From linear to circular carbon economy - New Consortium for a Circular Carbon Economy

Group Picture
The TU Bergakademie Freiberg and key actors from energy, chemical and waste management sectors initiate the first consortium in Germany to close the carbon cycle

The combustion of waste and coal for electricity and heat generation not only leads to adverse environmental impacts, it also represents a waste of these valuable domestic carbon resources which could otherwise be used as raw materials for chemical production. The TU Bergakademie Freiberg – as the resource university – is called upon to develop solutions jointly with the industry to initiate a carbon transition i.e. to recycle and channel carbon resources back into the carbon cycle rather than simply combusting them at the end of their life cycle as in the dominant linear economy approach. To support the transformation from a linear to circular carbon economy, the Institute for Energy Process Engineering and Chemical Engineering (IEC) at the TU Bergakademie Freiberg initiated the first Consortium for a Circular Carbon Economy (Arbeitsgemeinschaft Kohlenstoffkreislaufwirtschaft – ARGE K2) in Germany. Forerunners are partners from North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), namely the leading companies RWE, INEOS and REMONDIS from the energy, chemical and waste management sectors respectively. Together with IEC as initiator and project coordinator, they form the ARGE K2-NRW.

The kick-off meeting of the ARGE K2-NRW took place on 19 September at the headquarters of REMONDIS in Lünen in the Ruhr region, where REMONDIS operates Europe’s largest center for industrial recycling. Over the next three years, scenarios for a circular carbon economy through the chemical utilization of residual waste – with and without integration of the chemical utilization of Rhenish lignite – will be developed. Project lead Dr. Roh Pin Lee, Head of the Technology Assessment Research Division at IEC and the STEEP-CarbonTrans Research Group funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) noted, “The ARGE K2-NRW is a first for the sector-coupling as it is not existent in this form so far. The coming together of the energy, chemical and waste management sectors opens the door to new intersectoral value chains for the sustainable utilization of carbon resources and facilitates holistic technology and impact assessment”.

In the ARGE K2-NRW, concepts will not only remain on paper. Concrete plans for the technical and logistical integration of circular carbon technologies will be developed for selected locations in NRW.  Of particular interest to the industry is the innovative FlexiSlag technology for converting multiple carbon sources into synthesis gas. This technology was successfully demonstrated in May 2018 at IEC’s pilot plant in Freiberg with 100% waste feedstock. For the industry partners in ARGE K2-NRW, one of the most important questions is whether and under which conditions such sustainable circular carbon approaches could be economically feasible, and which risks are associated with their market implementation.

Further ARGE K2 consortiums are currently in preparation in the vicinity of large chemical sites in Germany. There is a great deal of interest in the transformation from a linear to circular carbon economy. The motivations include contribution to reducing the carbon footprint, addressing the global waste challenge as well as reducing the chemical industry’s one-sided dependency on imported fossil raw materials for their production.

Contact Person: Dr. Roh Pin Lee, Tel: +49 3731 394423