Eesti Energia laid the cornerstone for a sustainable chemical industry
Eesti Energia started the transition from oil shale energy to the next stage of development in Ida-Virumaa, laying the cornerstone for the new Enefit 280 plant and a sustainable chemical industry concept as a whole.
Eesti Energia's engineers and Estonian scientists have the knowledge and experience to use the principles of a circular economy and create an industry that provides higher added value than today's liquid fuel production in order to produce raw materials for the clothing and plastics industries in the future. Moreover, tests are under way to make all production CO2 free.
“Although laying the cornerstone means the beginning of something, then in fact we have already done a lot of preliminary work. The Enefit technology allows pyrolysis of consumption residues – waste tyres and waste plastics, in addition to oil shale. In this regard, we reduce the use of oil shale, produce useful raw materials from the garbage generated in people's lives, and at the same time help to solve specific environmental problems,” said Hando Sutter, Chairman of the Management Board of Eesti Energia.
The use of waste tyres has already been industrially proven, and TalTech's research on waste plastics is also promising. The company plans to reach the industrial production of liquid fuels from waste plastics by 2025.
“Most plastics are made from petroleum, and processing them results in new petroleum products. This is what circular economy is about,” said Kalle Pirk, Director of the Oil Shale Competence Centre at TalTech’s Virumaa College.
The next step is the post-processing of liquid fuels, so that the end products, instead of the current marine fuels, are chemical raw materials which are used mainly in the clothing and packaging industries. The market for chemicals is stronger and more profitable in the long run than the market for liquid fuels.
“Our ambition is not limited to the transformation into a chemical industry. In order for Eesti Energia's operations to be environmentally sustainable, we are working with researchers to make our chemical industry carbon neutral,” Sutter said.
The only process that creates CO2 at the Enefit 280 plant is the afterburning of the semi-coke left over from pyrolysis in order to prevent organic compounds from entering the environment.
The first stages of Eesti Energia's and TalTech's research launched at the beginning of 2021 confirmed that the technology needed to capture CO2 exists. Currently, in the final phase of the study, tests are carried out with the TalTec’s test rig in collaboration with international technology providers to further explore the specificities of the CO2 capture technologies and their interaction with the Enefit280 plant. The aim is also to turn CO2 into a valuable resource from which methanol and calcium carbonate can be produced.
The expectation of the Estonian state as the owner is for Eesti Energia to add value to oil shale and other natural resources in a sustainable way, and to contribute to the development of the labour market in Ida-Virumaa.
“Eesti Energia is solving a significant environmental problem by developing the chemical industry. 12,000 tons of waste tyres and 45,000 tons of waste plastics are generated in Estonia every year. If this waste is no longer deposited or incinerated but recycled for chemical purposes, we will have taken a big step forward by wisely implementing the green revolution,” said Tõnis Mölder, Minister of the Environment, at the event in Auvere.
Construction of the new Enefit plant for liquid fuels is an important step in the creation of a chemical industry. The new plant will be completed in 2024 and is expected to reach full capacity a year later. The investment cost is estimated at EUR 321 million. The planned production capacity of the plant is 268,000 tons of liquid fuels per year, from which the plant will produce raw materials for the chemical industry.
The new plant will use the unique Enefit technology created by Estonian engineers, known to be the most efficient and industrially proven technology with the lowest environmental impact for the recovery of carbon-containing raw materials, including waste.
Nearly 1,000 employees from construction and technology companies will find application in the establishment of the plant, including up to 700 local people working during construction, in addition to indirect jobs in the service sector. According to experts, up to half of the construction cost of the new oil plant may remain in Estonia. After start-up, the oil plant will create a total of about 500 direct and indirect jobs.