What’s unique: the gas can be extracted not only from biomass but also from carbon carriers that are hard to handle (such as plastic waste containing chlorine) – without producing any carbon emissions or toxic organic pollutants such as dioxins and furans. Nor does the process create any flue gases which would otherwise necessitate complicated cleaning. Ecoloop gas is a blend of methane, hydrogen and carbon monoxide; it can either be used as a fully-fledged substitute for fossil fuels (coal, oil or gas) in industrial processes or as a raw material, such as in the production of fuels and plastics.
The first large-scale 32 MW pilot plant is currently being put into operation in the Kaltes Tal lime works of Xella subsidiary Fels-Werke in the Upper Harz region. Production there should start in the course of this year; the syngas that is produced will be used a standard fuel for lime production. The fuels formerly used (such as natural gas) will then be replaced by ecoloop gas, which is much cheaper to produce.
And Xella is already thinking ahead: “This technology can be transferred to practically any other industrial application worldwide. It secures a supply of energy regardless of the location, while helping conserve our natural resources at the same time”, explains Jan Buck-Emden, chairman of the managing board of the Duisburg-based Xella Group. He also sees another advantage too: the investment can be paid off within just a few years and is highly profitable.
Ecoloop gas much cheaper than fossil fuels
“Depending on the circumstances in question, we estimate that customers will be in a position to cut their energy costs by as much as 50%, while significantly improving their carbon footprint”, adds Roland Möller, co-inventor of the technology and a member of the ecoloop managing board. At the same time, the technique reduces dependence on the volatility of energy prices.
Both Xella and independent experts consider the market potential to be huge. Enquiries concerning specific projects have already been received from various large-scale industries, as well as from the global recycling sector. Target markets are emerging in steel production, the automotive industry, in chemicals and the production of plastics, as well as in sectors such as paper, glass, salt, sugar and cement, not to mention the recycling industry. ecoloop GmbH was founded to market the technique internationally.
More efficient waste treatment and new recycling solutions
The advantages of the ecoloop technology go far beyond the use of cheaply produced gas as an alternative to fossil fuels (destined to become increasingly more expensive in the long run), the associated CO2 optimisation, and use of the gas as a raw material: it also has the potential to make conventional thermal waste recycling far more efficient and eco-friendly, thus clearing the way for completely new recycling solutions. Depending on the feed materials used, key raw materials such as rare earths can also be recovered through bonding with the lime.
Preparations are currently underway for a targeted marketing of the technology. “If ecoloop turns out to be an on-going technical and commercial success it could become a new field of business for the Xella Group in the long run,” predicts Buck-Emden. “Allin all,ecoloop is set to have a major impact on sustainable environmental and resources protection within the industrial sector.”
Accolade from jury chaired by Professor Klaus Töpfer
This is also the reason for ecoloop receiving the German innovation award for climate and the environment. In January 2012, for the third time, the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Reactor Safety and the Federation of German Industry jointly honoured innovations in the field of climate and environmental protection that are both pioneering and effective. The distinguished panel of judges under the chairmanship of Professor Klaus Töpfer chose the Xella subsidiary Fels-Werke, Goslar, from a large number of applicants as the award-winner in the category "Process innovations for climate protection". The scientific assessment was carried out by the Fraunhofer Institute for System and Innovation Research ISI in Karlsruhe.
For more details on ecoloop technology please see www.ecoloop.eu.
Contact for the press
Ernst Arelmann - Head of International Marketing & Corporate Communications
Tel.: +49 203 60880-5500, Email: Ernst.Arelmann@xella.com