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Volume 30 Issue 6
Dec.  2019
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Waste-to-Fuel Technology in Albania——How to Implement a Renewable Energy System in Europe's Largest Onshore Oilfield

  • Albania has historically been known to have an active but challenging drilling activity that demands the most innovative technology to develop,predominantly,medium-heavy oil reservoirs. Although recent efforts have been made by the government to stimulate and expand the largest onshore European oil-field,technical and economical obstacles are prevalent. These obstacles make it difficult to fully develop reliable and profitable hydrocarbon bearing zones in a downturn economy,especially since Albanian oil can be costly to produce and refine. Due to these typical issues that affect many local energy sectors,many developed countries diversify their energy production to avoid strict dependency on crude oil. An emblematic and modern option that is extensively gaining popularity in Europe focuses on renewable energy from sophisticated recycling programs. Although Albania is a relatively "green" country when it pertains to its electricity production (97% hydropower and 3% fossil fuels),it has yet to develop energy-recycling programs that it can salvage for self-sustainable energy sources. The past years have seen a conscious revitalization and stimulation in the mentality of green economy in Albania. But,in comparison to the rest of "western Europe" that are leading world examples in efficient recycling,it is significantly lagging with initial strides just now focusing on aligning national legislations with current EU models. Furthermore,two crucial reasons that should motivate Albania to investigate new applications for energy recycling are:(1) alternatives to crude oil and petroleum products that can be supplemental and provide stable access to fossil fuels; (2) industrial and municipal recycling via waste management to reprocess waste and produce industrial raw material-spawning the emergence of a "circular economy" to develop the backbone needed to strengthen the industrial and manufacturing markets for a self-sustaining economy. Accordingly,in this paper,the topic that will be addressed,given the recent decrease in oil & gas prices,focuses on the Albanian energy sector's capability to sustain and develop a supplementary recycling program via "waste-to-fuel" (WTF) technology (biofuels and/or in-organic waste). With the intent that it could function cooperatively with Albania's active drilling pro-gram to mitigate dependency on a single fuel source and produce enough fossil fuel in an effective and sustainable manner.
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    Gordani, L., 2015. Presentation at the Albanian Center for Energy Regulation & Conservation (ACERC). March, 2015, Tirane, Albania
    Hallman, T., 2015. Update of Field Development of Patos-Marinza. Pan American Mature Fields Congress. USA
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    Jacobs, T., 2015. Reviving Europe's Largest Onshore Oilfield. Journal of Petroleum Technology, 67(3): 70–74 doi: 10.2118/0315-0070-JPT
    Jaupaj, O., Berdufi, I., Mitrushi, D., et al., 2011. Biomass Energy Production—Research Gaps and Trends. International Scientific Conference: Hydro Climate Resources—An Important Tool for a Sustainable Development of Albania. June 16, 2011, Tirana, Albania
    Jaupaj, O., Lushaj, B., 2009. An Evaluation of Chapter 14 of EU Acquis Communautaire Energy Acquis, Albanian Law Approximation and Challenges. The 2nd International Conference on European Studies. November 6–7, Epoca University, Tirana Albania. 167–183
    Jaupaj, O., Lushaj, B., 2010. Albania General Status of Biomass and National Initiatives. International Bioenergy Symposium (Public) and 18-th European Biomass Conference & Exhibition. Brussels, Belgium and Lyon, France
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    Karaj, S., Rehl, T., Leis, H., et al., 2010. Analysis of Biomass Residues Potential for Electrical Energy Generation in Albania. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 14(1): 493–499.
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Waste-to-Fuel Technology in Albania——How to Implement a Renewable Energy System in Europe's Largest Onshore Oilfield

    Corresponding author: Besmir Buranaj Hoxha,
  • 1. PetroFluids LLC, Houston TX 77084, USA
  • 2. McCain Institute, Washington D.C. 20006, USA
  • 3. Fulbright Program & UNDP, Prishtina, The Republic of Kosovo

Abstract: Albania has historically been known to have an active but challenging drilling activity that demands the most innovative technology to develop,predominantly,medium-heavy oil reservoirs. Although recent efforts have been made by the government to stimulate and expand the largest onshore European oil-field,technical and economical obstacles are prevalent. These obstacles make it difficult to fully develop reliable and profitable hydrocarbon bearing zones in a downturn economy,especially since Albanian oil can be costly to produce and refine. Due to these typical issues that affect many local energy sectors,many developed countries diversify their energy production to avoid strict dependency on crude oil. An emblematic and modern option that is extensively gaining popularity in Europe focuses on renewable energy from sophisticated recycling programs. Although Albania is a relatively "green" country when it pertains to its electricity production (97% hydropower and 3% fossil fuels),it has yet to develop energy-recycling programs that it can salvage for self-sustainable energy sources. The past years have seen a conscious revitalization and stimulation in the mentality of green economy in Albania. But,in comparison to the rest of "western Europe" that are leading world examples in efficient recycling,it is significantly lagging with initial strides just now focusing on aligning national legislations with current EU models. Furthermore,two crucial reasons that should motivate Albania to investigate new applications for energy recycling are:(1) alternatives to crude oil and petroleum products that can be supplemental and provide stable access to fossil fuels; (2) industrial and municipal recycling via waste management to reprocess waste and produce industrial raw material-spawning the emergence of a "circular economy" to develop the backbone needed to strengthen the industrial and manufacturing markets for a self-sustaining economy. Accordingly,in this paper,the topic that will be addressed,given the recent decrease in oil & gas prices,focuses on the Albanian energy sector's capability to sustain and develop a supplementary recycling program via "waste-to-fuel" (WTF) technology (biofuels and/or in-organic waste). With the intent that it could function cooperatively with Albania's active drilling pro-gram to mitigate dependency on a single fuel source and produce enough fossil fuel in an effective and sustainable manner.

  • As world energy consumption is projected to increase from 549 quadrillion Btu in 2012 to 627 quadrillion Btu in 2020 (U.S. Energy Information Administration, 2016), most developed countries are striving towards diversifying their energy production during a downturn economy and avoid unfavorable consequences. Consequently, reducing major risk by investing in multiple energy resources and thus maximizing energy profits in different areas that would each respond differently to the same economic incident.

    The most recent oil & gas fallout experienced in 2015, globally affected the whole energy sector. Consequently, the energy focus has focused on new ways to alleviate the burden of volatility of fossil fuels. Figure 1 shows projection of energy consumption worldwide with renewable energy gains the most focus (with a growth of 5% increase), and the consumption of coal is essentially plateauing. Large emphasis and support has been placed in production and development of natural gas (which should surpass coal by year 2030), and petroleum slightly decreased by 3%, maintains a general relative range. The major consensus agrees on the continual forthcoming necessity for petroleum with current world reserves are bountiful and surpass any previously forecasted projections. It is important to note that, historically, energy forecasts have proven to be vague, defective, and sometimes imprecise. Nevertheless, this does not impede motivation in energy diversification, considering the energy sector needs to adapt to overcome economic challenges influenced by geo- political and socio-economic factors. For this sole reason, many countries are developing self-sustaining energy programs that are prevalent in all types of circumstances.

    Figure 1.  Projection of energy consumption, worldwide (after U.S. Energy Information Administration, 2016).

    As human civilization inevitably multiplies, it will also surely be forced to modernize and develop. So, two things will waste generation and need for waste management. Accordingly, the need for energy will also increase, and intuitively, will focus on renewable energy, as our natural resources will begin to diminish. Most people consider wind, solar, aero-thermal, geothermal, hydrothermal, ocean energy, and hydropower to be renewable energy. However, very few are familiar with waste material as a renewable energy (as it will continually replenish)- biomass, landfill gas, sewage treatment plant gas, biogases, thermoplastics, rubber, and paper can all be considered "waste- to-fuel" technology that can use organic and inorganic waste. Both recycled and reused/salvaged materials can be considered sustainable as they can reflect resource efficiency that can use all products to their full potential. They can decrease landfill waste, reduce air and water pollution, reduce the need for raw materials, and lower environmental impact. For example, when a recycled material is used instead of a new raw material, natural resources and energy can be conserved. This is due to recycled materials having been initially refined and processed, thus manufacturing it once again is much cleaner and less energy-intensive than the first time. Table 1 depicts typical recycling data for preventing waste. The utilization of waste to fuel technology depends on the collection of recyclable materials and relies on a steady flow of consistent supply generated from recycling programs. Thus, government support and public-private investment into the recycling activity structure (such as door-to-door segregation, collection points, distribution points) is critical in creating a self-sustaining "circular economy". The European Commission describes circular economy as making use of resources to the maximum extent; extracting the maximum value whilst recovering and regenerating value through the resource life cycle (see Fig. 2). This cycle is an alternative to linear economy that focuses on manufacturing material, consumption, and disposing of material. The ideology focuses on exploiting the synergies of the resource life cycle to overcome barriers and add the highest amount of value to the circular "chain" of "waste-to-resource" that the hierarchy method focuses on.

    Energy (kWh) Oil (bbls) BTU (million) Landfill (yd3) Air pollution (lbs) Water (gallons)
    Aluminum 14 000 40 238 10 - -
    Paper 4 100 9.0 54 3.3 60 7 000
    Plastic 5 774 16.3 98 30 - -
    Steel 642 1.8 10.9 4 - -
    Glass 42 0.12 0.714 2 7.5 -

    Table 1.  Recycling statistics for prevention of municipal waste. A ton of recycled product material can prevent the following listed items (Stanford Recycling Research Institute, 2016)

    Figure 2.  Circular economy diagram (modified after the European Commission model, 2015).

    In this paper, a review of the most recent oil & gas crisis is examined to determine the impact on the fuel sector in Albania. Material is examined to determine a feasibility study to show one of Europe's most prominent onshore oilfields need to diversify its fuel production in order to become a regional energy powerhouse and become an example for its neighboring countries in the western Balkans.

  • Waste-to-energy (WTE), waste-to-fuel (WTF) technology is the process of generating some type of fuel from the primary treatment of waste and can be considered a direct form of energy recovery. The concept and its implementation have caught the interest of international conglomerates and government agencies in the past decade. Many developed nations have begun using the technology (U.S.A., U.K., Netherlands, Germany, etc.) but even more surprisingly, large scale utilization has come from China and India; where plastic waste is rampant and problematic, thus turning their waste problem to a profitable industry.

    A report from the American Chemical Society (April 2017), describes various types of WTF technologies, all focused on specific waste sectors or specific fuel applications. The predominant efforts are on recycling biomass that converts organics (food, wood, paper, textiles) to biofuels (bioethanol, biodiesel), and in the industrial scale are generated from corn, sugar cane, and grain. The second focuses on reprocessing of waste material such as plastics and rubber (via gasification, pyrolysis, etc.) in order to generate a "synthetic diesel" (industrial diesel oil) or "synthetic gas" (i.e., syngas can also be an intermediate in creating synthetic petroleum to use as a lubricant or fuel). The technique involves breaking down plastic and/or rubber (mainly composed of hydrocarbons) into a molecular level from their original components (hydrogen and carbon), rearrange them and convert into readily usable fuel like that of diesel via various refining techniques (see Fig. 3).

    Figure 3.  Diagram of pyrolysis breakdown (Pyrocrat, 2016).

  • As the rate of population growth increases exponentially worldwide (doubled in the past 50 years), so does the need for manufactured goods. Specifically, the manufacturing of thermoplastics that are in use in our everyday lives have significantly increased in parallel to population increase, and with this increase so has its disposal as waste (see Fig. 4a). Recent advances in chemical engineering technology have focused on turning this unfavorable and detrimental environmental hazard into an economical benefit. In fact, the ideology has drawn major interests from reputable agencies such as the American Chemical Society & American Chemistry Council. Important milestones have been reached when pertaining the advancements in the technology, especially in the topic of pyrolysis processing that focuses on using cheap, inorganic material such as plastic and rubber waste that are robust and non-degradable. Pyrolysis is a specialized classification of WTF technology that is based on thermal degradation (or thermal chemical processing) of the raw material (recyclable material) by introducing heat at extreme temperatures in the absence of oxygen. Due to lack of oxygen during the procedure, the material itself does not combust but the chemical compounds that make up the material would thermally decompose into combustible gases and vapors. The combustible gases can then be cooled and condensed into a combustible liquids by-product called pyrolysis oil. Pyrolysis can be performed on biomass (organic material) or on inorganic waste (plastic, rubber etc.) as previously mentioned. The process decomposes the material into three fractions: one liquid (pyrolysis oil), one solid (char) and one gaseous (syngas). It is important to declare that not all pyrolysis oils (fuel oils) are created equally. Those derived from biomass are less useful than those derived from plastics and rubber (see Tables 2, 3, 4, S1, and S2) in comparison with the standard specs for pyrolysis oil and various other fuel oils (see reference ASTM D7544-12, 2017).

    Figure 4.  (a) Global plastic processing in 2013. Estimates of plastic global production has significantly increased in 2015 being over 300 million tons of thermoplastic production with only 10% to 15% being recycled, 60 million tons being produced in Europe and 45% being produced in Asia—135 million tons/year (OECD, 2016). (b) Diagram of PTF technology flow.

    Parameter Gasoline Diesel Kerosene (K1)
    Density (g/mL) 0.71–0.74 0.83 0.78–0.81
    Specific gravity 0.70 0.85 0.78
    API gravity 65 23–30 39–42
    Viscosity (cP) 0.77–0.84 2.0–4.5 0.9–1.5
    Kinematic viscosity (mm2/s) 5.0 3.7–5.0 2.2
    Aniline point (℃) 101 107 98
    Flash point (℃) 73–74 54–60 50–54
    Freezing point (℃) -58 -54 -40
    Diesel index 83 54 60
    Gross calorific (MJ/kg) 47–56 43–56 43–46
    Sulfur (wt.%) 0.05–0.15 0.7 0.04
    The typical preferred proprieties of pyrolysis oil are octane index, density, flash point, sulfur content, and kinematic viscosity. Detailed, scientific explanation in regard to pyrolysis has been well accounted by Kunwar et al. (2015), and Wongkhorsub (2015).

    Table 2.  Typical properties of various fuel oils

    Properties Light (~ASTM #2) Light–Med. (~ASTM #4) Medium (~PORL 100) Heavy (~CAN #6)
    Density (g/mL) See ASTM See ASTM See ASTM See ASTM
    Kinematic viscosity (cSt) 1.9–3.4 (FO) 5.5–24 @ 40 ℃ 17–100@ 50 ℃ 100–638 @ 50 ℃
    1.9–4.1 (D, GT) @ 40 ℃
    Ash content (wt.%) 0.05 (FO) 0.05 (FO) 0.10 (FO) 0.10 (FO)
    0.01 (GT) 0.01 (D)
    Water cont. (wt.%), max 32 32 32 32
    LHV (MJ/L min), wet oil 18 18 18 -
    Phase stability @ 20 ℃ after 8 hr @ 90 ℃ Single Single Single Single
    Flash point (℃) 52 55 60 60
    C (wt.%) - - - -
    H (wt.%) - - - -
    O (wt.%) - - - -
    S (wt.%) Max Max 0.2 max 0.4 max
    N (wt.%) Max Max 0.3 max 0.4 max
    K+Na (ppm) 0.5 (GT) - - -
    Phase separation occurs when water content is higher than 30%–45%, which is higher with pyrolysis oil being derived from biomass in comparison to oil derived from plastics and rubber (referenced ASTM D7544-12, 2017).

    Table 3.  Standards and specifications for various grades of bio-oils (biomass)

    Polyethylene (PE) 95% Rubber cable 35%
    Polystyrene (PS) 90% Small tires 35%–40%
    ABS resin 40% Polyvinylchloride (PVC) Not suitable
    Leftover paper Wet 15%–20%, dry 60% PET Not suitable
    Plastic 75%–80% Polyurethane (PUR) Not suitable
    Sole 30% Fiber rnfd. plastics (FRP) ~50%
    Plastic bag 50% Organic/biodegradable 35%–50%

    Table 4.  Approximate oil yield from raw materials (Pyrocrat, 2016)

    The yield of the oil (pyrolysis oil & industrial diesel oil) is highly dependent on the conversion parameters such as the quality of the material, purity, methods (catalyst or non- catalyst), and process undertaken to condense/distill/refine the products. After pyrolysis oil is obtained, it can be further refined to produce different types of diesels or can be blended.

  • The history of oil in Albania can be dated back to 2 000 years ago as several Roman writers account Illyrian tribes exploiting bitumen as a warfare tool during the Roman-Illyrian wars. In modern times, one of the first wells was drilled by Italian geologist Leo Madalena near Drashovice (Vlorë) in 1918. Since then, Albania currently has 19 known oil fields and 5–6 natural gas deposits with the deepest drilled well to date, the "Ardenica 18" at 6 700 m (22 000 ft).

    The geo-tectonic map (see Figs. 5 and S1) and the geological structure of Albania depicting the external Albanides, include the fractured Ionian carbonates and the Miocene sandstones. Most geologists agree that there are currently two petroleum systems with 3 types of plays in Albania (Barbullushi, 2013; Bega, 2013a, 2010; Graham Wall et al., 2006; Ballauri et al., 2002; Meço et al., 2000; Marko and Moci, 1995; Sejdini et al., 1994; Curi, 1993; Shehu and Johnston, 1991). The most famous and most developed of the Albanian oilfields is the Patos-Marinza, projected to be the largest oilfield in continental Europe. It is comprised of three oil-bearing sandstones, Driza, Marinza, Gorani (see Fig. 6). Additionally, Patos-Marinza has mainly shallow sands with heavy oil approaching tar and bitumen (Hallman, 2015; Kotenev, 2014; Weatherill et al., 2005; Bennion et al., 2003).

    Figure 5.  Geo-tectonic map of external Albanides (Bega, 2013a).

    Figure 6.  (a) Primary oil blocks in Albania; (b) depiction of oil-sands layers in Patos-Marinza (Source—Bankers Report, 2015).

    It is estimated to have roughly 2 billion barrels of crude oil OOIP, the country total is estimated (according to AKBN, Dervishi, 2016) roughly 3.2 billion barrels, and total natural gas reserves at approximately 4–5 billion Nm3 gas (see Table 6). Medium to heavy oil accounts for more than half of the oil production in Albania and most of the production comes from the Patos-Marinza Oilfield. In contrast, the Shipragu, Mollaj (see Table 5) oil is predominantly light oil.

    Field Discovery API gravity Sulphur (%) EOIP (mill. bbls) EGIP (109 cu ft) Production (bbl/day) Type
    Drashovice 1918 < 10 < 5.0 Oil
    Patos-Marinza 1927 12–25 2.5–6.0 2 000 - 12 000 Oil
    Kucove 1928 13–16 4.0 532 - 400–500 Oil
    Visoke 1963 5–16 5.0–6.0 170 34 < 500 O & G
    Divjake 1963 N/A N/A Gas
    Gorisht-Kocul 1965 < 17 6.0 256 51 925 O & G
    Frakulla 1965 N/A N/A Gas
    Ballsh-Hekal 1966 12–24 5.7–8.4 135 35 5 600 O & G
    Finiq-Krane 1973 < 10 3.7–4.3 Oil
    Arrez 1975 32.7 6.5 O & G
    Zharrez 1977 21.3 3.2 O & G
    Cakran-Mollaj 1977 14–37 0.9 192 530 650 O & G
    Amonice 1980 20 5 100 O & G
    Ballaj-Kryevidh 1983 N/A N/A Gas
    Poveice 1987 N/A N/A Gas
    Panja 1988 N/A N/A Gas
    Delvine 1989 30–31 0.7 O & G
    Sqepuri 2001 37 2.3 Oil
    Shpiragu 2013 35–37 < 3 2 200+ O & G
    Mollisht 2016 O & G
    Durres Block* 2005 < 40 < 3 1 960 960 O & G
    Note that most global crude oil is somewhat, generally, sour (higher % sulphur) and at 5 ppm is enough H2S to kill a man. Also note that water has an API gravity of 10, API gravity 10–20 is considered heavy crude oil, 20–35 medium crude oil, and 35 and above is considered light crude oil (AKBN, report, 2015, unpublished data).

    Table 5.  Data on oil & gas fields in Albania

    Crude oil production 2014 2015 2016
    Production (tons/yr) 1 368 222 1 279 252 1 004 767
    Production (bbls/day) 27 000 25 000 20 000
    Export (tons/yr) N/A 961 288 871 951
    Crude oil reserves O.O.I.P (bbls-billion) Recoverable (bbls-billion) Recover factor (%)
    Patos-Marinza (sandstone) 2.0 0.25 13
    Kucove (sandstone) 0.53 0.085 16
    Limestone/carbonate 0.70 0.27 40
    Total 3.23 0.6 -
    Natural gas 2016 (Nm3)
    Production 92 066
    Total reserves 4–5 billion

    Table 6.  Production & export of oil & gas in Albania. Note that ideal wells have 30%–40% recoverable oil (Puka, 2015)

    Production of oil in Albania was significant prior to 1990's with maximum production reaching up to 75 000 bbls/day in 1983 (see Fig. 7). After the fall of communism, the total production of oil decreased significantly due to instable politics as well as depletion of shallow wells. In modern times, the highest producing field is Patos-Marinza with an estimated 12 000 to 13 000 bbls/day whereas the typical total country production is approximately 22 000–27 000 bbls/day, ranking 60/100 countries right behind Syria in 2016 and exporting roughly 85% of the total crude oil it produces (see Table 6).

    Figure 7.  Albania crude oil production by year, 1980 to 2016 (Tushaj, 2016). Note: the major reduction in oil production during the fall of communism (1991–1992) with maximum production being in 1983 with an astounding production of 75 000 bbl/day.

    In comparison to other major oilfields in the world, Figs. 8 and 9 illustrate main Albanian oilfields and compares them head-to-head with other leading oilfields in the world, considering API gravity (petroleum liquid's density relative to that of water) and sulfur content (impurities in the crude oil that dictates quality) of the oil. Albanian crude oil does show to have equivalent quality compared to other major producing countries with medium-heavy crude oil reserves.

    Figure 8.  Comparison of Albanian oil to other leading oil producing countries. The fields noted in green are benchmark crude oil widely used in the industry, thus desirable crude oil is preferred to be in the top left corner of the chart, and undesirable in the center-bottom right corner. Source–modified by Hoxha and data obtained from World Oil Report 2016 (International Energy Agency, 2017) & US Energy Information Administration 2016.

    Figure 9.  Quality of oil in Albanian oil fields.

    Nevertheless, Albania still has predominant medium-heavy crude oil reserves that is not comparable to other benchmark crude oil such as WTI (West Texas), Brent (North Sea), Ural (Russian)—all light sweet crude oil that are extremely profitable. One of the most widely known heavy oil fields is the Athabasca oil sands in Canada, which contains API gravity of 8°–9°, literally heavier than water and has 4%–7% sulphur content—but still has become economically viable to sell with careful field development whereas in contrast, the Bati Raman oilfield in Turkey also produce heavy oil (10°–15° API with 450–1 500 cP) but proven mostly not economical to produce.

    Producing and refining Albanian crude oil is generally costly for this small southeastern European country. So the question is, in comparison to other heavy oil producing countries (Venezuela & Canada & Turkey), why does Albania with one of the largest onshore oil and gas reserves (Jacobs, 2015) in Europe have high gasoline/diesel prices (see Table 7)? The simplest explanation has to do with high tariffs, complexity, storage/ capacity, logistics, and cost of refining heavy oil in a country where the oil & gas industry is still, relatively, at the infant stages. The reservoirs still need major investments in order to develop and mature. Nevertheless, it should be noted that compared to the rest of its Balkan neighbors, Albania has clear advantages in the oil & gas industry but does not yet match other oil & gas producing countries. Thus, until it has the ability to parallel and match these countries, it should not only rely on drilling as the primary necessity to produce fuel.

    Country Diesel ($/liter) Gasoline ($/liter)
    Saudi Arabia 0.12 0.24
    USA 0.66 0.70
    Macedonia 0.90 1.16
    Bosnia 1.01 1.03
    Kosovo 1.18 1.21
    Montenegro 1.21 1.38
    *Slovenia 1.29 1.40
    *Croatia 1.31 1.38
    *Germany 1.31 1.47
    *Cyprus 1.32 1.31
    Albania 1.34 1.37
    Serbia 1.36 1.32
    *Greece 1.4 1.66
    *Switzerland 1.49 1.42
    In August 2016, the price of diesel in Albania was approximately $1.23/liter. *. European Union Country.

    Table 7.  Diesel and gasoline prices in the Balkans (May 2017)

    Information regarding the downstream sector in Albania.

    ● Advanced operations: with the initiatives of Bankers Petroleum, operations have applied horizontal drilling, hydraulic fracking, EOR, and advanced artificial lift systems that have made reservoirs in Albania more profitable.

    ○ Steam assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) was also considered by bankers.

    ● Refineries: Albania has two refineries in Ballsh and Fier, both privately owned by ARMO, with a refining capacity respectively of 1 million tons and 0.5 million tons annually, the refineries have enough capacity to refine local crude oil as well imported crude oil (Darbord, 2015). Despite some recent technological improvements, most of Albania's crude oil continues to be exported (see Fig. S3) while Albania imports most of its refined oil products for domestic consumption—thus contributing to high gasoline/diesel cost.

    ○ Elbasan Bitex refinery (3 750 bbl/day) was recently disassembled and scraped.

    ○ At the end of 2015, ARMO upgraded their refineries, which gave the country the capability to resume refining of gasoline with developments in the refineries reaching other specialized refining capabilities (bitumen, petroleum coke, virgin naphtha) that are not common in the regional market.

    Pipelines: Currently there is one major pipeline (TAP) still in construction and is expected to finish and operate by 2020. It will source gas from Azerbaijan (Shah Deniz Gas Field in the Caspian Sea) and connect to an existing pipeline in San Felca terminal in Italy. TAP passes through and begins its offshore/subsurface sector in Albania (see Fig. S2). The length is 878 km (546 mi), 10–20 billion m3 per annum max discharge with a diameter of 48 in (1 219 mm). Albania has recently formed "Albagaz" to handle the transmission and distribution of TAPʼs natural gas in the country and its neighbors.

    IAP pipeline (a branch of TAP) received approval (MoU) in summer 2017, which will fork from the gas terminal in Fier and will continue north passing Montenegro, Bosnia, and Croatia (see Fig. S2). Construction is expected to begin after 2020 and the length of pipeline would be 516 km (321 mi). The pipeline would be bi-directional, and its capacity would be 5 billion m3 (180 billion cubic feet) of natural gas per year.

    WBR pipeline is a proposed pipeline that forks of IAP and passes through Macedonia, Kosovo, and ends up in Serbia (see Fig. S2).

    ● Delvina gas field: a proven gas condensate field. It lies on one of the largest gas structures in southeastern Europe and is comprised of 60 000 net acres. It reserves 182 Mbbl oil and 3 634 Mmcf of natural gas and has a net possible reserves of 300 Mbbl of oil and 6 090 Mmcf of natural gas in Albania (see Fig. S4).

    ○ Exploratory wells are being drilled across the border to investigate the Janina/Ç ameria oil & gas field.

    Besides its prolific and proven oil and gas resources, Albania shows promise but yet very under-explored in terms of oil and gas exploration and production. Its potential is yet to be unleashed especially to benefit the consumer or the industrial industry (construction, transportation/logistics, and manufacturing).

    As it can be seen from the Table 7, the high price in gasoline and diesel negatively affects the consumer, as well as the industrial/manufacturing industry, making it costly to maintain heavy machinery, thus increase the price on practically all other sectors. For these reasons and many other reasons, there is a need for a suitable alternative in order to diversify fuel requirements and be less dependent on non-renewable resources.

    Lessons should be learned from long-suffering consequences from countries that are highly dependent on crude oil, such as:

    1. Venezuela—oil accounts for 96% of exports and 40% of government revenue.

    2. Libya—oil accounts for 65% of GDP and 95% of government revenue.

    3. Angola—50% of GDP and 70% of government revenue.

    The above-mentioned oil-dependent states have a common factor of fragile politics, internal/external conflicts, high amount of corruption such as oligarchy, no real free trade market, manipulation of cost etc. (World Oil Investment Report, IEA, 2017). Such states have a fragile economy that could whirl into a quick downspin impacted by any global factors (downturn of 2015–2016). It is mainly because they do not have any other industries to support their economies as they significantly exacerbate their natural resources. It is important to note Russia and Iran are also large oil-dependent export countries but are less impacted due to diversity in their economy. Thus, "waste-to-fuel" technology needs to be investigated in order to alleviate dependency on oil production and export.

  • A comprehensive study was performed that assessed and evaluated the historical and current situation of waste generation and its management/recycling at local and federal level. A 5-prong approach was undertaken to accurately understand the complex condition, (1) literature review from the scientific communities/universities, (2) government initiatives by both Albania and EU/EC programs, (3) commercial corporations & environmental service companies, (4) status to date of excising recycling companies, and (5) environmental activists. The information obtained and described here-in resonates the potential in the waste management and recycling initiative is well funded and professionally implemented, small countries such as Albania could become greener, more self-sustainable, and more economically independent.

    Renewable energy in Albania ranges from biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, and wind energy. Albania relies mainly on hydropower resource and accordingly faces complications during droughts (low rivers levels), which demonstrates the obvious problem when relying exclusively on hydropower energy (Karaj et al., 2010; Saraci and Leskoviku, unpublished data). Furthermore, the Mediterranean climate in Albania possesses considerable potential for solar energy with roughly 2 100–2 700 hours of sunshine in a given year (O'Brien, 2014; Xhitoni, 2013; Frasheri, 2005). In fact, the United Nations Development Program began a platform in 2012 support a program to install 75 000 m2 of solar panels in Albania by the end of 2018.

    The current status of waste management in Albania can be best described by a report written by "Green Economy in Albania" (Bino, 2012, report for UNDP) that describes the development of waste management infrastructure and institutional capacity in Albania being unsatisfactory and not able to keep pace with rapid economic growth and urban expansion. Further efforts described in the studies by Alcani et al. (2015), Lico et al. (2015), Alcani and Dorri (2013) and Dedej (2012) explain the current status of waste management in Albania and all come to a general consensus that waste recycling is substandard and partial as there is no separated/segregated collection of waste— the primary method of waste treatment is dumping and as of recently (2015–2016) incineration technology has been introduced. However, it must be noted that recent legislative advancement, motivated and assisted by the European Commission regulatory agencies, Albania has adopted waste management legislation, standards, and compliances aligned with the EU and in 2016 Albania has attempted to implement these laws (Gordani, 2015). Deputy Minister of the Environment of Albania, Olijana Ifti, presented a plan at the 24th OSCE forum in 2016 where the government had proposed a fully integrated strategy monitoring system that focused on plans for education, resourcing, and legislation that focused on tax/fees. With the proposed plan in focus, the projection had forecasted that by 2020, 25% of municipal waste would be prevented from reaching landfills and will be recycled and composted. Additionally, by 2025 energy recovery (reclamation) reach 25% from municipal waste—the present recycling in Albania is declared to be at approximately 10% (Kodra, 2013).

    Observing Table 8, it can be clearly seen that municipal urban waste has increased as expected. In 2016, it reached up to 1.02 million tons (note that these physical values are greater than what was projected by the government in 2009 by about 100 000 tons, Fig. 10) for a population of 3 million (2016 estimated census). However, considering the lack of control and proper "book-keeping" in rural areas, the actual total is most likely inflated higher than the values reported. Furthermore, it has been reported that approximately 350 000 tons of industrial waste annually is produced (estimated from values and figures from Kodra (2013); Source: Ministry of Public Works, Transport and Telecommunications), totaling an overall waste production of approximately 1.37 million tons annually for the year of 2016 which of 212 000 tons was inert. The value reported, realistically speaking, in regards to the amount of waste produced, is relatively similar to the waste production of neighboring countries.

    County 2014 2015 2016
    Berat 45 070 46 148 47 011
    Dibër 24 189 24 767 25 230
    Durrës 110 283 112 921 115 032
    Elbasan 42 924 43 951 44 773
    Fier 121 734 124 647 126 976
    Gjirokastër 63 242 64 755 65 965
    Korçë 56 435 57 785 58 865
    Kukës 29 921 30 637 31 210
    Lezhë 32 622 33 402 34 027
    Shkodër 51 153 52 377 53 356
    Tiranë 302 193 309 423 315 206
    Vlorë 100 340 102 740 104 661
    Total 980 106 1 003 554 1 022 312
    Source: Albanian Ministry of Transport & Infrastructure, INSTAT 2013–2016 report. Eurostat 2016-municipal waste generated, 2004=192 kg/person & 2016=318 kg/person. Note: OECD countries produced 572 million tons of solid waste in 2015 with China producing yearly municipal waste at a soaring 18 564.0 million tons (based on 246 cities in China) OECD/EIA Report 2016 (U.S. Energy Information Administration, 2016).

    Table 8.  Municipal urban waste produced in Albania (tons)

    Figure 10.  Waste stream composition in Albania. Estimated based on results from various sources, plastics is projected between 13.5%–15.5% (Lico et al. (2015) reported 13%, Lico et al. (2015) reported 13.5%, Dedej (2012) reported 14.4%, whereas Alcani and Dorri (2013) reported 17% plastic waste stream).

  • The feasibility section of this study focuses on the main question—can Albania sustain WTF technology by means of a circular economy model? This question needs to be answered whilst taking in consideration the two major factors, raw material resource (input) and the output being an industrial and/or synthetic diesel fuel, thus, being able to fulfill two critical requirements, (1) is there enough supply-waste (municipal and industrial), (2) is there enough demand-appropriate market to sell the end product?

    Figure 10 shows the categorized municipal and urban waste that is typically produced in Albania. Particularly, 66% of the waste is biodegradable with roughly 47% being organics that can be easily composted (organic waste, cardboard, paper, wood, and certain textile residues). Conversely, glass and metal, totaling 7%, can easily be recycled and are the primary recycled items in Albania due to the ease of reprocessing the material (recycling in Albania is reported to be roughly 10%, comparatively in region Serbia has the same percent). As far as reprocessing waste for the application of turning waste into energy (producing pyrolysis oil and eventually industrial synthetic diesel) the overall components are 2% rubber, 14% paper, and the most important element, 15% plastics, totaling 31% overall. Taking in consideration these two primary waste categories that constitute the raw materials needed to recycle waste into fuel, Albania has multiple viable options present.

  • Buçpapaj(2012, 2011, 2009), Jaupaj et al. (2011), Jaupaj and Lushaj(2011, 2010, 2009), Lushaj et al. (2012), Lushaj (2012a and 2012b) have paved the way for exploring the use of biomass to energy (BtE) and renewable energy potentials in Albania. Their comprehensive work details, methodically, wide-ranging aspects on how Albania can assess, implement, and benefit from its own natural and recycled waste (Toromani, 2010). Buçpapaj (2012) frequently mentions in his studies, Albania's capability to turn biomass residue in to energy is a possibility with high potential to benefit (see Table 9). For example, from the values reported in Table 8, annual municipal waste in 2016 was 1 022 312 tons, which of 66% was biodegradable—therefore 674 725 tons can be used to turn biomass into fossil fuels via WTF technology. Table 4, demonstrates that biodegradable products can yield approximately 40% "pyrolysis oil". According to industry corporations, Pyrocrat LLC, Jinpeng Industrial, Huayin group, and Doing industries, a typical pyrolysis plant can process, at a minimum, 10 tons of waste a day. Thus 10 tons of biodegradable/organic waste ×40% pyrolysis oil yields, theoretically, can produce 4 tons of pyrolysis oil. Considering 85% waste oil distillation plant efficiency to refine the oil, the output to industrial/synthetic diesel oil, is calculated to be 3.4 tons/day.

    Type of biomass Energy potential (ktoe)
    Forestry/wood processing residue 7 937
    Packaging-paper, cardboard 6 393
    Agriculture residue 1 818
    Animal waste 47.6
    Total 16 195
    Note: The following value are expected to be larger due to increase waste production by the populous in the past 5 years; Typical biomass conversion technologies can be combustion, co-firing, gasification, pyrolysis, CHP, etherification, fermentation, anaerobic digestion etc. Thus for Albania's case, 674 725 tons of biodegradable waste can be converted to 229 406 tons of reprocessed industrial diesel oil. Subsequently, if considering the density of diesel at 0.83 g/mL (see Table 2), this value can be converted to producing roughly 7 000 bbls of industrial diesel oil a day, all depending on the basic components and the purity of the waste.

    Table 9.  Recoverable biomass potential in Albania (Buçpapaj, 2012)

  • Looking at Fig. 10, it was aforementioned that 15% of the total municipal waste is plastic waste and 2% is rubber waste, consequently amassing 153 347 tons and 20 447 tons respectively for the year of 2016 (not considering the addition of industrial/construction waste which can be expected to increase the percentage of the resource allowable to be reprocessed to WTF). According to Table 4, plastics, in general, yield 90%–95% pyrolysis oil and rubber/tires usually yield 40% pyrolysis oil. Performing the same analysis as was performed for the biodegradable waste, plastics can yield 123 828 tons (approximately 800 000 bbls depending on purity) and rubber/tires can yield 6 952 tons (~50 000 bbls depending on purity) of industrial diesel oil for the year of 2016. Note that this investigation is not taking into consideration the reprocessing of waste oil, which pyrolysis plants (when properly fitted with the appropriate components) can also convert to diesel oil, nor does it take into consideration the import of waste plastics or plastic packaging material (values of import and export are detailed in Lico et al., 2015).

    Thus, according to the calculated conservative estimates, the total production of industrial diesel oil in Albania for the year 2016 is 360 186 tons of industrial diesel oil, roughly 36% of the total oil produced from drilling for the year of 2016.

  • (1) Waste to Energy Plants in Albania

    (a) WtE Incinerators that produce electricity: First waste- to-energy (WtE) plant in Albania has been inaugurated in the city of Elbasan in summer 2017. Owned by Albatek, it is a 2.85 MW power plant located in Elbasan, one of the most polluted towns in Albania. Integrated Technology Services will build the second 3 MW plant in Fier by end of 2017.

    (b) Pyrolysis plants-Most of the current Pyrolysis reactors in Albania are outdated, open to the environment and consist of Tire Pyrolysis (very limited waste source).

    (2) Supply-Demand-Price

    (a) Municipal waste has increased since 2014. This is the evidence of increasing consumer behavior of the population which inevitably leads to more municipal waste, and if properly managed could become profitable waste-to-fuel expenditures.

    (b) Markets that require the needs for fuel oils and industrial diesel oils: (i) Shipping industry: Greece, Italy, Croatia, and northern Africa; (ii) Industrial & Manufacturing & Agricultural sectors; (iii) For example: Titan Cementing in Albania uses a small WtE machine to recycle its own plant waste to power the plants furnaces.

    (c) In Europe, since 2014, fuel oil specifically for industry purpose has had consistent, average price at $0.5–$0.6 per liter and automotive diesel at $1.5/liter & domestic heating oil $0.85/liter for May 2017 (International Energy Agency, 2017).

    (3) Challenges

    Biomass and other inorganic solid waste (municipal and industrial) is a reoccurring and maintainable source stream in every single country. However, for developing countries with poor environmental administration and infrastructure, the key struggle lies in mass collection of the waste material and segregation from the overall waste stream, especially door-to-door separation. Unfortunately, most of the waste material is predominantly found in landfills. Without proper waste management programs, most recycling enterprises will face massive challenges in obtaining enough material to reprocess into fossil fuels.

    (4) Options

    (a) Development and re-organize waste management programs: (i) Support the recycling industry via tax incentives. (ii) Such as but not limited to, physical and legal entities, foreign or legal, whose undertaking creates waste, are obligated to pay taxes for creating waste and discharging it in the environment. (iii) Establish private-public enterprises.

    (b) Appropriate and competent regulatory agency: (ⅰ) Obligation to monitor and enforce waste segregation, and collection. (ⅱ) Prevention waste pollution and raise awareness/ educate. (ⅲ) Waste rehabilitation of existing waste disposal sites. (ⅳ) Processing and elimination of industrial waste.

    (c) Considering the large amount of raw material needed to "feed" an efficient pyrolysis plant, gathering waste/trash that has been disposed in landfills, urban developments, and waterways is not a practical method to sustain a recycling industry. (ⅰ) Waste management should feed the recycling industry and the recycling industry needs to enforce waste management. (ⅱ) Trash in the streets/waterways is an environmental issue not a recycling nor energy recovery issue. (ⅲ) As per discussion with "Green-line Albania", an environmental NGO organization based in Albania, they collected approximately 10 000 tons of waste from beaches and waterways in 2015–2016. In this scenario, where collection is informal, but intentional and most ideal with experienced personnel with proper equipment, shows that manual collection of waste is not enough to sustain a pyrolysis plant (and recycling in general) for even one day's operation. Thus, collecting waste disposed from the environment will not sustain a recycling industry.

    (d) Import raw material, legally and responsibly, to be reprocessed into fossil fuels: (ⅰ) The challenge lies in properly monitoring the raw material waste that is being imported via advanced scanning equipment to prevent illegal, hazardous, and toxic waste from entering the country and evading tariffs. (ⅱ) The policies to enforce these laws are the most difficult according to the EC as it is difficult to monitor all the cargo- entering ports.

  • From the study incurred, it is evident that Albania does indeed have an abundance of renewable energy sources and so far, much of evaluation in terms of scientific, technical and economical has seen minimal implementation. There has been a recent effort in 2016 to entice and stimulate this industry, but the lack of transparency and experienced personnel to lead the efforts has proved the topic slow to gain traction. The efforts for using WTF technology will assist in multiple industries bilaterally as waste from agro-industrial; animal and urban/municipal categories will help in creating job opportunities in the rural sectors. By exploiting available waste and carefully utilizing waste management practices, the Albanian populations can rely on the country's own renewable resources for bio-fuel or pyrolysis fuel. This improvement in efficiency and can decrease the import of energy and increase the internal production of fossil fuels which is impacts harshly the average consumer.

    Fossil fuel dependency in Albania can be characterized in Figs. 11 and 12 (shows Albania's refined product import as forecasted by HIS CERA consultation for the government of Albania in 2013). The graph demonstrates fuel oil (similar to pyrolysis oil) increased from 2000 to 2015 and is expected to be in constant demand until 2030. Additionally, diesel oil (used vastly in the industrial sector) is projected to practically double in the next 15 years. With this being said, it is important that fossil fuels obtained from WTF technology and fossil fuels attained from traditional drilling operations remain two industries that will not compete with each other but to become simultaneously symbiotic, separate, but supportive. This methodology will assist in "buffering" any economic impact that each industry might face.

    Figure 11.  Refined product demand in Albania (IHS Cera, 2013, unpublished data). Government statistic and IHS consulting projections are based on algorithm/models and are not direct representation to actual physical demand. Recent government results fully reflect the actual consumption for the following categories to be slightly higher given the increase in industrial applications.

    Figure 12.  Albania refined product import as forecasted by IHS CERA consultation for the government of Albania in 2013. As it can be seen, fuel oil (similar to pyrolysis oil prior to refining) has increased from 2000 to 2015 and is expected to be in constant demand until 2030. Additionally, Diesel oil is expected to practically double in the next 15 years.

    The practice of WTF implementation will indefinably assist the economy of Albania become a circular economy. An economy where materials that can be recycled are injected back into the economy as recovered secondary raw materials which can then become tradable and shipped under the same conditions as primary raw materials, thus increasing the security of supply. It is significantly important to mention that waste management practices have a direct impact on the quantity and quality of these secondary raw materials recovered from the waste stream. This in turn depends directly on the implementation of the waste hierarchy, which establishes a structure and prioritizes waste treatments beginning with prevention and moving through preparation for reuse, recycling and finishing up with energy recovery with the intention of minimizing disposal.

    The "waste hierarchy" schematic (see Fig. 13) created by the EC is designed to demonstrate the grading of importance when it comes to waste management and its recycling. The first step being to avoid/prevent any actual waste to begin with, achieving the maximum conservation of the resources. Later in the pyramid focuses on recycling programs that encourages the reuse of the products and thus implementing a WTE-WTF platform that ensures energy recovery prior to actual disposal of waste (zero conservation of resources). The target aimed by EC are intended to show obvious benefits reducing the amount of waste sent to landfills and incineration facilities, conserve natural resources such as timber, water, and minerals, prevent pollution by reducing the need to collect new raw materials and reduces greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global climate change.

    Figure 13.  Schematic of municipal waste management. Based on the recommendations of the European Commission & European Environmental Agency annual reports, 2008–2016.

    Furthermore, the information was reported from a comprehensive description that was written by Herczeg and Seyring (2016), where a study was presented by the Copenhagen Research Institute in collaboration with a waste management consultation company, BiPro from Germany, in which they highlight and map out waste management trends from 28 capitals of the European Union. Figures 14 and 15 depict remarkable insight into the EU member countries and their capitals regarding data on waste management and collection strategies. As it can be seen Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Belgium recycled over 50% and Netherlands leading with over 60% and Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, and Malta showing less than 10% in 2013 (note this values have recently slightly changed, mostly on the left side of the table where the Scandinavian countries have shifted to become top contenders in recycling). The highest values for incineration for energy recovery at where depicted by Switzerland (50%), Sweden (55%) and Denmark (57%). In addition, worst results were shown by Romania, Malta and Croatia, with most of its waste, over 90%, ending up in landfills. Furthermore, Fig. 15 shows capture rate for sum of paper, metal, glass, plastic, bio-waste for the EU-28 capitals. It is surprising that the top cities are not from Germanic or Scandinavian countries, but are sporadic-Ljubljana, Tallinn, and Dublin leading the pack and Zagreb, Sofia, and Bucharest in the back with significantly low capture rates of waste. Note that at the current moment only 11/28 EU capitols meet the requirements for capture rate for the five fractions set by the EU standards. It should also be noted that correlation should not equal causation and as such this figures show that each city has its own method for waste collection and separation i.e., Ljubljana, Tallinn, and Dublin have remarkable collection capture rates but does not equate to higher rates in recycling/composting/energy recover.

    Figure 14.  Municipal waste treatment in EU (Herczeg and Seyring, 2016, from European Commission & European Environmental Agency, 2016).

    Figure 15.  Capture rate for sum of paper, metal, glass, plastic, bio-waste for EU-28 capitals. Note that at the current moment only 11/28 EU capitols meet the requirements for capture rate for the five fractions set by the EU standards (Herczeg and Seyring, 2016).

    In contrast, Albania needs to avoid incidents such as the environmental disaster of Campania in Napoli, Italy. Slaybaugh (2017) and Livesay (2015) describe in well-accounted detail the crisis that has plagued the area since the late 1980ʼs. The issue has caused a huge problem of illicit/illegal dumping from organized crime syndicates that have turned waste dumping/landfills into an extremely lucrative business. Hazardous and toxic waste from all over Italy and certain parts of Europe has now amassed large volumes that has become difficult to control. The outcome has been catastrophic causing major issues to the area, such as to the agriculture (leach of toxins into the soil) and has been nicknamed (1) "the triangle of death" as the hazardous/toxic waste has increased the cancer rate significantly the past decade, and, (2) "the land of fire" due to burning waste piles. The Italian senate has passed a bill in 2014 to address the issue, but the problem has become so big that to date, there have been very limited effects from the legislation, and concurrently it will cost the Italian government millions of dollars to resolve the issue. The issue has alarmed the OECD and the EU/EC regulatory agencies and has warned to penalize the Italian state with fines if the issue is not contained. It has been recently reported that attempts are being made to ship the waste to Germany and other Scandinavian countries in order to properly dispose with minimal consequences.

    Albania does not need to "reinvent the wheel", it simply needs to duplicate and implement previously working models that have been rigorously studied and proposed by the EU/EC for waste management. However, it should not fall into the "pitfall" of "comparisons" and expect the same results as other countries get. From trial and error, it should reconfigure its own model that tailors best for the MSW needs and recycling in Albania. Moreover, these recycling industries at time of need should support private WTF industry where pyrolysis plants can be used to produce fossil fuels that could elevate cost, support, and stimulate the industrial and manufacture industry.

  • First, Besmir Buranaj Hoxha would like to thank his mentor, his father Burhan Hoxha, who has been continually supportive of his scientific and technical endeavors. Without his wisdom and guidance, this technical paper would have not been possible. Secondly, Besmir Buranaj Hoxha would like to thank Marton Herczeg from the European Institute of Innovation & Technology for his direction on waste management implementation into a circular economy model based on the European Commission program. Besmir Buranaj Hoxha would like to thank AKBN, especially Artan Leskoviku and Luan Nikolla, for their recurrent support to provide government data in the Oil & Gas sector. We would like to thank personally Ervin Shehaj at Green Line Albania for providing waste/littering information. Furthermore, we would like to thank Q. Sinaj Shpk for providing environmental data from the Albanian oilfields. Lastly, we would like to thank Dr. Zhien Zhang, editorial supervisor for Journal of Natural Gas Science and Engineering (JNGSE) for providing global plastic waste data & China waste management data. The final publication is available at Springer via

    Electronic Supplementary Materials: Supplementary materials (Figs. S1–S4; Tables S1–S2) are available in the online version of this article at

Reference (61)



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