EU project investigates how to turn residual steel gas emissions into urea production

New initiative named the INITIATE Project (Innovative Industrial Transformation of the steel and chemical industries of Europe) aims to investigate and develop the potential of industrial symbiosis to convert residual steel gas emissions into resources for urea production. The project will be operated by a consortium, led by the Dutch Research Institution TNO, and has received an exceptional grant of 21 million EURO from the European Commission under the Horizon 2020 Framework Program.

Efforts will be driven by a consortium of steel, chemical and energy transition companies, research institutions, universities and industrial partners active in both the steel and fertilizer industry, including Stamicarbon, MET Development and NextChem which are the subsidiaries of Maire Tecnimont Group. According to its members, the INITIATE project will demonstrate a novel symbiotic and circular process that transforms residual steel gases into resources for urea production. The core of this process is a modular carbon-capture utilization-and-storage (CCUS) technology, integrating the flexible conditioning of time dependent and carbon-rich steel gases with the synthesis of ammonia.

Figure 1: the INITIATE symbiotic system and the respective reference system.

Figure 1: the INITIATE symbiotic system and the respective reference system.

Throughout the project, these innovative technologies and their optimal integrated operations will be proven in real industrial settings at the facilities of Swerim in Lulea, Sweden, advancing to technology readiness level. The successful demonstration will enable to move forward with the construction of a First-of-a-kind plant at the scale of 150 t(Urea)/d, within a timeframe of 5 years.

The future implementation of the INITIATE process holds enormous potential to reduce primary energy, raw material and Green-House Gases (GHG) emission intensities, compared to current practice in both the steel and fertilizer industry. This potential will consequently translate in significant social, economic and environmental opportunities for society as a whole, as the combined steel and urea sectors are directly responsible for 30% of all industrial carbon emissions1 and >4% of the global annual GDP. Therefore, by coupling these two energy intensive, but also valuable sectors, the INITIATE Project will be a key milestone towards the realization of a carbon neutral and circular process industry.

Figure 2: Estimated impacts.

Figure 2: Estimated impacts.

Stamicarbon, the innovation and licensing company of Maire Tecnimont Group, is actively participating in the INITIATE project, as this fits perfectly in its innovation program to develop more sustainable technologies for fertilizer production. The project represents one of its key environmental targets to substantially reduce the carbon footprint of the urea fertilizer production by means of a symbiosis between the steel and fertilizer industry for re-using captured carbon dioxide and carbon-rich off-gasses from the steel industry.

Stamicarbon will be responsible for the commercial implementation plan. The main objective of the demonstration plant is to justify the viability and proof the capability to produce ammonia, while in the next phase the commercial implementation plan is focused to establish an industrial scale INITIATE plant reference for the production of urea.

Stamicarbon will lead the implementation plan with the support of its sister companies MET Development for the (commercial) development of the project and NextChem for the design and engineering thereof, together with the other consortium partners.

Figure 3 – Position of the main partners in the value chain.

Figure 3 – Position of the main partners in the value chain.

The objectives of this work package are to develop the plans for short-term deployment for the first-of- a kind modular INITIATE plant and to enable long-term roll out by maximizing the replication potential.

The short-term plan will be in the form of a site specific pre-FEED for the production of urea grade suitable for AdBlue®(Diesel Exhaust Fluid) and/or liquid fertilizers at a capacity of 150 t(Urea)/d.

The long-term plan will take an open view and identify how to scale up the design and also create an inventory of successful symbiotic relationships enabled by STEPWISE between the steel and fertilizer industry.

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