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Rohrdorfer builds CO2 separation plant

Published by , Deputy Editor
World Cement,

Germany's first CO2 separation plant for cement production is currently being built on the premises of the cement works in Rohrdorf. Rohrdorfer, the operator of the cement plant, started the pilot project to explore the possibilities of separating carbon dioxide. The plant, which is being built in cooperation with the Andritz Group, is scheduled to go into operation by the end of June 2022. It will capture two tons of carbon dioxide per day, which will be used in the regional chemical industry in line with the circular economy. The total costs of the pilot plant amount to €3 million.

The foundations for the plant on the southern side of the Rohrdorfer cement works are already in place. From mid-March, a 25 m high pilot plant for CO2 separation will be built on around 30 m2. Another system at a Rohrdorfer site is already being planned.

The plants will be built in cooperation with the Andritz Group. The Austrian specialist for plant and mechanical engineering has many years of expertise in the construction of CO2 separators in coal-fired power plants. The technical, qualitative and economic framework conditions for CO2 capture and conversion are tested in the pilot plant. So far, there are only empirical values from separation systems that are used in coal-fired power generation.

Production of formic acid for the chemical industry from autumn 2022

The Andritz Group customised the system for the Rohrdorfer cement plant so that the optimum purity of the CO2 could be achieved with a long service life of the chemical solvent used for separation.

Once the CO2 capture process has been adequately tested, Rohrdorfer engineers and designers will expand the facility to produce formic acid, a versatile chemical, from the captured carbon dioxide. Rohrdorfer has been testing the production of formic acid from carbon dioxide in the company's own laboratory since July 2021 in order to be optimally equipped for production in the pilot plant. Around 1800 litres of formic acid can be obtained from the two tons of CO2 that are captured in the plant each day. This is delivered to chemical plants in the region, for example, and serves as the basis for products such as cleaning, disinfecting and de-icing agents. Depending on the degree of purity, the recovered CO2 can also be used in the food industry, for example for the carbonation of mineral water.

CO2 as a carbon source important for the energy transition

For Rohrdorfer, the results of the pilot project are an important step towards achieving the German cement industry’s goal to produce climate-neutral cement by 2050. As early as 2022, cement will be produced at the Rohrdorf site with 45% less CO2 than in 1990. This is achieved by optimising the types of cement and the use of fuel. A reduction of 65% is to be achieved by 2030. The remaining 35% can only be reduced by separation. The pilot plant for CO2 capture is intended to accelerate this development.

Carbon dioxide capture is also an important contribution to the energy transition – through the sector coupling of the chemical industry and the cement industry, the captured and converted carbon should replace oil and natural gas in the chemical industry in the medium term. This is the entry into a CO2 circular economy.

“We have to start seeing carbon dioxide as a resource instead of a problem. The carbon in the CO2 can become methanol, ethylene or formic acid and thus the starting material for many products that still have to be manufactured from petroleum today. With the pilot project, Rohrdorfer is about to become a reliable partner for the chemical industry, for example at the chemical sites in Burghausen or Linz," says Dr. Helmut Leibinger, Head of Plant and Process Engineering at Rohrdorfer. “With CO2 as a carbon source, Germany can protect the climate and at the same time become less dependent on oil and natural gas. In addition, value creation and thus jobs remain in the country.”

On 25 January, Prof. Dr. Angelika Niebler, member of the European Parliament and deputy party leader of the CSU Bavaria, together with the Rohrdorf management, broke ground for the plant. Ms. Niebler welcomed Rohrdorfer's initiative to proactively promote the production of CO2–neutral cement: "In order to achieve the goals agreed at the climate conference in Paris, determination and personal initiative are required. The Rohrdorfer pilot project is outstanding and shows that the German economy is ready to take responsibility.”

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