09 Aug 2021
Fossil fuel power plants, along with the waste-to-energy, steel, aluminum, glass, fertilizer and cement industries all have one unfortunate commonality: they are all classified as high CO2-emitting industries.
Carbon dioxide (CO2), one of several greenhouse gases, absorbs infrared radiation (net heat energy) emitted from Earth’s surface and reradiates it back, contributing to the greenhouse effect. While CO2, methane, and water vapor are the most common greenhouse gases, surface-level ozone, nitrous oxides and fluorinated gases also trap infrared radiation. Once released, GHGs may remain in the atmosphere for hundreds – even thousands – of years.
To meet the targets set by the Paris Agreement, the rise in the global temperature must be kept to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels to mitigate further catastrophic erosion of the world’s natural ecosystem. Failure to do so will increasingly threaten food production, and life in general, on the planet.
- United Nations, Climate Change Annual Report 2019
To meet the urgent demand for emissions reduction globally, GEA has put together a dedicated team to drive progress in CO2 abatement among high-emitting industries, with particular focus on:
An established global leader in the development, design and installation of emission control systems and technologies for customers in key process industries, GEA has more than a century of expertise. This diverse portfolio includes:
The utilization of excess heat from industrial processes like glass and cement production is mandatory for achieving global climate protection goals. This requires the integration of a waste heat recovery unit (WHRU) which is a much more sustainable alternative than simply discharging heat into the atmosphere – or cooling the gases by injecting water into them. The latter method, for example, means valuable thermal power is lost, or is available at a much less desirable temperature.
This recovered heat can be used within the air treatment process or to generate power. Likewise, it can be used to produce compressed air which is required in the production process or diverted to district heating networks or other drying processes.
Cement producer and GEA customer Heidelberger Cement will soon commission a WHRU. The system will take process heat generated during clinker cooling and divert it to a dryer to bring roughly 70,000 tons of dewatered sewage sludge from regional treatment plants up to 90 percent dry solids annually. With a calorific value of 11 to 13 megajoules per kilogram, the solids will be kept on-site and used as green energy for the plant, replacing an otherwise significant amount of fossil fuel. This solution is part of the company’s target to reduce CO2 emissions by 30 percent by 2025 and produce CO2-neutral concrete by 2050.
In 2012, GEA supported German/Austrian producer Rohrdorf Zement with the world’s first tail end denitrification system for cement production. The plant includes a GEA waste heat recovery unit (WHRU) and transfer circuit to allow heat to be reused on site.
Glass manufacturer Saint Gobain in Pisa, Italy, use a GEA WHRU and organic Rankine cycle (ORC) power plant to gain thermal power from their furnace. On site, this energy is used:
As a result, the company saves roughly 5,000 tons of CO2 and nearly a million US dollars in electricity costs annually at this site.
An ORC plant is a good option for significantly reducing CO2 emissions, particularly in plants where fluctuating thermal power is fed to the ORC. This includes glass applications and the clinker cooling side in cement plants. Likewise, an ORC plant generates no additional CO2 emissions.
Technologies for carbon capture, storage and utilization (CCS/CCU) involve trapping CO2 where it is produced at factories and fossil-fuel-burning power plants. In some industries the energy related CO2 emissions are accompanied by process-related emissions, which stem from the conversion of the feedstock itself (e.g., CaCO3 → CaO in the cement industry) and therefore cannot be avoided by reducing the energy demand of the process or by switching to alternative fuels. Capturing CO2 before it is released to the atmosphere, then utilizing or storing it, is a viable option and vital for minimizing the greenhouse effect.
GEA emission control technologies meet all boundary conditions for the transition to CO2 scrubbing, which is the process required for separating carbon dioxide from the exhaust gas. However, before this is possible, it is necessary to clean the gas. To ensure the efficient performance of the CO2 separation system (e.g., via amine scrubbing) and a long life of the absorption media, CO2 separation plants require ultra-clean flue gases.
The first step is pre-treatment and fines purification, for which GEA offers diverse solutions for removing pollutants, including sulfuric and nitric oxides. Once the waste gas is clean, CO2 separation can begin. To ensure the process does not impede production, GEA recommends tail-end CO2 separation processes.
Given the importance of having stable, predictable and flexible utilization pathways for captured CO2, it is recommended that producers choose these pathways before selecting a separation process and plant. GEA offers small and mid-size CO2 separation plants for maximum flexibility, allowing customers to produce CO2 of varying purity grades and produce different products via the same separation unit; this includes solutions that utilize carbonates, amines and in the future, ammonia.
The CO2 captured during industrial processes – or pulled from the atmosphere – can be used in lieu of pulling carbon from fossil sources. Captured CO2 is already diverted for use across many applications and industries, including:
By partnering with GEA, customers have a global leader at their side with decades of experience in emission reduction technologies. In-depth industry knowledge and a scientific understanding of gaseous properties enables GEA to design emission control systems with longer lifetimes. Our solutions for waste heat recovery and fine purification for gas streams, including thermal separation, are used globally by customers to meet – and more often exceed – legal emission requirements with the lowest possible energy consumption.
- Felix Ortloff, Head of Scrubber Systems, GEA
GEA is one of the world’s largest systems suppliers for the food, beverage and pharmaceutical sectors. Our portfolio includes machinery and plants as well as advanced process technology, components and comprehensive services. Used across diverse industries, they enhance the sustainability and efficiency of production processes globally.
GEA is listed in the German MDAX and the STOXX® Europe 600 Index and is also among the companies comprising the DAX 50 ESG and MSCI Global Sustainability Indices.
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