This paper presents qualitative evidence to support the application of microwave induced plasma gasification (MIPG) technology for converting municipal solid wastes (MSW) to syngas and to use it for enhanced oil recovery (EOR). The target for the case study of this paper is the United Arab Emirates, which is a major producer and exporter of petroleum. The main EOR method employed by the UAE’s oil companies is the miscible gas flooding method, whereby natural gas or carbon dioxide is injected into the oil reservoirs to boost the oil pressure, reduce the viscosity of the oil and to increase the pumping rates. UAE purchases natural gas for power production and EOR from its neighbor, Qatar, which makes the UAE a net importer of natural gas and a major consumer of energy, while reducing the national income from the oil sales. The UAE is looking at ways to boost its oil production and to reduce the usage of natural gas, including the injection of carbon dioxide, nitrogen and steam generated by concentrated solar power.

UAE and the other Arabian Gulf nations have some of the highest per capita rates of production of domestic waste. Landfilling is the prevalent form of waste disposal for industrial, commercial and residential waste. Incineration-type waste-to-energy power plants are being constructed, but they are not the most effective solution due to cost and environmental reasons.

This paper proposes a solution that covers the two problems with one technology, namely MIPG of MSW. MIPG is shown to be the most efficient method of gasification available, as it uses much less energy for producing and sustaining the plasma than other techniques, and produces a much cleaner syngas than thermochemical gasification schemes. The syngas can be used for electricity generation or for making fuels and raw materials in the Fischer-Tropsch or similar processes. In this proposal, MIPG will be used to turn MSW, sewage sludge and biomass wastes into syngas. A part of the syngas will be used to produce electricity to power the petroleum extraction processes, while the carbon dioxide formed in this combustion of syngas can be captured and used for EOR in deep oil wells, which also functions as a form of sequestration of carbon. In addition, syngas can be turned into methane and synthetic natural gas using the Fischer-Tropsch or Sabatier process and then pumped into the oil wells. Some of the petroleum extracted can also be gasified using the MIPG method for the production of synthetic natural gas. Thus, the dependence on natural gas imports will be eliminated, while also achieving zero landfill targets.

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