An alternative method to determine the share of fossil carbon in solid refuse-derived fuels – Validation and comparison with three standardized methods

Schwarzböck, Therese; Aschenbrenner, Philipp; Spacek, Stefan; Szidat, Sönke; Rechberger, Helmut; Fellner, Johann (2018). An alternative method to determine the share of fossil carbon in solid refuse-derived fuels – Validation and comparison with three standardized methods. Fuel, 220, pp. 916-930. Elsevier 10.1016/j.fuel.2017.12.076

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Today different types of wastes are used as refuse-derived fuels (RDF) either in waste-to-energy plants or as fuel substitutes in energy-intensive industrial processes. In order to quantify their greenhouse-gas relevance (fossil carbon content), reliable and practical analytical methods are required, which allow differentiation between biogenic and fossil organic carbon. In the present paper, an alternative method to determine the fossil share in RDFs is examined and validated. The so-called “adapted Balance Method” (aBM) is applied to three different RDFs and the results are compared to three standardized methods, namely the Radiocarbon Method (14CMethod), the Selective Dissolution Method (SDM), and the Manual Sorting Method (MS). The aBM is based on the distinctly different elemental composition of water-and-ash-free biogenic and of fossil matter (TOXBIO and TOXFOS). Within the study, these compositional data are derived by manual sorting of the RDFs. The results show that the values obtained by the aBM are in excellent agreement with the results of the 14C-Method (considered as reference method). Mean deviations between the two methods of −0.9 to +1.9% absolute for the share of fossil carbon are found which are statistically insignificant. High trueness and reliability of the aBM can be expected, independent of the RDF type. In contrast, the reliability of the other standardized methods (SDM and MS) appears to strongly depend on the type and composition of the RDF. The results further indicate that the generation of RDF-specific data on TOXFOS is important for the aBM if significant shares of polymers with comparably high oxygen content might be present in the RDF and if low uncertainties of the results (<3% relative) are required. The findings demonstrate that the alternative method has advantages compared to standardized methods with respect to reliability and/or costs.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


10 Strategic Research Centers > Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research (OCCR)
08 Faculty of Science > Department of Chemistry, Biochemistry and Pharmaceutical Sciences (DCBP)

UniBE Contributor:

Szidat, Sönke


500 Science > 540 Chemistry








Sönke Szidat

Date Deposited:

07 May 2018 14:26

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:12

Publisher DOI:





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