customer experiences

CO2 from waste incineration into useful product

10 August 2020 • 4 min reading time

As long as the business community is still dependent on fossil fuels and raw materials, it produces CO2. Capture is therefore essential to prevent harmful emissions. You can then store the CO2 underground, but another option is to reuse it. The raw materials and energy company Twence in the province of Overijssel is already a long way along that road. Together with TNO, it is constantly breaking new ground.

Just as we start speaking with project manager Andy Roeloffzen of Twence, his smartphone buzzes a signal. "The latest measurement data from TNO from our capture installation. Those measurements continue day and night. Together with the TNO experts, we analyse the flue gases that are released in order to continuously improve the capture process," he says.

Optimising capture

For more than a decade, Twence, with fifteen municipalities in Twente as shareholders, has been transforming itself from a traditional waste incineration company into a supplier of innovative solutions for raw materials and energy. Energy is produced from waste streams and biomass and delivered to businesses and households, as well as raw materials for industry, construction and agriculture as well as horticulture.

In 2007 it took the first steps to make use of a solvent to purify the flue gases containing CO2. This eventually led to the construction of a small-scale capture installation, which became operational in 2014. To this end, Twence is working closely with TNO to capture and reuse CO2 more and more effectively.

 "TNO is the obvious partner for the measurements and analyses of flue gases, and for optimising the capture"

Mobile TNO capture installation

"We have explored extensively at home and abroad which parties could support us in this. It turned out that no company or institution knows as much about CO2 as TNO. We also work with various companies and with the University of Twente. TNO is the obvious partner for the measurements and analyses of flue gases, and for optimising the capture. No-one else has a mobile CO2 capture installation, a pilot plant, to take on-site measurements," Andy says.

Accurate measurement and analysis

"CO2 capture is an extremely complex issue," says TNO researcher Arjen Huizinga. "You can't just put a standard installation on a chimney to capture it. Everything you burn releases CO2, but every flue gas that contains it is different. Major contributors to CO2 emissions are power plants, waste incinerators, steel producers, cement plants.

These are all different production processes and also different flue gases. So you have to measure and analyse very accurately to gain insight into the composition of the gas, and which type of solvent you use to capture the CO2. The technology may be mature, but when it comes to large-scale application we are still at the beginning."

"CO2 capture is an extremely complex issue," . Everything you burn releases CO2, but every flue gas that contains it is different"

Double profit

Andy: "As an energy-from-waste plant in the Netherlands, we now have a few years of experience with capture, albeit on a small scale. In the coming years, we aim to capture and reuse 100,000 tonnes of CO2. Because then you'll be really circular: the CO2 will serve as a useful product for other sectors, such as greenhouse horticulture. That is a double profit, because the CO2 is no longer emitted into the atmosphere and the horticulture sector no longer needs to burn natural gas for this purpose.

With the help of TNO's expertise, we have now built a flue gas cleaning installation with which we can capture CO2, purify it and liquefy it so that it can be transported in tankers. For the future, we are investigating whether even more sectors can benefit from the CO2 that is captured. In addition to direct use of CO2 in applications in the food processing industry, among others, it can also be used as a building block for biofuels and basic chemical and high-end chemistry as well as in building material applications."

Formic acid

For instance, Twence, in collaboration with TNO, is constantly looking for methods to close cycles so that no waste remains. This is being done at the moment, for example, by a self-designed process to make baking powder (NaHCO3) from CO2 to clean the flue gases in the power stations. The company is also currently investigating with TNO the possibilities of formic acid.

Arjen: "You can make all kinds of other molecules from CO2 to manufacture useful products. Think of methanol, a basic raw material for industry, or formic acid that you can use as fuel. Again, it’s a double profit, because you capture CO2 and you are no longer dependent on oil to make products".

"Twence, in collaboration with TNO, is constantly looking for methods to close cycles so that no waste remains"

Cooperation in the region

When exploring new possibilities and applications with TNO, Twence mainly looks at potential customers in the region. This summer an installation was commissioned to supply CO2 in liquid form to horticulture growers as a fertiliser for their plants. But that's just the beginning.

Andy: "We are now looking at which other companies in the region we can serve with our products. When I started here more than twenty years ago, we had two lines to incinerate Twente waste. Now we sell products that we make from the waste. We are in talks with companies in the neighbourhood to replace the raw materials they use with alternatives that are made on the basis of captured CO2. There are still many useful applications ahead."

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