It was not by accident that the Asnæs Power Station, Denmark’s largest, was built at Kalundborg in the first place. Nor by accident that Dong Energy chose the site for the first Inbicon Biomass Refinery and integrated it with the power station.
Our new biomass refinery became the ninth major company in the Industrial Symbiosis of Kalundborg, where energy and byproducts are exchanged in over 20 mutually beneficial ways. In our case, waste steam from the power station cooks our straw to prepare it for conversion into cellulosic ethanol. Our process also produces a lignin powder so clean that power plants can use it without additional treatment to replace coal. This energy exchange dramatically increases the efficiency and shrinks the carbon footprint of both operations.
The Asnæs Power Station also sends steam to the Statoil Refinery and Nova Nordisk (Novozymes); heat to the municipal water treatment facility and a fish farm; and fly ash offsite to the concrete and cement industry. In removing sulfur dioxide from its flue gas, the power station produces about 110,000 tons of gypsum, which another Kalundborg company turns into plasterboard for the construction industry. This reduces the amount of natural gypsum the company needs to import, and it gives the power station a valuable product made from flue gas.
This kind of thinking has applications far beyond Denmark. Instead of one manufacturer on one site, we’re seeing more co-locations, more clustering, more sharing of resources and utilization of one another’s wastes in increasingly productive and cost-cutting ways.
In the United States, a number of states are finding incentives to encourage development of sustainable energy parks where older industries once stood. Universities are studying ways to make it happen. Companies like Proctor & Gamble have been betting on it as they produce greener consumer projects to compete in higher-value market segments.
Renewable industries are exploring new combinations for cooperation. The coal-fired power industry is eager for partnerships that can reduce its carbon footprint. And the grain-ethanol industry has shown a willingness to look into co-location with cellulosic ethanol plants using CHP.
What will sustainable energy parks of the future look like when applying the symbiotic model? From innovative leaders we haven’t yet met, we believe many options will surface we haven’t yet imagined-ideas that will transform how clean energy is produced in the future
As we plan the commercialization of our technology in the U.S., we’re finding great advantages in co-locating our biomass refineries and integrating them with either coal-fired power plants, existing grain-ethanol plants, or manufacturing facilities with CHP opportunities.
Our first biomass refinery in the states is expected to integrate with Great River Energy’s large coal-fired power plant at Spiritwood, North Dakota. Same kind of energy integration and exchange as at Kalundborg: Steam from the power plant helps process the biomass, and lignin from the refinery in turn offsets the coal fired at the plant. This promises significant efficiency and environmental gains for both operations.
At another energy park we’re seeking to help develop, there’s been discussion of also integrating with a manufacturer who would use Inbicon’s C5 molasses byproduct for high-margin green products. By coexisting with an anaerobic digester, we can also produce biogas to fire the park’s power plant.
Right now we’re opening as much dialogue as possible on how cellulosic ethanol and CHP projects could mesh with the symbiotic model for North American energy parks. We invite thinkers and leaders from the energy, investment, process engineering, and environmental communities as well as government representatives to participate in the conversation.