Image: RWE

RWE and John Cockerill are collaborating on the construction of a testing facility in Germany that will optimize a critical stage in the process of converting domestic garbage to hydrogen.

The facility, dubbed a torrefaction plant, will be constructed at RWE’s research center in Niederaußem (Germany), and will be used to evaluate the manufacture of waste-derived feedstock pellets for use in the company’s unique FUREC waste-to-hydrogen venture. RWE will invest €3 million in the pilot plant, which will begin operations in July 2022.

The NESA Multi-Hearth furnace (MHF), a technology offered by John Cockerill Environment, is at the heart of the new Niederaußem plant. Waste pellets will be roasted (torrefied) in this furnace to the point where they can be pulverized into dust and transformed into hydrogen and CO2 in a subsequent thermal process in the absence of air.

The pilot plant will be located at the RWE Innovation Centre in Niederaußem, where the business already possesses the equipment for producing and storing gases. The facility is the next phase in the development of RWE’s FUREC project (Fuse Reuse Recycle), which involves the construction of a large-scale chemical recycling plant in the Limburg industrial park in the Netherlands.

RWE intends to use municipal waste to make circular and green hydrogen and CO2 for the chemical industry. FUREC will recycle the hydrogen and carbon dioxide that are often released into the atmosphere when garbage is burnt or landfilled. Due to the fact that a large portion of the trash utilized as feedstock will be organic (e.g., textiles, paper), 50% of the hydrogen recycled in this manner will be green. The remainder is classified as cyclical hydrogen due to its recovery from plastic waste and industrial use. This way, it is reintroduced into the material cycle.

By substituting waste streams for natural gas in the hydrogen generation process, FUREC expects to reduce natural gas consumption at Chemelot by more than 200 million cubic metres per year. This corresponds to the annual gas consumption of around 140,000 households and results in a CO2 reduction of 380,000 tons per year. CO2 emissions from the process can be stored in the future using CCS, resulting in negative emissions. Additionally, it can be used as a raw material (green carbon) at Chemelot or transported via pipeline to locations such as Rotterdam or Germany’s Ruhr region.

RWE is currently advancing the Dutch FUREC project and has initiated the appropriate licensing procedures. In 2023, the business intends to make a final investment decision on FUREC. RWE is in discussions with the business OCI N.V., which owns a hydrogen manufacturing plant in Chemelot, about the possibility of selling hydrogen in the future. Hydrogen would enable OCI to improve the sustainability of its supply chain and contribute to circular food production.

Christophe Cassant, CEO John Cockerill Environment: “This project is an example of how John Cockerill Environment’s technologies respond to the challenges of tomorrow. We are proud to participate in RWE’s FUREC project because it will help decarbonise the industry and meet the needs of our clients  in both the Netherlands and Germany. Our MHF furnace technology will be used in future applications which will make an active contribution to reducing carbon emissions.”

Nedim Husomanovic

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