Refractories are used in high temperature processes, involving raw materials that are largely considered as “critical”. Surprisingly, only 7% of the raw material volume arises from recycled sources. While it could be expected that the “4R” approach (reduce-reuse-remanufacture-recycle) is well established in steel companies, valorisation of refractory materials is most often sporadic and the sector’s Best Available Techniques reference document (BREF) only provides general recommendations in this respect.
The overall purpose of the LIFE 5ReFRACT project is to extend the “4R” approach to a “5R” paradigm (reduce-reuse- remanufacture-recycle-re-educate) and apply it to the steel sector and refractories market, thus achieving an integral valorisation of refractory materials (the aim is to increase the recovery of refractories up to 80% of the recoverable fraction). The LIFE 5REFRACT project will constitute the first industrial and systematic demonstration experience dealing with refractory waste in the steel sector.
Its specific objectives are the following:
- Development of new high added-value refractory materials that will be up to 70% reprocessed material from spent refractories.
- Reduction of soil occupation and pollution by avoiding the landfilling of up to 3,600 tonnes of refractory waste.
- Reduction of CO2 emissions (3,340 tonnes CO2/year) and energy consumption (approx. 6,100,000 kWh/year) by recycling refractories, as it is not necessary to produce magnesite and alumina from the source mineral.
- Establishment of guidelines for the European steel sector to adopt these strategies, disseminating the good practices defined in the sector.
- Contribution to the state of the art in refractory waste management so as to enrich and complete the BREF document on steel with specific methodologies and applications.
- Analysis of synergies between the steel industry and other energy-intensive industries in order to define new circular economy models based on the sharing and use of resources.
The following actions will be carried out in order to achieve the proposed objectives:
- A comprehensive analysis of the refractories used by SIDENOR in order to identify and prioritise how best to use refractory waste.
- Implementation of new technologies to facilitate the separation of refractories for optimum use, and validation of applications based on reused and remanufactured refractories.
- Development of new products (new refractory materials) incorporating recycled refractories.
- Analysis of the replicability of solutions so as to take appropriate measures for introducing changes in the BREF document regarding steel and iron production and to perform a suitability analysis of the solutions obtained for the steel sector.
- Analysis of the transferability of solutions to other sectors which use refractories (cement, glass, non-ferrous metals, etc.).
- Analysis of the environmental and socio-economic impact of the project.
- Dissemination of results for specially selected audiences (steel companies, refractory industries, other industries) and establishment of partnerships on related projects.