Industrial symbiosis - save materials and energy, thanks to your neighbours’ by-products

Collaboration between two companies in the port of Ghent will result in considerably lower energy consumption and C02 emissions. We will be seeing more and more of this kind of collaboration, with numerous additional benefits for participants. A new European project aims to support this type of initiative and is on the lookout for interested companies.

Starting in late 2016, the Stora Enso paper company will provide the Ghent site of Volvo Cars with hot water via a four kilometre-long heat network. Waste heat from Stora Enso’s bio co-generation plant will replace a great deal of the fossil-fuel derived heat that Volvo currently uses, allowing the Ghent plant to cut its annual CO2 emissions by about 15,000 tonnes.

In other European countries, heating networks like this are longer established and consequently better developed. Denmark, for example, already has 30,000 kilometres of heat pipes, and two thirds of all heat consumers are connected to them. In Germany, there are more than 19,000 km of heat pipes with more than 5 million customers. The Netherlands has 500,000 customers for its heat networks.

One example of industrial symbiosis based on materials is Novidon in Veurne, which processes starch recovered from foodstuffs industry waste flows into a high-quality product with technical applications in, amongst other things, the paper industry, the production of wallpaper paste and as a lubricant in the oil industry. The production site is located next to a large food company, which is a close collaborator. The symbiosis gives impetus to other synergies, such as optimising the reuse of water. The result is a win-win situation for the partners.

In Denmark there is even a complete industrial ecosystem involving 17 companies with 30 different flows: the Kalundborg Symbiosis. The by-products and waste products of one company are consistently used as a feedstock by another in a closed cycle.

Industrial symbiosis - not a utopia

The many examples point to a changing attitude amongst new generations of adults in favour of dealing more responsibly with raw materials and the environment. With industrial symbiosis, one company can use the waste materials and energy from another. Supporting and optimising this kind of collaboration is the aim of the newly-started European Project Utopia.

Utopia stands for:

  • Modelling the processes in each company and their interactions with each other
  • The smart monitoring of these flows
  • Developing the analysis and optimisation tools to analyse this data, thereby making it possible to identify opportunities
  • The central management of the data by setting up a collaborative information space
  • The use of this information for mandatory and voluntary green policies

During the project, all these developments will be tested in pilot projects located in the companies. Does your business have waste products that could be useful to someone else’s? Would you like to check this by taking part in a pilot project? Do get in touch with Tania Drissen.