Covanta partners with University at Buffalo on WTE research

The two parties will study the impact of Covanta’s Niagara Falls, New York, facility.


The University at Buffalo (UB) in New York is partnering with the waste management firm Covanta, Morristown, New Jersey, to study the company’s waste-to-energy facility in Niagara Falls. The plant, called the Niagara Resource Recovery Facility, turns municipal solid waste (MSW) into steam and electricity.

A research team from the university’s department of civil, structural and environmental engineering and its Research and Education in Energy, Environment and Water (RENEW) Institute will independently quantify the facility’s environmental and economic impacts on the Buffalo Niagara region and compare it to landfilling.

The team will consider everything from waste collection, processing and transportation to the combustion process, including greenhouse gas emissions, metals recovery, ash management and steam generation.

Researchers at the university say the study, expected to be completed by the end of 2018 and published in peer-reviewed academic journals, will be one of the most comprehensive and quantitative comparisons between municipal waste combustion and landfilling.

The project’s principal investigator is John Atkinson, assistant professor in UB’s department of civil, structural and environmental engineering and a member of UB’s RENEW Institute, which tackles complex energy and environmental and their social and economic ramifications.

Michael Shelly, an environmental economist at RENEW, will serve as coprincipal investigator. “This project is an excellent opportunity to comprehensively examine the life-cycle of a waste-to-energy facility. We’re looking forward to conducting the analysis and sharing those results with Covanta and the public,” Atkinson and Shelly say in a joint statement.

“The team at UB brings a great interdisciplinary approach to environmental engineering with unique expertise focusing on complex energy and environmental issues. We are very pleased to have them engaged on this project to be better understand the benefits and impacts of the Covanta Niagara facility,” Kevin O’Neil, Covanta Niagara business manager, says.