Lippstadt (Germany), November 24, 2022. thyssenkrupp rothe erde, the world’s leading manufacturer of slewing bearings, is breaking new ground in climate protection: with a carbonization plant the first of its kind in Germany, the company is taking a major step towards reducing CO2 with an innovative technology. The plant is one form of Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR), a term used to describe processes in which C02 is removed from the atmosphere and then permanently stored.
In the carbonization plant, residual wood is carbonized in a pyrolysis process. This produces regenerative heat and biochar. “Our carbonization plant is unique in Germany in terms of its dimensions and is the first time negative emission technology has been integrated in a German industrial group,” explains Dr. Wilfried Spintig, COO at thyssenkrupp rothe erde. “We use the heat generated in the pyrolysis process for our production site in Lippstadt and can thus cover around 80% of our on-site heat requirements. ” This renewable heat replaces previously fossil fuels. By way of comparison, the heat produced in the plant is equivalent to the annual demand of almost 300 four-person households.
The successful industrial integration of the carbonization plant is made possible by a special cooperation: The carbon removal start-up Novocarbo GmbH is responsible for the quality assurance of the production process, distributes the biochar and generates and markets the resulting carbon removal certificates, which are issued and verified by Puro Standard. The mechanical engineering company PYREG GmbH from Dörth supplies and installs the PX1500, the latest generation of its NetZero technology.
Jump-starting the decarbonization of industry
In Lippstadt, unprocessed and uncontaminated wood is used as feedstock, consisting on the one hand of packaging residues and on the other hand of appropriately dried green waste. Around 2,500 metric tons of residual wood are used annually to generate over 5,300 MWh of heat and around 640 tons of biochar, which is used among other things as a soil conditioner in agriculture. “thyssenkrupp rothe erde will be climate-neutral by 2050, and to achieve this we are also constantly looking for new ways to implement decarbonization at our company,” explains Wilfried Spintig. “This plant is also a pilot project for us and, in our eyes, can be a component for a meaningful jump-start on the way to decarbonization for other industries as well.”
1,500 tons of CO2 per year bound over thousands of years
The PX 1500 plant from the Rhineland-Palatinate technology specialist Pyreg is used in Lippstadt. “The plant for decarbonization creates 100% renewable energy, and external energy only needs to be supplied to start the plant,” explains Jörg zu Dohna, CEO at Pyreg. This is because the carbonization process also produces gases that keep the plant running autothermally, i.e. virtually by itself, once the operating temperature of around 700° has been reached. Heat still leads a shadowy existence among renewable energies: “While almost half of the energy for electricity already comes from renewable sources, the figure for heat is just two percent,” explains Jörg zu Dohna. “In this respect, charring is a ‘double’ climate protection tool: it creates renewable energy and permanently binds the CO2 already sequestered in the green waste in the biochar.”
Biochar as a climate-friendly end product
If, for example, green waste were simply left to rot, the CO2 stored in it by way of photosynthesis would be released in a climate-damaging manner. “One ton of biochar binds around 2.5 to 2.8 tons of CO₂, depending on the carbon content and further use. The biochar is produced in a combustion-free process. If it is then used as a filler in building materials, for example, the CO₂ ends up in a permanent carbon sink and is safely stored for thousands of years. “, explains Caspar von Ziegner, CEO at Novocarbo, market leader in biochar.
The biochar produced in Lippstadt is currently undergoing testing for the European Biochar Certificate (EBC), a quality standard and control certificate. “Biochar is mainly used as a soil conditioner in agriculture, peat substitute in the earth industry, or in stormwater management for blue-green infrastructure projects,” explains Caspar von Ziegner. In addition, biochar replaces fossil or high-emission resources in industry, for example molded plastic parts, floor coverings or as an aggregate in concrete. “The CO₂-removal from the atmosphere in combination with regenerative heat production and the diverse uses of biochar are important pieces of the puzzle of our climate-neutral society of tomorrow,” says the CEO of Novocarbo.