Many existing bioethanol plants use agricultural products as a feedstock. Typically, this comes from crops such as sugar cane, wheat, and corn which take up land and resources which could be used for food production. “With our technology, we use recycled carbon, so there is no need to tie-up valuable arable land,” explains Wim Van der Stricht.
Although the plant will not be fully operational for at least two years, ArcelorMittal is already getting enquiries from potential buyers. “We’ve had a lot of interest from fuel blenders who use bioethanol as a substitute for petrol (gasoline),” says Wim Van der Stricht. “But we were surprised just how many of our own customers require bioethanol for their applications. From paint to household cleaning products, there are hundreds of important uses.”
Creating a carbon-neutral steel industry
ArcelorMittal’s aim for this project is to show that it is possible to create a carbon-neutral steel industry, not just one that produces low levels of carbon dioxide notes Carl De Maré: “The circular economy is critical to achieve that carbon-neutral status, but ArcelorMittal can’t do it alone. We need additional partners in this new value chain and to help close the loop, we want our customers to be a part of this innovative technology. I urge every customer that utilises bioethanol, or is active in recycling waste streams, to get in touch through the project’s website.”
Proven technology moves to industrial scale
Ethanol plants like the one being installed at ArcelorMittal Gent have been trialled in China, proving that the technology works. However, the ethanol conversion plant in Gent will be the first to produce bioethanol on an industrial scale and in a cost-effective way with a high level of energy efficiency.
Preparatory work for the conversion facility has already started. Engineering work for the plant has been finalised and equipment based on best available technologies (BAT) was ordered in mid-2018. That equipment is expected to be delivered by summer 2019. The plant will start producing bioethanol around mid-2020 before ramping up to full production.
More than 500 temporary engineering jobs will be created during the construction phase. Once commissioned, the plant will be run by a team of around 30 people including bio-engineers, operators, and technicians.