the use of plasma technology for the destruction of hazardous waste. Plasma technology can treat heterogeneous unconsolidated feeds, including organic materials, sludge, metals, rock, concrete, soils, and other types of waste, such as whole items that contain hazardous organic and/or inorganic materials as part of their components. Plasma technology can be utilized to treat heterogeneous nonsorted waste directly or can be used as part of an integrated waste treatment system to stabilize the final waste effluent produced by other treatment processes.
The term “plasma” is used to refer to a highly ionized gas. A plasma can be generated by a variety of techniques and can occur over a wide range of pressures and energy levels. A bolt of lightning is an example of an atmospheric pressure plasma, while a neon sign is an example of a low pressure plasma. For thermal treatment of wastes, CR&E utilizes a type of plasma known as a thermal plasma. A thermal plasma is created by a “plasma arc torch”. The plasma arc torch uses electrical energy to generate and sustain an electrical arc between two electrodes into which a gas such as air or oxygen is injected. The electric arc produces ionized gases with arc centerline temperatures as high as 20,000°F that transfer thermal energy to the material to be treated through radiation, convection, and conduction. Thus, the plasma arc torch provides the energy necessary to melt inorganic material and breakdown organic material so it will react to form harmless byproducts.The plasma application experience and expertise CR&E possesses allows CR&E to design a complete thermal waste treatment system. The system includes a plasma arc torch, an enclosed reaction chamber or hearth, a feed preparation and feeding system, a molten slag removal and receiving system, and an offgas scrubbing system. The ultimate products of the treatment process are a glass ceramic solid, and treated flue gas. The glass ceramic solid is a product that is practically non-leachable and able to be disposed of with no special treatment or permits. The flue gas is treated to meet all applicable emissions requirements.