It has long been acknowledged that it is possible to replace fossil coal with charcoal, thus substantially reducing net CO2 emissions depending on the amount of charcoal used. Quartz consists of silicon and oxygen. The job of the carbon is to release the oxygen. This takes place in a chemical reaction at high temperatures. Charcoal may increase the yield from the process, meaning more silicon can be extracted from the quartz.
But Elkem’s ambitions are greater than this: Elkem is conducting research into the possibility of producing charcoal at the same plant where ferrosilicon and silicon are produced and connect these production cycles to a thermal power plant. At optimal levels, the power generated will be greater than the power consumed. It will also be possible to produce condensate, which can then be refined.
Research into zero waste
Elkem’s technological partners in the project are SINTEF Energy Research and Teknova. The research project is scheduled to conclude by the end of 2016. Elkem will then decide whether the project will be continued with large-scale tests in laboratories and industrial pilot plants.
CNMP is based on Elkem’s principle of zero waste: all the materials and energy put into production must be utilized.
Elkem has applied for patent protection for CNMP, which will involve connecting three plants:
- A pyrolysis plant for the production of charcoal and condensate.
- A smelting furnace for the production of ferrosilicon or silicon.
- A thermal power plant for the production of electricity.