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May-2022

CORALIS: industrial symbiosis in energy-intensive industries

An EU project aims to enhance the knowledge base for industrial symbiosis to ensure data accuracy and comparability in existing and new IS initiatives

Danai Antonaki White Research
Manuel Gomez CIRCE

Viewed : 1240


Article Summary

Industrial symbiosis (IS) is becoming increasingly necessary due to the growing awareness of the need to reduce pollution and emissions as well as increase resource and energy efficiency. These concerns have reached industrial parks around the world, leading to the promotion of IS activities. These can be defined as communities of manufacturing and service businesses seeking enhanced environmental and economic performance through collaboration in managing environmental and resource issues, including energy, water, and materials (Bellantuono et al., 2017). By working together, the communities seek collective benefits that are greater than the sum of the individual benefits each company would accomplish independently (Domenech et al, 2018).

Industrial symbiosis efforts so far
Increasing interest in IS has already led to the investment of over €130 million in European research projects since 2006, which have focused on the development of methodologies, tools, software, platforms, or networks that facilitate the uptake of IS by different economic actors (Dhanorkar, et al., 2015). In fact, due to the complex task of identifying and assessing opportunities for IS, as well as selecting the most appropriate solutions from a broad range of options, many research efforts have been directed towards the definition of the most attractive IS activities rather than their implementation, management, and follow-up. 

Consequently, there is a lack of knowledge in the operation of IS solutions and, as a result, issues such as capacity building or the overcoming of non-technical barriers are major challenges in current approaches for implementing IS synergies. In addition, the results of these projects and initiatives have usually been disseminated individually and with a limited audience, which makes them insufficiently visible or accessible for managers of IS, while most of the active IS networks lack a monitoring framework or harmonised mechanisms of data collection and quantification of benefits (Domenech, 2018). For this reason, the full understanding of their practical value for specific cases is hampered, and there is not enough clarity about existing gaps for the further implementation of IS solutions.

All in all, there is a need to enhance the knowledge base for IS in Europe, which must be supported by harmonised frameworks and data reporting structures that ensure data accuracy and comparability in existing and new IS initiatives. The availability of new data in IS should further promote its implementation and market uptake in the EU, shed light on the added value of facilitators, and steer the transition towards a circular economy within industrial areas. Therefore, even though examples of successful IS activities exist in Europe and enabling technologies have been around for a while, IS implementation has yet to address several barriers to its uptake in the EU.

Market potential for IS in Europe 
The untapped potential of IS is increasingly attracting attention in the EU. In the meantime, given that the industrial sector accounts for about one-third of global energy demand, many industries have been reducing their energy demand in the last years through energy efficiency measures to decrease costs and improve competitiveness. Nevertheless, there is still a high potential for further improvements, especially when considering that up to 50% of the energy consumption is wasted as heat. Moreover, the European Commission’s (EC) Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe points out that improving the reuse of raw materials through greater ‘industrial symbiosis’ could save €1.4 billion a year across the EU and generate €1.6 billion in sales. Therefore, the potential to tackle the challenge of providing regular supplies without fluctuations by exploiting the utilisation of waste material flows is indeed a promising venture, which can lead to the identification of business opportunities leveraging underutilised resources through IS as well as to the development of a more sustainable and integrated industrial system. 

Target markets vary from construction, cement, and foundries to iron, steel, chemical and petrochemical sectors, and more. However, the types of waste streams exchanged between companies depend on the sectorial composition of the nearby companies. In terms of enhanced market opportunities, two types of waste exchange models can be identified: firms producing waste (usually large producers) and firms using waste (for both big firms and small to medium enterprises, or SMEs). In that context, besides causing a significant reduction in resource use and CO2 emissions by industrial processes, IS should also generate new job positions. In particular, by 2030, it is projected that an expansion of circular activity could create a potential labour market impact of 1.2 million new jobs (Domenech et al., 2018).

CORALIS EU project
CORALIS (Creation Of new value chain Relations through novel Approaches facilitating Long-term Industrial Symbiosis) is a four-year (October 2020-September 2024) Horizon 2020 project funded to shed light on the implementation reality of IS solutions and on the ways to overcome related barriers. CORALIS demonstration industrial areas share the identification and deployment of enabling technologies as the main driver behind their symbiotic relationships. Likewise, the project focuses on technological innovations, while it is complemented by managerial and economic considerations of IS, which, when combined, indicate the IS readiness level; in other words, the overall feasibility of the IS solution. The analysis, design, and implementation of an IS initiative according to this triple perspective is being accompanied by an impact assessment methodology, which provides a harmonised framework for the monitoring and follow-up of results, as well as the quantification of benefits for the actors involved in the IS initiative.

Execution methodology 
In order to achieve a significant improvement of the overall IS readiness level in real demonstration sites, thus tackling differing perspectives involved in such initiatives, CORALIS will demonstrate the deployment of novel symbiotic value chains in three demonstration sites (lighthouse demonstrators), along with three extra follower cases to validate and replicate results. 

It will also demonstrate the deployment of novel symbiotic value chains in its demonstration sites by the development and implementation of instrumental technologies for IS. The overall objective of the identified technologies is to contribute to the decarbonisation of the industrial areas and the transition to a circular economy. In particular, four different approaches have been considered in the implementation of technological innovations to IS initiatives: 

- CO2 capture and valorisation for the creation of zero direct emissions industrial areas: At Escombreras industrial area, the implementation of a symbiotic process for KNO3 will require the consumption of CO2, provided by different industries within the park after its capture. In the industrial area in Sweden, a capture unit will be installed at the steel company to provide CO2 to a nearby greenhouse.


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