Why is phosphorus one of the most used resources in the world today? Everything that grows or is grown in nature needs phosphorus. Agriculture, which has to feed the 8 billion people in the world, depends on phosphorus every day. Fields have to be fertilised to keep them fertile because arable land is a limited resource. Europe’s only phosphorus mine is in Finland and it only covers 10% of the agriculture needs of European Union states. We depend on China for the remaining 90%.
The innovative technology of Ragn-Sells helps us separate phosphorus from the previously unused wastewater mud or sludge.
The food we consume and the phosphorus it contains ends up in sludge. The concentration of phosphorus in sludge is high (7-10%). This is a good example of a solution that supports circular economy, as the residues not used so far are valorised and released back into circulation. A broader implementation of the technology developed by Ragn-Sells would make it possible to cover 25% of the phosphorus needs of the EU. An added value offered by the technology is that it is environmentally friendly and has a very small footprint in comparison with phosphorus mines and the transport emissions caused by import.
The circular economy solution developed by Ragn-Sells that has attracted the most attention in the world is the Ash2Salt technology, which focuses on the valorisation of waste incineration ashes and using them to make industrial salts.
Throughout the world, waste incineration ashes are currently deposited in landfills or buried as filling material in unused mines. There has been no alternative approach so far and the necessary materials have therefore not been recovered. The technology patented by Ragn-Sells is the first in the world that approaches the ashes left over in incinerators as a raw material which can be valorised and the use of which reduces the pressure on the extraction of natural raw materials.
This unique technology enables Ragn-Sells to valorise the ashes by turning them into industrial salts. A good example of the use of industrial salt in our climate is the de-icing of streets and roads in winter, which keeps them free of ice and guarantees safe traffic.
In Estonia, we are well aware of the impact phosphorus mining can have on the environment. The opening of a new phosphorus deposit was the biggest environmental issue in Estonia in the late 80s. The growing population of the world and the increasing demand for agricultural produce only magnify the pressure to open new deposits, which have rather large environmental footprints.
The CleanMAP technology of Ragn-Sells, however, looks for possibilities to valorise residues that have already been extracted and thus far treated merely as waste or by-products and left standing for decades.
The CleanMap technology was developed with the scientists of Sweden and it helps separate phosphorus from the residues of metal mining and release the phosphorus extracted from them into circulation. While the traditional production of fertilisers is very energy-intensive, the energy consumption of the CleanMap technology of Ragn-Sells is very low. The principle of circular economy was also followed when the CleanMap technology was developed – the natural resources extracted from the crust of the earth must be used to the maximum extent possible and kept in circulation for as long as possible. Ash2Phos is the natural continuation of the CleanMap technology of Ragn-Sells, which helps release the same phosphorus back into circulation over and over again.
The Baltic Sea is an inseparable part of the local natural environment of Estonians and ca 84 million other people. It is our employer, it supplies us with food and offers possibilities for recreation.
The fertilisers intensely used in agriculture and the chemicals used in industry, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, have ended up in the Baltic Sea through rainwater and this has had a strong impact on its ecosystem. The phenomenon known as eutrophication occurs when a body of water becomes overly enriched with nutrients which induce the excessive growth of certain plants, which in turn deceases the number of fish species due to the reduction in the oxygen level. The increasing spread of the toxic cyanobacteria is a common negative consequence of this.
The NRP (Nitrogen Removal Process) technology of Ragn-Sells makes it possible to remove nitrogen and phosphorus from industrial wastewater (incl. the water of wastewater plants). In addition to neutralising and cleaning the wastewater discharged into the environment, we can release the nitrogen and phosphorus collected with this technology back into circulation as vital raw materials.