Elkem Metal Canada is to invest in a new biocarbon pilot plant in Canada.
The project aims to secure industrial verification of Elkem’s technology for renewable biocarbon, with a long-term goal of contributing to climate-neutral metal production.
The plant will source raw materials from local sawmills in Canada, including recycled bark, wood chips, sawdust and wood shavings. It is hoped this will create new business opportunities in the circular economy and create new green jobs.
According to Elkem, which is headquartered in Oslo, Norway, more than two million green tons of potential raw material is already produced within 100 kilometres of the Chicoutimi area in Québec, where the plant will be built.
The total investment received for the pilot plant amounts to NOK 180 million (€16.7 million). Elkem’s project received financial support from the Canadian Government, the Québec Government and the city of Saguenay, reducing the company’s net investment to NOK 60 million (€5.5 million)
With the new facility, Elkem will pilot an industrial biocarbon process, tailor-made for silicon and ferrosilicon production. Using ‘climate-neutral’ renewable biocarbon instead of coal as a reduction agent is a “key part” of Elkem’s sustainable production strategy, according to the firm.
Elkem already uses close to 20% biocarbon in its production in Norway and the company is working towards increasing this to 40% by 2030. Elkem sources 83% of its electricity consumption from renewable energy.
Michael Koenig, CEO of Elkem, said: “Elkem is one of the world’s leading companies in environmentally responsible manufacturing of metals and materials, and we believe that sustainable production is increasingly a competitive advantage with our customers.
“With this new biocarbon pilot plant in Canada, we aim to secure long-term access to low-cost, high-quality renewable biocarbon to replace fossil coal and further improve our competitive position for a sustainable future.
“In addition, we see a potential for scaling up this technology to other industries – helping reduce emissions.”
“Studies have shown that biocarbon can perform even better than fossil coal in production, and at the same time reduce the carbon footprint,” said Elkem’s head of biocarbon business, Jean Villeneuve.
“Still, challenges remain to make biocarbon viable at a large scale, including how to optimise quality, how to customise furnaces for biocarbon; how to sustainably source raw materials, and how to minimise transportation.
“I am confident that Elkem’s new pilot plant will help us solve these challenges, by enabling close cooperation between people at all levels of the organisation, from the operators who run the furnaces to the plant management, the procurement team, and the R&D specialists including our partner Pyrovac.
“Together, we can accelerate a sustainable step-change that is both economically viable and good for the environment.”
Start of construction planned for the second half of 2020. Based on the results from the pilot project, Elkem will evaluate the basis for a full-scale plant.