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In mid-May, I visited the 11th Stakeholder Event of SusChem, the European Platform for Sustainable Chemistry, held in Brussels. This year’s theme was innovation in materials and processes as a source of growth and jobs in Europe.
Innovation is a very broad subject, so it was impossible to follow all the various sessions taking place simultaneously at the conference. I was lucky to choose a session that turned out to be quite captivating: the water session.
Water is the most fascinating chemical compound on our planet. It’s a resource that is still taken for granted in some parts of the world, while other parts have no regular access to it. It’s impossible to innovate water itself, but can we innovate the way we use it? The answer is yes, as I found out during the SusChem event.
You probably have never heard of a place called Kalundborg before. Neither had I. It’s a Danish city 100 km west of Copenhagen, which boasts of having the “world’s first working industrial symbiosis” .
In the Kalundborg eco-industrial park, created in 1972, diverse businesses cooperate with each other and with the local community in order to reduce waste and pollution, to efficiently share resources and to achieve sustainable development. The Kalundborg network involves local firms as well as multinational companies such as Statoil. Fish factories cooperate with plaster board companies and soil remediation firms.
See a short video about the Kalundborg symbiosis here:
Originally, the purpose of clustering different industries at Kalundborg was cost-related. Rather than paying fees for waste disposal, they decided that it was a better idea to share each other’s waste streams in order to generate value. Over time, industry managers and local residents realised that they were creating environmental benefits as well.
Here’s an example:
One power company supplies residual steam to a refinery. In exchange, it receives refinery gas that used to be flared as waste. By burning the refinery gas, the company generates electricity and steam. Then it sends excess steam to a fish farm and to a district heating system serving several thousand homes. Sludge from the fish farm becomes fertilizer for nearby farms. Doesn’t it sound great?
It gets even better…
At the SusChem water session, Per Møller, Project Officer at the Kalundborg Symbiosis Center, explained to my complete amazement that Kalundborg is now entering a whole new level. After several decades of waste sharing, Kalundborg is getting ready to treat wastewater… with the help of
I wasn’t aware of the cleaning potential of algae in water, but as it turns out, it has actually been known for years. Algae consume nitrates and phosphates for their growth while removing heavy metals as well as some bacteria and toxins.
1 ton of algae can fixate 1.8 tons of CO2!
In Kalundborg you now find Denmark’s first algae facility, based on ten photobioreactors (PBRs). PBRs are reactors containing a nutrient fluid with algae. The algae are fed by sunlight and transform the energy into carbon. The output of the reactors is clean water. As a by-product, the algae produce highly complex carbon compounds, such as oils for cosmetics or pharmaceuticals.
The construction of the bioreactor facilities is part of ‘E4Water’ , an EU project in cooperation with the water sector and the chemical industry.
If this initiative is successful, it could serve as a worldwide model for wastewater treatment.
Do you know of any other industrial eco-parks in the world?
Check out Per Moller’s presentation at the SusChem event here: