Swedish environmental company Ragn-Sells entered into a cooperation agreement with Eesti Energia for finding solutions to the valorisation of oil shale ash and its release into circulation. The new technology currently being tested helps solve one of the challenges of oil shale energy in Estonia – what could be done with the by-product of energy generation, i.e. bottom ash?
Approximately 80% of the energy generated in Estonia is produced from oil shale. This creates large quantities of by-products, such as bottom ash, which is currently mostly deposited. However, the research carried out by Ragn-Sells indicates that oil shale could be used more as a raw material for other industries and recycled. New technology creates opportunities for valorising oil shale ash more than before, thereby reducing its quantity and environmental footprint considerably.
“In the last two years,” said Rain Vääna, CEO at Ragn-Sells, “we’ve researched various ashes created by the energy industry with Swedish scientists and the oil shale ash from Estonia has produced the most promising results in labs. We have come up with solutions of great potential in labs which allow us to conclude that we can extract raw materials from oil shale bottom ash, which can be reused in the material industry. The new technology we’re testing would help reduce the ecological footprint of the Estonian energy industry. We would also obtain raw material for other industries, which Estonia has not yet exported and which would reduce the need to extract additional natural resources.” Vääna added that the recovery of such waste corresponds to the circular economy mindset of Ragn-Sells – everything taken from nature should be recycled. “The next couple of years will be extremely exciting from the viewpoint of science as well,” said Vääna. “Ragn-Sells wants to continue investing in order to create, with the help of Estonian scientists, a unique technology that clearly supports the concept of circular economy.”
According to the cooperation agreement, the plan is to move on to testing industrial experimental technology from testing lab results in the next year and a half.
“The vision of Eesti Energia is to create energy production, where the by-products, such as oil shale ash as well as limestone, are used to the maximum extent by the principle of circular economy,” said Margus Vals, Member of the Management Board of Eesti Energia. “This way, we will be able to valorise oil shale in the best manner known to us. Oil shale fly ash, for example, has been used in agriculture to neutralise acidic soils. As ash also contains various chemical elements required for plant growth, it is also used as a fertiliser. Ash is also used as a raw material in the industry of construction materials – it is basically a law-grade cement. The use of ash in road construction has also yielded good results. This cooperation agreement, however, covers the research of oil shale bottom ash, which we have not yet managed to recover successfully. We’re constantly looking for new ideas for increasing the valorisation of ash and we believe that we will achieve good results in cooperation with Ragn-Sells.”
Swedish group Ragn-Sells is increasingly contributing to the development of solutions that support circular economy, incl. research of mining and energy production waste. The biggest discovery in recent years is a unique technology that can be used to extract phosphates and rare metals from the waste of metal mining, thereby reducing the quantity of mining waste. Last year, Ragn-Sells entered into a contract with metal mining company LKAB, which belongs to the Kingdom of Sweden, for the extraction of phosphates and rare materials from mining waste. What makes the solution even more special is that phosphorus is included among the 100 most critical chemical compounds in the European Union. The new technology helps valorise waste that has already been excavated and reduces the need to open separate mines that are a great burden on the environment.