Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Metal By-product Recovery

The European Commission’s DG GROW is organising an International Conference on ‘Exchange of good practices on metal by-products recovery –technology and policy challenges’ in Brussels on 12-13 November 2015 at the Thon EU Hotel. The Conference will tackle the technology challenges as well as the policies and regulatory framework appropriate to promote the recovery of metal by-products which are currently sub-optimally exploited.

The event will provide a unique opportunity to share experiences, exchange good practices and present existing examples across the whole raw materials value chain. It will bring together industry, academia and research entities excelling in technologies to recover metal by-products, as well as relevant public entities and policy makers from the EU and from third countries.

The conference will be highly relevant to many SusChem stakeholders interested in materials and process technologies. The SusChem Strategic Innovation and Research Agenda (SIRA) features access to critical raw materials in its first chapter on climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials.

Existing and emerging technologies vital for the progress of our society and the competitiveness of our economy are highly dependent on the sustainable supply of raw materials. In particular, a number of scarce or critical metals play a fundamental role on innovations in high-tech sectors such as renewable energy, telecommunications, information technology and the defence industry.

Strategic metals
Many of these strategic metals are often by-products of mining, processing and recycling: they are contained in ore bodies or complex end-of life products accompanying elements of the major metals, usually at low concentrations. Nowadays, many by-products are often not properly recovered so they finish diluted in major elements or in waste streams.

There will be a specific session of the Conference aimed to promote cooperation in the field of research and innovation. Draft versions of the Horizon 2020 work programmes for 2016-2017 have recently been published online. The session will include an overview of the topics on raw materials under Societal Challenge 5 of Horizon 2020 Programme, with particular attention to the topic SC5-13b: 'New technologies for the enhanced recovery of by-products (2016)'. These draft calls reflect some of the topics outlined in the SusChem SIRA.

Registration for the conference is free but the deadline for registration is 25 October and space is limited so register soon! You can find the link to registration here.

More information
Further information on the event can be found at the dedicated conference website or contact the conference secretariat. More information on the European Commission’s actions to ensure a sustainable supply of raw materials for the European Union can be found on the DG GROW website and the European Innovation Partnership (EIP) on Raw Materials website. The raw materials section of the SusChem website can be found here.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Catalysts for Cleaner Cement Production

Sustainable chemistry has a major role in building our future Smart Cities, ensuring our technologies are as clean as possible and providing the basis for 'green' living.

SusChem has provided much input on chemistry's contribution to energy efficiency in buildings and their contribution to Smart Cities initiatives including the SusChem report "Innovative chemistry for Energy efficiency of buildings in smart cities" and our visionary flagship project the Smart Energy Home

Another clear example of chemistry's contribution to cleaner construction is provided by Clariant. Cement production generates considerable harmful emissions including fine particulate matter, nitrogen oxides and ammonia, volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and sulfur oxides. Cement is the main component of concrete, the most widely used construction material in the world.

Using a combined catalytic process the emissions from cement production can be reduced by 90% or more. In a first stage nitrogen oxides and ammonia in the cement process flue gas react on a catalytic layer, where they bind to iron active centres. The molecules interact with each other forming water and harmless nitrogen.

In the next stage remaining organic contaminants and carbon monoxide are eliminated by catalytic oxidation in an innovative ceramic honeycomb catalyst with an activated zeolite-coated surface. The zeolite matrix provides durable protection against dust, sulfur oxides, and moisture which can result in fast catalyst deactivation. This key innovation enables the catalyst to survive under the harsh conditions of the process for a considerable time.

Using the two-stage process toxic pollutants are almost completely purified with pollutant emissions reduced by 90% and more meaning that required emissions standards for hazardous air pollutants can be easily met by cement plants. You can find out more about this innovative process in the video below.

For more information on SusChem initiatives for Smart Cities and construction materials, please contact SusChem coordinator Jacques Kormornicki at Cefic.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Non-animal-based safety assessment: within reach or over-sold?

The Long-Range Research Initiative Programme (LRI) of the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic) is organising its 17th annual workshop on 18 and 19 November 2015 in Brussels. This year, the Annual CEFIC-LRI Workshop will focus on non–animal-based safety assessment and will showcase the outcome and impact of several LRI projects completed in 2014-2015 from the fields of environmental risk assessment, bioconcentration, chemo-informatics, exposure modeling, skin sensitization and acceptance of innovation.

Registration is now open and free!
The Cefic-LRI workshop is a must-attend event for the scientific community and an excellent networking opportunity for policymakers. This year’s venue is Le Plaza Hotel Brussels.

On the first day the LRI programme will present the winner of the LRI Innovative Science Award for 2015 and also catch up with the progress of winner of the 2014 LRI Award winner Dr Alexandra Antunes (pictured below) of the Centro de Química Estrutural, Complexo Interdisciplinar Instituto Superior Técnico in Portugal and her work on Covalent Modification of Histones by Carcinogens: a novel proteomic approach toward the assessment of chemically-induced cancers.

The second day will feature plenary sessions on the impact of LRI projects with a focus on environmental risk assessment, bioconcentration, chemo-informatics, exposure modelling, skin sensitisation, and acceptance of innovation.

And during the afternoon of Day 2, Prof Ian Kimber of the University of Manchester will moderate a dedicated panel discussion on non-animal-based safety assessment with the working title: “Non-animal based safety assessment: within reach or over-sold? Do we need to set back expectations?”

The panel will focus on current and future developments in non-animal toxicity testing methods and examine visionary versus unrealistic regulatory expectations in view of REACH 2018. Key questions include:
  • What progress has been made in assessing risks to man without generating in vivo test data?
  • Has the use of in vitro technologies, “shifted” in the right direction?
  • What can be achieved with new developments and by when?
  • What are the biggest challenges? 
  • What is really needed to get 'omics' accepted in regulation?
The members of the panel will be Dr Karel de Raat (ECHA), Dr Karen Niven (Shell), Dr Alan Poole (ECETOC), Dr Rick Becker (American Chemistry Council), Dr Raffaella Corvi (JRC/EURL-ECVAM), Prof Jim Bridges (Univ. Surrey), and Dr Kirsty Reid (Eurogroup for Animals).
For more details go on the 17th Annual CEFIC-LRI workshop visit the dedicated webpage.

A draft programme for the workshop can be downloaded here.

To register for the event, please click here.

You can follow the event on Twitter via the hashtag #lri2015

For more information on the workshop, please contact Dr. Bruno Hubesch, LRI Programme Manager or the LRI Secretariat.

More about LRI
The Long-range Research Initiative (LRI) programme is a major voluntary initiative of the European chemical industry to support the long-term sustainability of its sector and European society. Through the programme we hope to identify the hazards posed by chemicals and improve the methods available for assessing the associated risks.

The LRI sponsors high-quality research of a standard publishable in a reputable peer-reviewed journal, and seeks to provide sound scientific advice on which industry and regulatory bodies can draw-on to respond quickly and accurately to the public's concerns.

Monday, 21 September 2015

UK Horizon 2020 Events announced

The Horizon 2020 Societal Challenge Five (SC5 -  Climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials) is happening today (21 September) in Brussels, but in the UK Horizon 2020 National Contact Points (NCPs) are organising a number of information and networking events over the next two months at various locations across the UK. 

The events are theme-based and reflect the main interests of the UK research and industry community following preparatory work between the NCPs and many UK organisations for the 2016 - 2017 Work Programme. The events will be ideal places to learn about many interesting potential project ideas and to link up with project partners.

Attending one of the UK events will allow you to hear about the details of the SC5 funding calls and also to meet and network with organisations interested in collaboration.

Nature-based solutions - re-greening cities
30 September 2015 in London

Funding for water innovation
1 October 2015 in Manchester

Climate resilient business
2 November 2015 in Exeter

More information
For more information or to take advantage of our extensive UK network of industry and academia contacts for partner searching opportunity (provided both via the Knowledge Transfer Network and the Enterprise Europe Network), please contact Ewa Bloch UK National Contact Point for EU Horizon 2020 - Climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials (Societal Challenge 5). Ewa will also be at the 21 September InfoDay in Brussels.

To register for regular updates from Horizon 2020 UK NCPs visit the UK Horizon 2020 website.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Solar + #useCO2 = all our Energy and Material needs?

On 29 and 30 September 2015, leading experts from politics, research and the industry will meet at the Haus der Technik in Essen, Germany, at the biggest European “Conference on Carbon Dioxide as Feedstock for Fuels, Chemistry and Polymers” to discuss the latest technologies and strategies for an optimum and swift implementation. Over 200 participants are expected from all over the world, including many global companies. The conference is organised by the nova-Institut.

The nova-Institut has calculated that the global demand for electricity, raw materials for the chemical and plastics industry as well as aviation fuel could be met by solar energy. Only 2% of the world’s desert area would be needed to provide the global carbon demand of the chemical and plastics industry with solar and Carbon Capture and Utilization (CCU) technologies in 2050.

Initial life cycle assessments (LCAs) show that the climate footprint of solar kerosene is better than all alternatives. The CO2 emissions per tonne for solar kerosene production are considerably lower than those of biobased kerosene and 80 to 90% lower than petrochemical kerosene. Indeed further calculations show that compliance with the 2°C climate change goal is only possible using solar kerosene. In comparison to biobased kerosene it is found that land use and water demands are also much lower.

“Today, we have the technologies to cover the global demand for electricity, raw materials for the chemical and plastics industry as well as aviation fuel by solar, wind and hydro energy – even in the long term. Renewable energy and carbon dioxide utilization mean nothing less than a sustainability revolution for all energy and raw material supply. Just the right political and economic framework is missing so far,” says Michael Carus, CEO of the nova-Institut GmbH (pictured right).

The SusChem Strategic Innovation and Research Agenda (SIRA) includes a range of CCU and related technologies in its chapter on Secure, Clean and Efficient Energy (SIRA, Chapter 3) including the long-term option of direct photo-conversion of CO2: the development of ‘artificial leaves’ able to capture CO2 and convert it into renewable chemicals and fuels using only sunlight and water.

Solar for power, chemicals
Nova-Institut analysis shows that the amount of solar energy falling on the Earth is more than sufficient to meet estimated global energy demand in 2050 using less than 1% of worldwide land for photovoltaic (PV) systems. In addition to the direct use of solar energy, other renewables such as wind or water, can contribute to fulfilling energy demands. This global view shows that providing humanity with sustainable and environmentally friendly energy is not a problem in principle, however significant investment will be required.

Technical developments of the last few years have shown that solar, wind and hydro power not only provide eco-friendly electricity, but can also be used to produce organic raw materials.

Renewable energies are used to derive the elements hydrogen and oxygen from water. Combining the generated hydrogen with CO2 forms methane, methanol and a variety of other chemical building blocks. This process can be achieved catalytically or biotechnologically. More than 20 pilot plants worldwide are operational already and the first commercial plants are under construction. This technology is called CCU or alternatively power-to-gas or power-to-liquid.

In SusChem we tend to use the term #useCO2 as a generic hashtag to cover these technologies.

Nova-Institut calculations show that, using this technologies, it is possible to sustainably supply the chemical and plastics industry with organic raw materials. Even with a strong growth, the carbon demand of the chemical and plastics industry could easily be met through CCU technologies in 2050. About 2% of the world’s desert area would be enough to cover the global carbon demand of the chemical and plastics industry with solar and CCU technologies.

Sustainable technologies
Already today, solar-powered CCU technologies can contribute toward climate protection. One of the biggest climate challenge is the growing CO2 emissions caused by air traffic. Airlines and aircraft manufacturers are investing large amounts to produce climate friendly biobased kerosene from wood, algae, Jatropha and biogenic waste. However, high costs as well as insecurities about land requirements, biodiversity and potential conflicts with food and feed have so far prevented large-scale industrial implementation.

Synthetic aviation fuel based on solar, wind and water energy as well as CO2 offers an alternative and it is already being produced on small scales. More than ten pilot plants are using electrolysis and Fischer-Tropsch-Synthesis to produce different fuels with efficiency levels of 70 to 80%. Solar kerosene can replace petrochemical kerosene 1:1 and has better combustion characteristics due to its purity. Production costs depend primarily on prices for renewable energies and are about the same as for biobased kerosene.

Find out more on the #useCO2 future in Essen on 29 and 30 September!

Thursday, 17 September 2015

WALEVA transforms residues into high-value chemicals

SusChem Spain via the Spanish Chemical Industry Federation (FEIQUE) is collaborating with the Industrial Engineering Group Técnicas Reunidas and the Scientific and Technological Research Centre of Extremadura (CICYTEX) in the WALEVA project. The initiative has the objective of valorising rice straw residue by converting it into levulinic acid – a biobased chemical building block in high demand.  This solution provides a sustainable alternative to burning of this agricultural residue, a common practice in rice growing areas with a high environmental impact. WALEVA started in June 2014 and run until September 2017 and is financed by the European Commission’s LIFE Programme that targets environmental projects. 

The WALEVA project integrates the development of a pilot plant, currently in the design phase, in the José Lladó Technological Centre in Madrid that will apply technology developed by Técnicas Reunidas for the production of levulinic acid that starts from any agricultural residue or lignocellulosic material. This demonstration plant, which will integrate an innovative chemical process, will demonstrate that this conversion technology can solve a known environmental problem. In a final phase, the project will show that this technology is easily transferable to other European regions with the same environmental problems.

SusChem Spain is one of SusChem's network of national technology platforms (NTPs) that connect SusChem thinking with national and regional programmes, facilitate trans-national collaboration and to advise SusChem on collective national priorities that need to be considered at European level. They are key to the involvement of national stakeholders including small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), large companies and academic groups, in European initiatives.

Straw problem
Valorising rice straw residue will generate high-value added products and introduce a new value chain. The product - Levulinic acid - is a chemical monomer in high demanded by industry for use in many applications including pharmaceuticals, biodiesels, polymers, food and other chemistries.

The initiative will contribute to a sustainable alternative to the burning of a troublesome residue that affects the rice industry in several Spanish regions such as Extremadura, Andalucía, the Ebro river basin and Albufera in Valencia. WALEVA is supported by the Extremadura region, one of Spain’s main rice production areas, through the rice farmers association.  Although alternatives to burning rice residues have been researched, no economically viable and useful chemical technology has yet been found.

The burning of the residues created by this crop generates uncontrolled carbon dioxide emissions. Rice production in the European Union surpassed three million tonnes in 2012. It is estimated that every tonne of rice produces 0.8 tonnes of straw residue meaning some 2.4-1.2 million tonnes of residues are generated annually potentially that could emit over four million tonnes of C02 if burnt.  In Spain alone, there are around 105 000 hectares of land used for rice crops yielding 577 000 tonnes of rice straw meaning potential emissions of 985.000 tonnes of CO2 from burning.

Process details
The proposed project includes six major development actions:

Collection and treatment of the residue
Design and construction of a storage module
Pilot plant design
Pilot plant procurement and construction
Pilot plant demonstration of an innovative levulinic acid production technology
Viability studies

The project could estimates that production of levulinic could reach 40 500 tonnes/year in the first three years after the end of the project, rising to 63 000 tonnes/year in the next five years thanks to the project’s dissemination plan. At European level, the project expects production to reach 156 000 tonnes/year within five years of the project end.

The technologies demonstrated in the LIFE + WALEVA project will be positioned as the leading technology used to produce biobased levulinic acid at European level.

The LIFE Programme
The LIFE programme is the European Union’s funding instrument for the environment and climate action. Since its beginning in 1992, LIFE has co-financed some 4 000 projects across the EU, contributing approximately €3.1 billion to the protection of the environment and climate.

The LIFE programme contributes to sustainable development and to the achievement of the objectives of the Europe 2020 Strategy, as well as other relevant EU environment and climate strategies and plans linked to environmental and climate change issues.

The ‘Environment’ theme of the new programme covers three priority areas: environment and resource efficiency; nature and biodiversity; and environmental governance and information. The ‘Climate Action’ theme covers climate change mitigation; climate change adaptation; and climate governance and information.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

SusChem: Moving on Mobility!

Today (16 September) the EU-wide celebrations for EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK launched at the European Parliament in Brussels. The 2015 EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK launch focused on encouraging cycle commuting and integrating cycling in multimodal travel with the motto: ‘Choose. Change. Combine.’ The full week presents a wide range of sustainable mobility alternatives to citizens, explains the challenges that cities and towns are facing to induce behavioural change and make progress towards creating a more sustainable transport strategy for Europe.

Mobility is clearly one of the major challenges facing our urban areas today. And it is an area where SusChem and sustainable chemistry is contributing. SusChem’s recent Strategic Innovation and Research Agenda has a dedicated chapter on Smart, Green and Integrated Transport covering many innovations that are vital to achieving more sustainable mobility.

Chemistry contributions
Electric mobility must play an important role in the future and chemistry already offers numerous products and solutions in this area. The battery is the key component in electric vehicles and chemistry can make this technology more affordable, powerful and secure with the aim of increasing the range of vehicles.

In addition, lightweight design of vehicles is important. If the weight of a vehicle drops, its range can increase and / or it will use less energy. The chemical industry offers tailor-made polymers for many different applications from vehicle bodies to the engine compartment. Vehicles can be designed using recyclable materials, such as bio- and smart-materials, that can ensure vehicles do not become waste at the end of their useful life.  And new tyre concepts can reduce rolling resistance and extend range.

Managing energy in vehicles is important for efficiency especially for electric vehicles. In summer, air conditioning consumes additional energy, while in winter good insulation is important. In contrast to internal combustion engines the electric motor produces nearly no ‘waste’ heat. Chemical products can help here: special pigments applied on the windows reduce the warming of the interior in the sun, while high-performance foams offer perfect insulation in the winter.

If the internal combustion engine remains a significant propulsion source in vehicles in the short to medium term, sustainable chemistry will help through new catalytic exhaust gas treatments to remove organic compounds and fine particles. And fossil fuels can be substituted by synthetic fuels made, for example, by the conversion of carbon dioxide (CO2) with solar energy or by fuels made from renewable (biomass) sources. Hydrogen produced efficiently from renewable sources is also a potential emission-free alternative to fossils fuels.

Smart mobility – sustainable solutions
The free movement of people and products is an essential element of our modern urban environment. However mobility comes at a cost: the consumption of a vast amount of energy (30% of the total energy consumed in the EU).

And with energy consumption – especially energy derived from fossil fuels – comes pollution. Mobility contributes considerably to CO2 emissions as well as other pollutants such as nitrogen oxides or small particles. Urban mobility accounts for some 40% of all CO2 emissions by road transport and up to 70% of other pollutants generated by transport.

Some of the solutions that sustainable chemistry can provide to meet the mobility challenge for Smart Cities and help stem urban air pollution are described above. But you can find much more information and ideas on mobility issues and sustainable chemistry solutions from SusChem, especially in the context of urban environments, at the resources outlined below.

SusChem is heavily involved with the European Innovation Partnership (EIP) on Smart Cities and Communities and you can download our Smart Cities Brochure. Mobility and Smart City solutions are also featured on our dedicated Smart Cities mobility page and the Innovation for Growth website.

What is European Mobility Week?
EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK is an annual campaign on sustainable urban mobility supported by the European Commission’s directorates for Energy and Transport. The aim of the campaign is to encourage European local authorities to introduce and promote sustainable transport measures.

The week runs from 16 to 22 September every year and sees events taking place across Europe and globally. ‘Choose. Change. Combine’ is the motto for 2015 and embracing multimodality is the main theme of the week. The aim is to encourage people to think about the range of transport options available, to choose the right mode when travelling, and inviting people to combine ways of getting around, which can often lead to a quicker and more pleasant journey.

Since 2002 EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK has sought to influence mobility and urban transport issues, as well as improve the health and quality of life of citizens. The campaign also gives citizens the chance to explore what the role of city streets really is, and to explore concrete solutions to tackle urban challenges, such as air pollution.

To discover more about how participating cities have used the campaign to enhance their sustainable transport policies, visit the best practice guides.