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Many foundries use fossil fuels such as coke and natural gas, among others, for their smelting processes. How can the carbon emissions caused by these processes be avoided in future? Which potential pathways towards transformation exist and what are the crucial technical and economic conditions needed? Is the electrification of all thermal processes using renewable energy a realistic proposition? What roles will biomethane or green hydrogen play? These are some of the issues being addressed by the InnoGuss project, which is investigating the current state of play of the defossilisation of NRW’s foundry sector and identifying new types of technology aimed at reducing greenhouse gases for foundry work. A compass developed in the course of the project is designed to provide support for the sector’s predominantly medium-sized companies on their path to defossilisation. Through this holistic approach, the project aims to initiate sustainable development of both the technology required and of the sector as a whole for future decades.
Innovation: Comprehensive climate strategy
For the first time, the InnoGuss project is investigating the specific constraints that apply to iron, steel, ferrous and non-ferrous metal casting in NRW and demonstrating ways of achieving low-carbon emissions using model foundries and establishing the potential intermediate stages involved. To give an example, they are investigating whether using a mixture of gases consisting of natural gas and hydrogen is suitable for the transition phase or which demands the supply infrastructure of the future needs to meet. This includes studying whether and how consistent product quality can be guaranteed when substituting fossil fuels with hydrogen generated based on renewable sources. New and established forms of technology are planned to be accessible to companies and made transparent and the knowledge gained during the project is intended to provide a base for further work.
Efficiency: Optimising the entire process chain
In order to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from NRW’s foundry industry in line with climate policy targets, manufacturing processes need to be adjusted and conventional technology has to be modified or replaced. To this end, first of all an inventory needs to be taken of the energy sources currently used and the various types of energy efficiency technology implemented, as well as a survey carried out of as many as possible of the smelting facilities in North Rhine-Westphalian foundries, in order to estimate the theoretical potential for reducing emissions. After that, the required political framework and constraints on the defossilisation of the foundry industry will be analysed based on model foundries. In the next step, measures will be developed and evaluated which improve energy efficiency and reduce CO2 emissions. A compass will be used to make the know-how accumulated in this process exploitable to all companies in the sector.
Effect: Branch-specific CO2 reduction strategies
In 2019, the overall energy requirements of German foundries were around 12.4 terawatt-hours according to the Federal Statistical Office, meaning that this branch of industry contributes about one per cent to overall German CO2 emissions. The InnoGuss project serves as the first step of a holistic approach within NRW’s foundry industry to increase its energy efficiency and systematically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The project will make a major contribution towards achieving current climate targets. The results are intended to show companies potential ways of implementing climate policy targets by 2030 or 2050 and establish the prerequisites for the sector to formulate specific CO2 reduction targets by 2030 or 2050.