The Archimedes Foundation supports the scientific research of the technology required for the treatment of oil shale ashes that environmental company AS Ragn-Sells is currently working on with more than 204,000 euros. The support granted within the scope of the programme Applied Research in Smart Specialisation will be used for the research overseen by Ragn-Sells and carried out by the scientists of TalTech and the University of Tartu, which is aimed at finding the best technological solutions to the valorisation of oil shale ashes.
“The research of oil shale ashes overseen by Ragn-Sells has received a strong boost in recent months,” said Rain Vääna, CEO at Ragn-Sells. “We have a strong project team and the best practitioner partners in TalTech, the University of Tartu and Eesti Energia. And we’ve now been joined by another important partner, Archimedes, whose main activity is to finance educational and scientific research. This will give our research even more momentum.”
il shale ash is a non-hazardous residue created in energy generation, which is currently used in relatively small quantities, e.g. in construction and road construction and in agriculture to increase yield. However, the potential of oil shale ash to be a useful raw material in other areas as well is great.
In recent years, the quantities of oil shale excavated by Eesti Energia and consequently the quantities of fly and bottom ash have decreased significantly, but considerable amounts of ash are still generated. For example, 4.1 million tonnes of ash was generated in 2019 and only 100,000 tons of this was recovered. “Our goal,” said Vääna, “is to cooperate with scientists and find a solution for valorising this resource and releasing it into circulation as a material. One of the main principles of circular economy is to find possibilities for reusing all waste. We already know that oil shale ashes can be recycled. At the moment, we’re looking for the best technological solution.” He added that the plan is to invest around a million euros in the research of technology for the valorisation of oil shale ashes in 2020 alone.
The project is a good example of the joint contribution of the private and public sectors to innovation.
“It’s important to us that technological solutions for reducing the ecological footprint of oil shale are being sought in energy generation in Estonia,” said Tea Tassa, Measure Coordinator at the Implementing Agency of Structural Support of the Archimedes Foundation. “Researching the valorisation of deposited ashes is useful to everyone and worth supporting.”
Ragn-Sells has very strong competency in the valorisation of mining waste. In recent years, the company has launched several patented solutions in Scandinavia which help extract additional materials from mining waste and thereby reduce the quantity of waste as well as the pressure to open new deposits.
The research of solutions for recycling the bottom and fly ash generated by the oil shale energy industry focuses on the chemical composition of the ashes and the possibilities of reusing the chemical components found in the ashes in various material industries. Such waste utilisation technology would help reduce the environmental burden on Ida-Viru County as well as the need to extract additional natural resources.
The period planned for the research of the management technology overseen by Ragn-Sells and carried out with the scientists of TalTech and the University of Tartu is 14 months. All of the activities related to the project, incl. application for funding from Archimedes, have been transferred to the company R-S OSA Service OÜ. The Archimedes Foundation finances the Applied Research in Smart Specialisation support measure from the European Regional Development Fund.