Tire Derived Fuel

Tire-derived fuel is composed of shredded tires. Tires may be mixed with coal or other fuels such as wood to be burned in concrete kilns, power plants, or paper mills.

Scrap tires are used as fuel because of their high heating value and it is better to recover the energy from a tire rather than landfill it. In 2003, 130 million scrap tires were used as fuel (about 45% of all generated) — up from 25.9 million (10.7% of all generated) in 1991.

Tires can be used as fuel either in shredded form - known as tire-derived fuel (TDF) — or whole, depending on the type of combustion device. Scrap tires are typically used as a supplement to traditional fuels such as coal or wood. Generally, tires need to be reduced in size to fit in most combustion units. Besides size reduction, use of TDF may require additional physical processing, such as de-wiring.

There are several advantages to using tires as fuel:

  • Tires produce the same amount of energy as oil and 25% more energy than coal;
  • The ash residues from TDF may contain a lower heavy metals content than some coals;
  • Results in lower NOx emissions when compared to many coals, particularly the high-sulfur coals.

In 2003, more than 290 million scrap tires were generated in the US. Nearly 100 million of these tires were recycled into new products and 130 million were reused as tire-derived fuel (TDF) in various industrial facilities. TDF is one of several viable alternatives to prevent newly generated scrap tires from inappropriate disposal in tire piles, and for reducing or eliminating existing tire stockpiles.

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