Is an Air Burner the same as a Containerized Incinerator?

What’s the difference between an Air Curtain Burner and a Containerized Incinerator?


Air Curtain Burners (ACBs) and containerized incinerators each have their own particular operating objective:

  • A containerized incinerator is a machine that uses a fuel source to create heat and burns the waste at a high temperature reducing it to bottom ash.
  • An air curtain burner is a machine that reduces smoke, aka particulate matter while burning waste materials. Since the waste material is the fuel source, the burn is natural—in other words, the air curtain burner (ACB) requires no external secondary fuel source to create the heat and reduce the waste to ash.

Both machines eliminate waste. But the containerized incinerator relies on a secondary fuel source to generate heat and burn the waste. In contrast, ACB generates heat by trapping trap smoke and particulates to reduce the waste to ash.

Let’s take a more in-depth look.


How Air Curtain Burners Control Pollution

As mentioned, a containerized incinerator needs its own heat source to burn waste materials. Unfortunately, creating sufficient heat to do its job requires a secondary fuel source, often a significant and costly amount of diesel or natural gas.

Moreover, a containerized incinerator—even a large portable incinerator— requires significant material preprocessing (like grinding) before it can even begin burning.

This preprocessing has both a high monetary and environmental cost. The costs of transportation, fuel, and labor all come into play, as does consideration for the pollution involved and the cost of mitigation measures for that pollution, such as flue gas cleaning systems and filter changes.


Is an Air Curtain Burner a Better Alternative Than a Containerized Incinerator?

An Air Curtain Burner is a pollution control device, not a containerized incinerator. ACBs do not have systems designed to support combustion like a true containerized incinerator. You may have seen ACBs referred to as “air curtain incinerators,” but an ACB is better thought of as a container, “burning dumpster,” or receptacle for the burn rather than the furnace itself.

Containerized incinerators process a wide range of waste materials, while ACBs cleanly burn wood and vegetative waste. An incinerator, as implied above, must use a device like an ACB to control or contain the particulate matter to prevent its release during the burning process.

Clean wood waste bound for ACBs may result from private or commercial land clearing, disaster recovery, or forestry management. Once loaded into an ACB, such as an Air Burners FireBox, the burn starts by lighting the waste wood like you would light a campfire with a small amount of accelerant. The fire then continues to burn naturally, like a campfire. But unlike a campfire, the Air Curtain will trap and eliminate the smoke once engaged.

The “air curtain” is the technology that enables the primary objective of the ACB, to reduce the black carbon particulate matter (PM), or smoke, which results from burning clean wood waste. The air curtain traps the black carbon PM and re-burns it, reducing it to an acceptable limit per U.S. EPA guidelines. (Black carbon absorbs up to 1,500 times more heat than does CO2 while in the atmosphere. According to the IPCC, black carbon accelerates the melting of polar ice after falling back to Earth, contributing to rising sea levels.)

The air curtain is not engaged until the fire has grown in strength to prevent the air curtain itself from blowing the fire out. It usually takes a quarter of an hour or so for the fire to reach a suitable strength. Once operational, the air curtain activates and runs steadily throughout the burn operation. After that, waste wood gets loaded at a rate consistent with the burn rate.

The air curtain's primary purpose is to create a "secondary burn chamber." The air curtain acts as a lid that covers the open top of the FireBox. This lid traps smoke particles rising from the hot gases of the fire and keeps them in the container. These smoke particles are then re-burned to reduce their size significantly. Once reduced, the particles can escape through the air curtain and appear more like waves of heat than smoke. The result is much more environmentally friendly than open burning, with opacities well under 10% per EP A Method 9 Testing (compared to open burning, which typically runs at 80% to 100% opacity).

For removing vegetative waste, an ACB is the preferred choice over a containerized incinerator. Many containerized incinerators operate at fixed locations, but even the large portable incinerators are bulky, costly to move, and require secondary fuel sources.

Whereas all of our Air Burners are mobile or portable, saving fuel for you and reducing the impact on the planet. Most incinerators also require grinding or other expensive preprocessing of the material in advance, ACB’s do not.

As long as you’re feeding a FireBox clean wood waste, you don’t need to go to the trouble and expense of grinding it or chipping it in advance—we can accommodate whole logs and root balls. Air Burners’ technology controls black carbon emissions while transforming the waste into electric and thermal energy. It also produces an enriching soil treatment known as “biochar.” Tested by over a dozen US federal agencies, governments, and businesses worldwide, Air Burners is as green as it gets when it comes to biomass elimination.

Want to see Air Burners in action? Check out our video page.

Are you interested in Biomass Energy? See how we use this technology to make electrical and thermal energy with our PGFireBox.