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The difference between RDF and SRF

As incineration becomes increasingly popular, Geert Cuperus from the European Recovered Fuel Organisation (ERFO) outlines the difference between SRF and RDF and the need for standardisation.

The difference between RDF and SRF

Since the early nineties, producing waste derived fuels for energy recovery has been a popular waste management option. Many waste fractions which cannot be easily reused or recycled, particularly if they are composed of materials that are difficult to properly sort or separate, may have a high caloric value that can be used in a fuel for energy recovery.

However, this option is only viable when a well-functioning market exists. This requires waste companies to produce dedicated fuels that comply with the requirements of clients (i.e. those operating combustion facilities). But to do this, they need a common language.

This is made difficult by the fact that that, in daily practice, many calorific wastes are referred to as refuse-derived fuel (RDF). But as there is no official definition of RDF, the content and quality of this may vary. Very often the compositional quality and the environmental parameters are not well described. This poses a risk for producers and users of these fuels as human health and equipment may suffer from certain, sometime hazardous, components in the fuel. As environmental impacts cannot be overseen, public acceptance and acceptance by competent authorities is generally low.

So while an RDF, whatever that may be, might have a good calorific value and low chlorine content, clients can never be sure of its composition because it is not tested and evaluated in an appropriate and standardized way.

To make handling waste derived fuel easier, a common language has been made possible by European standards of CEN/TC 343 for ‘solid recovered fuel’ (SRF).

SRF is a fuel produced from non-hazardous waste in compliance with the European standard EN 15359. Although this standard is not an obligation, the main requirement is that a producer specifies and classifies its SRF by detailing its net calorific value, and chlorine and mercury content of the fuel. Specification includes (as mandatory) several other properties, such as the content of all heavy metals mentioned in the Industrial Emissions Directive. Furthermore, a declaration of conformity has to be issued.

Even though this standard means that there is an agreed upon definition of SRF, it is important to note that EN15359 and its underlying standards do not require any quality level. The required quality of SRF is therefore defined by the client, meaning that SRF quality can vary. 

SRF will be an important fuel for the future, but more must be done to ensure that waste derived fuel is of SRF quality to create confidence in the market.

Find out more about the specifications for SRF via the ERFO website.

ERFO is a non profit association, founded in 2001 by European companies producing SRF. It aims to promote the use of recovered fuel prepared from non hazardous waste and to make it socially and politically acceptable and technically feasible.