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"Spinning straw to gold" or how to create green parks out of fields of waste
"Environmentally viewed, CalciTech has made an incredible move: We can actually clean up waste lime pits and transform the waste into a commercial quality product," Marc Janssens, COO of CalciTech Ltd., sums up the basic facts of his company's new commercial - and at the same time - environmental strategy: The production of very pure and fine SCC basically out of the combination of waste carbide lime and the omnipresent air-polluting CO2.
The company's innovative product is made by a method developed in collaboration with several Universities and Research Centres. Its simple commercial formula grounds on the decrease of waste and pollution as well as on the economic ideal of exploiting cheap or even free resources. Compared to conventional PCC production, CalciTech has added several new processing steps in order to control the quality of the resulting crystalline substance; compared to the traditional approach, the unique advantage though is the possibility of being able to use waste instead of natural lime resources.
Health and environmental problems of carbide lime
Carbide lime is a problem waste. The primary concern associated with it is its high alkalinity - its pH factor of up to 12,45 - with its potential impacts to soil and groundwater. Moreover, the lime is contaminated by free carbon, ferrosilicon and also small amounts of several metal oxides. Skin- and eye-irritation may result from overexposure to the unwanted substance. Marc Janssens though, likes to remain reasonable about its hazardous effects: "Carbide lime certainly is industrial waste but the ponds are not highly dangerous. Its real problem is the storage, since there is so much of it."
Carbide lime is everywhere
Throughout the industrial world, it is estimated that tens of million of tons of carbide lime sit in huge ponds, ruining the landscape with their endless grey heaps of mud. Particularly affected by these waste pits are the former eastern bloc countries, such as the eastern part of Germany, Poland, and Slovakia. In Schkopau, a small German town close to Leipzig, there is probably more than 40 million tons of the polluted material "stored" in enormous pits. The waste material results from acetylene gas production, which was particularly important for the former eastern bloc economies.
First Site Selected
It is in Leuna, near Schkopau, where CalciTech is currently operating a small-scale production plant, and it is also where the Company plans to build its first full-scale commercial plant. In order to feed this plant, CalciTech has secured the operation rights for two of the pits at the Schkopau site. Furthermore, the Company obtains the required CO2 from Linde AG, an industrial company operating in the same industrial park in Leuna as CalciTech.
Hochhalde-Schkopau Waste Site
Western countries though should be far from thinking they were not concerned: before the 1990's practically all PVC production was based on acetylene, generated from calcium carbide. No surprise, we find large waste ponds also in the U.S.A. and many other countries.
"We will certainly not empty all these waste ponds," comments Marc Janssens, COO, on the amounts of carbide lime needed for future SCC, "but our approach leads in the right direction. We cannot continue forever to create more and more waste."
SCC vs PCC Production
The most widespread traditional method of producing PCC is still the so-called "direct process", which starts from high quality limestone and natural gas as a fuel in order to guarantee a high purity. CalciTech has attempted to avoid natural resources and will still achieve an outstandingly fine, pure and consistent material, attributes previously difficult to achieve conventionally. The first stage for CalciTechs' new production variant was the "bench work" in collaboration with the University of Lyon, France, in 1997, followed by a long period of testing and improvements, with the help of a contracted research company. More information on CalciTech's process can be found on the Technology page of this site.
In the same way the recycled carbide lime in CalciTech SCC can enhance the environmental quality of paint and plastic, partially and increasingly replacing the more expensive fillers based on natural resources.
The introduction of ecological sources for SCC not only turns a page in CalciTech's own environmental engagements, but it marks a new approach towards industrial production in general: The use of waste instead of the exploitation of natural resources and the decrease rather than the increase of industrial waste and pollution.