When managed correctly, waste can replace extraction and processing of valuable virgin resources instead of becoming the final destination for the consumption of goods and services. Through innovation, we work to develop, implement, and improve circularity where waste transforms into new resources that are continuously re-used – everything to avoid depleting earth’s resources.
Our entire business is driven by innovation. This improves our daily operations and helps us find circular solutions of the future.
Anders Kihl, Head of Research and Development Ragn-Sells Group
Research, development and collaboration
We develop our resource-focused circular processes in close cooperation with universities, research institutes, customers, and other social actors.
Creating a society based on circular solutions will require collaboration between different actors. We actively look for and develop new collaborations through industrial symbiosis. Our facilities provide good opportunities to develop and test new methods and solutions in practice, making us an attractive partner for research and development.
We have an established research and development committee (R&D Committee) with the mission to drive the development of new products, processes, and services in an effective and sustainable manner. Our focus on research and development gives us an established position as market leader and trusted partner regarding innovation and business adaptation. Representatives from our Profit & Loss units and the IT department, form the committee which ensures that several perspectives are covered when making decisions. The committee also acts as a gate for publicly funded research and innovation projects where Ragn-Sells is involved. The R&D Committee gather and distribute knowledge across the Group.
Currently Ragn-Sells has six large ongoing projects related to innovation and we are continuously trying out new concepts. During 2020 the committee processed more than 20 internal ideas and ran 10 prestudies. However, this year we have experienced severe delays in some of our projects due to the Covid pandemic.
EasyMining - closing nutrient cycles
is a subsidiary within Ragn-Sells that develops and offers innovative solutions enabling safe and efficient recovery of nutrients from waste flows. Over the years, EasyMining has been involved in developing several processes that are now patented. In the Ash2Phos process phosphorus is recovered and in the Ash2Salt process commercial salts such as potassium chloride are recovered from fly ash from waste to energy. Another example is a method for recovering nitrogen from sewage water (RE-Fertilize). These initiatives all contribute to SDG 2, 6, 9 and 13.
Ash2Phos – phosphorus recovery from incinerated sludge ash
The Ash2Phos process is a wet chemical process which recovers clean commercial phosphorus products. In addition to phosphorus, the Ash2Phos process can recover precipitation chemicals and remove heavy metals.
Ash2Phos thus reduces the need for virgin resources. The Ash2Phos process consists of three steps: an initial acid step, a secondary basic step where intermediate products are produced, and finally, a conversion step where intermediates are processed into final products.
In September 2020, Ragn-Sells and German utilities company Gelsenwasser agreed to expand their cooperation with the primary goal to construct a major new facility for extracting phosphorus from incinerated sewage sludge.
Ash2Salt – recovering valuable resources from fly ash
The Ash2Salt technology extracts commercial salts from fly ash containing high chloride. In practice, it is based on two preceding steps: a first stage of ash washing and metal cleaning and a second stage of separation of dissolved salts in the wash solution.
In the first step, fly ash is washed with water. This removes washed ash (residual sand), leachate containing salt and a small amount of metals. The metals are then removed with sulphides from the leachate, where the liquid with the dissolved salts continues to the second stage: salt separation.
This is an energy-efficient process where commercial salts are produced. In addition, purified water from the salt separation process is recirculated back into the first step of the wash process. During 2020 Ragn-Sells took the decision to invest 600 MSEK in the world’s first full scale Ash2Salt plant that is now being built on Ragn-Sells’ treatment plant Högbytorp outside Stockholm, Sweden.
RE-Fertilize – an important breakthrough for circular nitrogen recovery
The objective of Ragn-Sells’ and EasyMinings’ project RE-Fertilize is to develop a patented circular method for recovering nitrogen from sewage water and allowing it to be used again as agricultural fertilizer.
Every time we use the toilet, nitrogen is created. Today, wastewater treatment plants remove the nitrogen from the sewage water using bacteria. By using this technique, the nitrogen simply goes right back into the atmosphere. In order to produce new nitrogen, which is one of the key nutrients in commercial fertilizers, an energy-intensive method has to be applied. As such, the water and wastewater sector have for a long time sought to find solutions for recovering nitrogen from wastewater.
In 2019, Ragn-Sells’ was granted 1.8 million Euros from EU LIFE, allowing us to develop the method and eventually offer it to Swedish wastewater treatment plants. Our new method allows the nitrogen to be recovered directly at the plant, which generates both large energy savings and a substantial reduction of emissions, such as the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide (N2O). During 2020, several smaller pilot tests have been conducted to verify the process in getting all necessary design parameters needed for the construction of the large pilot plant, which is planned to be tested on landfill leachate in the autumn of 2021.