State to allocate 1.7 million euros in support of Estonia’s largest circular economy project

Via the Applied Research Programme of Enterprise Estonia, the state is set to provide 1.7 million euros in support for the applied research to be carried out as part of the second stage of the oil shale ash enhancement project of Ragn-Sells OSA. This will enable the company, in cooperation with researchers from the University of Tartu and TalTech and scientists from international research laboratories, to carry out next-level industrial tests for the production of calcium carbonate.

Alar Saluste, the head of the project, says there is no longer any doubt that the compound can be produced from oil shale ash. “Things are progressing to the point where Estonia should be producing climate-positive calcium carbonate that’s unique in the world within the next three to four years,” he explained. “The part that Enterprise Estonia’s playing shows how interested the state is in getting involved in the project and contributing to its success. With the support of the Applied Research Programme we’ll be able to complete some vital studies that will culminate in technological trials on an industrial scale. That will produce, among other things, enough material for the partners we’re working with who’ll be preparing pilot products. They’ll then be able to test and validate the material. We’ll also be continuing our research into the other raw materials we can obtain once the calcium’s been extracted.”

Enterprise Estonia Applied Research Programme manager Madis Raukas says the programme was launched in order to help companies invest in the early stages of research and development work so as to benefit from new or significantly improved technology, products and services that will boost their turnover and expand their portfolio. “The driving force in the Estonian innovation and start-up ecosystem in the last two decades has been the ICT, finance and software sector,” he explained. “So we’re pleased to see promising new developments emerging all the time in other sectors as well, such as the circular economy.”

The project to repurpose ash generated in the production of electricity from oil shale focuses on the chemical components of the ash and on ways of reusing them in a variety of materials industries. The plan initially is to produce high-quality calcium carbonate, for which 1.3 million tonnes of deposited oil shale ash will be used each year. The calcium enhanced from the ash will capture and bind around 600,000 tonnes of CO2 from other industry during its production.

Technology of this kind for the repurposing of industrial waste will help to reduce both the environmental burden on Ida-Viru County and the need to mine further natural resources in Europe and around the world. The calcium carbonate produced from oil shale ash is a good example of the circular economy. What makes it unique is the CO2 it captures during production, making it the world’s only climate-positive calcium carbonate so far.

Ragn Sells has already invested almost two million euros in the project. In 2021, the Enterprise Estonia Applied Research Programme contributed a total of 255,269 euros from the European Regional Development Fund to stage-one industrial trials and the initial design of a production unit. The co-financier in the project is the Archimedes Foundation.

The Applied Research Programme was instituted by Enterprise Estonia to help companies grow demand for research and development, with the aim of boosting entrepreneurs’ income from new and significantly amended technology, processes, products and services. The programme provides both consultation services and financial support for applied research.

  • Project implementation period 20.09.2021 – 31.12.2023
  • Amount of funding: 1 795 168 EUR
  • The project is funded by the European Regional Development Fund