Berthold KRen, Business Head, Geocycle India
What are the main AFR materials you are using in your plants in India?
Geocycle India is co-processing materials ranging from industrial hazardous and non–hazardous waste such as sludges, waste solvents, packaging waste, date expired medicines, trade rejects etc. to agricultural residues and sorted combustible fraction of municipal waste. In general, Geocycle is targeting to use only non recyclable wastes for the thermal use, and indeed mineral waste, that is recycled in the kilns and used for its mineral content. By doing so Geocycle is not only reducing the exploitation of natural resources for fossil fuels, limestone, iron, alumina and silica but also contributing significantly to reduce the volume of waste that is landfilled in India.
What is the level of energy efficiency you have achieved?
Geocycle India has set up state-of-the-art infrastructure and facilities for sustainably managing a large volume of waste. These seven dedicated state-of-the-art pre-processing facilities with installations for blending liquids, shredding solids and sludges and homogenising waste prior to its co-processing have allowed Geocycle to handle large volumes of waste safely and sustainably. Through co-processing these wastes with proper OH&S arrangements, Geocycle has ensured that any energy and material value inherent in them can be utilised and has reached up to 5 per cent TSR in its kilns. The energy efficiency of our cement kilns is more than 80 per cent. This is much higher than any other thermal waste to energy process and on top of it does not provide any residues for landfilling.
To what extent Indian cement companies are exploiting AFR compared to global benchmarks?
The level of co-processing of wastes being implemented in the cement plants depends upon the location of the plant and the available waste and agricultural residues around it.
All developed nations globally have utilised cement kilns in their countries as an important part for an effective waste management plan for the country and a viable outlet for industrial, municipal and hazardous waste disposal. The cement industry has become an important part in the national and local waste management plans in many industrial countries, especially where landfilling is reduced to a bare minimum to reduce the landfilling footprint, water and air pollution.
Some cement players in India have taken the lead in AFR utilisation but, the current thermal substitution rate (TSR) in Indian cement industry, on an average, is less than 2% as compared to some European countries that have a thermal substitution rate as high as 40%.
What are the challenges companies faces in sourcing AFR materials, and what are the strategies you follow?
The cement companies are offering a service of waste disposal. We utilise the waste, and convert it safely to fuel and raw material, which demands a significant amount of investment and cost. Dealing with waste can be challenging and requires specialised capabilities. While the heterogeneous nature and varying chemical composition of various waste streams poses a challenge in itself, an additional challenge stems from the fact that obtaining the necessary permits for disposal and co-processing waste in cement kilns may be difficult and can require long time in some cases in spite of the recent positive updates in the policy landscape.
Geocycle ensures regulatory compliance, highest health and safety standards as well as traceability, and offers complete destruction of waste material while ensuring its inherent energy and material value is utilised. Our innovative and tailored solutions provide an answer to the challenges faced by waste generator and also help cement industry contribute to saving natural resources.
Geocycle’s pre-processing facilities have adequate safety arrangements ranging from avant- garde fire detection and suppression systems, full-fledged waste testing laboratories and adequate infrastructure ensuring environmental protection. All of Geocycle’s pre-processing facilities are ISO certified and are subject to regular internal and external audits and are staffed with a team of well-trained, highly experienced and professional waste management experts ensuring highest standards of safety, control and quality.
Geocycle is now also focussing on partnering with municipalities across the country for providing solutions for management of sorted, non-recyclable municipal waste.
In terms of earnings, how beneficial is this for your company?
As mentioned earlier for safe co-processing, special pre-processing infrastructure needs to be set up so that large waste quantum can be managed. Geocycle has already invested around Rs 6 billion in setting up seven dedicated pre-processing facilities for the purpose and both ACC and ACL are determined to continue that path as we see this also as a contribution to a sustainable business and as a more viable business opportunity for the future. Indeed there is a significant cost to run and enable the kilns to utilise waste, but with a proper quantum of waste in the future this will as well become a beneficial business.
The pre-processing of waste and other material such as agricultural residues ensures that a compatible fuel mix is prepared such that the energy and material value inherent in the waste can replace a part of natural resources utilised in the cement kilns. This basically means cement kilns get substitution benefit to a certain extent if proper processes and systems for waste / AFR utilisation are adopted.
What are the long-term plans for improving energy efficiency in your plants?
In the long term while partnering with Industries to provide sustainable solutions for industrial waste, Geocycle will continue to focus on utilising sustainable biomass as well as sorted, non-recyclable, combustible fraction of municipal waste (the
RDF /SCF), ensuring that while these streams are sustainably managed, the energy efficiency of the plants is also improved in parallel and CO2 emissions can be reduced.
Geocycle India together with ACC and ACL are determined to reach international standards with AF rates over 40 per cent and even compete with the global top performers within the LH Group where sustainably AF rates of more than 90 per cent are achieved.