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News | 2023-12-01
Pulp mill in Piteå

New solutions for the process industry – circularity and resource efficiency supported by digital twins

Old tyres replacing fossil fuels, increased use of aluminium scrap, and phosphorus from wastewater and industrial ash being recycled into fertiliser. The four-year EU project Retrofeed, in which six heavy industries in the steel and cement sectors, among others, have improved their energy efficiency and switched to circular raw materials and renewable energy sources, has now come to an end. These results were achieved by improving equipment and developing measurement and control systems. Digital twins have been developed for decision support.

"Over these four years, the importance of industry's transition has become crystal clear; it's seen as a matter of survival. A pandemic, an energy crisis and a war breaking out in Europe have had a tangible impact on the participating industries, causing them to periodically interrupt production or to change suppliers of raw materials and energy. More efficient use of energy and raw materials, together with increased use of circular raw materials, is seen as the only way forward if they are to remain", says Sofia Klugman, project manager at IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute.

The industries involved in the project produce cement, steel, aluminium, ceramic materials and fertilisers. They are located in Portugal, Romania, Turkey, Italy and Spain. The aim is to improve the efficiency of resource utilization, and to create more flexibility for the industries, making them less sensitive to fluctuations in raw material and energy prices and external events. The industries have implemented improvements in their main processes in parallel with the development of digital tools for improved governance, to ensure that product quality is not affected.

"For instance, steel industries have started to use old tyres and plastic waste to replace fossil anthracite in their electric arc furnaces, the aluminium industry uses more scrap instead of primary raw materials, and recycled phosphorus from wastewater treatment and industrial ash is used for fertiliser production", says Sofia Klugman.

IVL has evaluated the results from environmental, socio-economic and social perspectives, in order to assess the sustainability of each industry's change initiatives. Social life-cycle analysis is a method under development; it is used to assess various social impacts. It has been applied to identify the risks and opportunities of industries throughout the value chain with different stakeholder groups in mind.

"We have also developed a training programme to facilitate the dissemination of the project's results. This is a basic idea in Retrofeed – to develop solutions that can be used by more companies in the process industry", says Sofia Klugman.

The project website contains the training material. Visit E-learning – Retrofeed External link, opens in new window.

For more information, contact:
Sofia Klugman, sofia.klugman@ivl.se, tel. +46 (0)10-788 67 17

Retrofeed is an abbreviation of “Implementation of a smart retrofitting framework in the process industry towards its operation with variable, biobased and circular feedstock”. It is a five-year project, with 18 partners in ten countries. It is funded partly through the EU's Horizon 2020, and has a total budget of EUR 15 million. Read more on the project's website: retrofeed.eu External link, opens in new window.

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