Federal Remediation Technologies Roundtable



High temperatures, 870 to 1,200 °C (1,400 to 2,200 °F), are used to volatilize and combust (in the presence of oxygen) halogenated and other refractory organics in hazardous wastes. Often auxiliary fuels are employed to initiate and sustain combustion. The destruction and removal efficiency (DRE) for properly operated incinerators exceeds the 99.99% requirement for hazardous waste and can be operated to meet the 99.9999% requirement for PCBs and dioxins. Off gases and combustion residuals generally require treatment.

Circulating Bed Combustor (CBC)

Circulating bed combustor (CBC) uses high velocity air to entrain circulating solids and create a highly turbulent combustion zone that destroys toxic hydrocarbons. The CBC operates at lower temperatures than conventional incinerators (1,450 to 1,600 °F). The CBC's high turbulence produces a uniform temperature around the combustion chamber and hot cyclone. The CBC also completely mixes the waste material during combustion. Effective mixing and low combustion temperature reduce operating costs and potential emissions of such gases as nitrogen oxide (NOx) and carbon monoxide (CO).

Fluidized Bed

The circulating fluidized bed (CFB), uses high-velocity air to circulate and suspend the waste particles in a combustion loop and operates at temperatures up to 870 °F (1,600 °F). Another experimental unit, the infrared unit uses electrical resistance heating elements or indirect-fired radiant U-tubes to heat material passing through the chamber on a conveyor belt and operates at temperatures up to 870 °F (1,600 °F).

Infrared Combustion

The infrared combustion technology is a mobile thermal processing system that uses electrically-powered silicon carbide rods to heat organic wastes to combustion temperatures. Waste is fed into the primary chamber and exposed to infrared radiant heat (up to 1,850 °F) provided by silicon carbide rods above the conveyor belt. A blower delivers air to selected locations along the belt to control the oxidation rate of the waste feed. Any remaining combustibles are incinerated in an afterburner.

Rotary Kilns

Commercial incinerator designs are rotary kilns, equipped with an afterburner, a quench, and an air pollution control system. The rotary kiln is a refractory-lined, slightly-inclined, rotating cylinder that serves as a combustion chamber and operates at temperatures up to 980 °F (1,800 °F).

Incinerator off-gas requires treatment by an air pollution-control system to remove particulates and neutralize and remove acid gases (HCl, NOx, and SOx). Baghouses, venturi scrubbers, and wet electrostatic precipitators remove particulates; packed-bed scrubbers and spray driers remove acid gases.

Incineration, primarily off-site, has been selected or used as the remedial action at more than 150 Superfund sites. Incineration is subject to a series of technology-specific regulations, including the following federal requirements: CAA (air emissions), TSCA (PCB treatment and disposal), RCRA (hazardous waste generation, treatment, storage, and disposal), NPDES (discharge to surface waters), and NCA (noise).

The duration of incineration technology ranges from short- to long-term.


Incineration is used to remediate soils contaminated with explosives and hazardous wastes, particularly chlorinated hydrocarbons, PCBs, and dioxins.


Factors that may limit the applicability and effectiveness of the process include:

  • Only one off-site incinerator is permitted to burn PCBs and dioxins.
  • There are specific feed size and materials handling requirements that can impact applicability or cost at specific sites.
  • Heavy metals can produce a bottom ash that requires stabilization.
  • Volatile heavy metals, including lead, cadmium, mercury, and arsenic, leave the combustion unit with the flue gases and require the installation of gas cleaning systems for removal.
  • Metals can react with other elements in the feed stream, such as chlorine or sulfur, forming more volatile and toxic compounds than the original species. Such compounds are likely to be short-lived reaction intermediates that can be destroyed in a caustic quench.
  • Sodium and potassium form low melting point ashes that can attack the brick lining and form a sticky particulate that fouls gas ducts.

Data Needs:

In addition to identifying soil contaminants and their concentrations, information necessary for engineering thermal systems to specific applications includes soil moisture content and classification , the soil fusion temperature, and the soil heating value. A sieve analysis is required to accurately estimate the dust loading in the system for proper design of the air pollution control equipment.

Performance Data:

If an off-site incinerator is used, the potential risk of transporting the hazardous waste through the community must be considered. Approximately 20 commercial RCRA-permitted hazardous waste incinerators and approximately 10 transportable high temperature units are operating. The commercial units are large capacity rotary kilns with afterburners and sophisticated air pollution control systems.


Soil treatment costs at off-site incinerators range from $220 to $1,100 per metric ton ($200 to $1,000 per ton) of soil, including all project costs. Mobile units that can be operated on-site will reduce soil transportation costs. Soils contaminated with PCBs or dioxins cost $1,650 to $6,600 per metric ton ($1,500 to $6,000 per ton) to incinerate.

Additional cost information can be found in the Hazardous, Toxic, and Radioactive Wastes (HTRW) Historical Cost Analysis System (HCAS) developed by Environmental Historical Cost Committee of Interagency Cost Estimation Group.

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