Alar Saluste, the manager of the Ragn-Sells oil shale ash valorization project, made a call at the UN climate conference COP27 in Egypt: take Estonia as an example and map your unused ash heaps and mine tailings, because there is a solution to the ever-increasing raw material crisis.
"It is believed that in Estonia alone, in Ida-Virumaa, there are more than one billion tons of various ashes and mining waste lying unused in various mountains, which contain raw materials that the European Union has declared as critical and whose mining pollutes the environment very significantly. For our own project, we have already drilled a mountain of oil shale ash resulting from electricity production and found that there is enough calcium, magnesium, iron, aluminum, silicon and other raw materials that could be extracted from the ash with our smart solution and economically reused," said Saluste.
Invited to perform on two stages at the climate conference, Saluste brought Estonia as an example to the international community, where the potential of mountains that have been unused for decades has been understood and the raw materials hidden in them have already been mapped at the national level. "If in the 1980s the European Union marked only a few of the 118 elements of Mendeleev's table as critical, today nearly 40 elements have been marked as critical for the functioning of the European economy, and their number continues to grow against the background of overconsumption. There are vast amounts of industrial waste across Europe that should be seen as banks of valuable materials. Therefore, we call on the countries of the world to follow the example of Estonia and conduct research into what raw materials these industrial wastes that have been lying in nature contain for decades. Because if we seriously want to create a sustainable society, we have to start reusing raw materials that have already been extracted from the ground," explained Saluste. "We have a great opportunity to create a sustainable future by moving towards a society based on the principles of a circular economy, where critical resources are kept in circulation instead of being thrown away."
Ragn-Sells, a Swedish family company with a 141-year history, presented, among other things, its Estonian oil shale ash valorization project at the UN climate conference this year for the second year in a row. Compared to last year, the project has made a significant leap forward. In September, Narva council unanimously approved the initiation of detailed planning and environmental impact assessment, which started the preparatory work for Ragn-Sells oil shale ash for the establishment of a beneficiation plant in the immediate vicinity of the Balti Elektrijaam territory. According to current plans, the goal is to open a demo factory next to the city of Narva in 2024 and a main factory in 2028.
The Narva plant can reprocess over one million tons of oil shale ash and bind 250,000 tons of CO2 annually, resulting in the production of approx. 500,000 tons of ultra-pure calcium carbonate. With the help of a unique patented solution, waste is turned into a new raw material that can be used to produce paints, window frames, floor coverings, paper and many other items needed in everyday life. To date, large global companies have already shown great interest in the product. Among them, Gealan (Germany), one of the largest manufacturers of plastic window frames in Europe, and Tarkett (France), one of the five largest manufacturers of floor materials in the world, who want to use raw materials with the smallest possible CO2 footprint in their production. Under the conditions of meeting the strict climate goals set in the European Union and Estonia, the preference for such materials is a growing trend.
In addition, with the support of the joint agency of EAS and KredEx, research has been started to date on how, in addition to calcium carbonate, magnesium can also be extracted from oil shale ash. It is a very light metal that is widely used in everyday life and is most in demand in the automotive, aircraft, rocket and various other machine industries. In addition, magnesium compounds are used as rust and scale removers, in the production of glass, medicines, paints and many other items or to give them a better effect. It is also valuable and highly demanded in agriculture as a fertilizer and as an important nutrient for crops.
Ragn-Sells has created a subsidiary company R-S OSA Projekt OÜ for the shale ash beneficiation project. Almost 2 million euros have already been invested in the project. The partners of the project are the University of Tartu, TalTech, Eesti Energia, the joint institution of EAS and KredEx, the Archimedes Foundation and the international companies Tarkett and Gealan.