Combating Climate Change by Transforming Waste into Value

Main Content Starts Here
Roland Folz
Roland Folz serves as Group President, Industrial Solutions

08/29/2022

Combating Climate Change by Transforming Waste into Value

As originally published on GreenBiz.com.

The man's hands in gardening gloves are sorting through the chopped wood of the trees. Mulching the tree trunk circle with wood chips. Organic matter of natural origin

Global temperatures are on the rise and large portions of North America, Europe and South Asia experienced record-breaking heat waves this summer. The goal to limit global heating to under 1.5 degrees Celsius is pressing and requires ambitious actions and innovative solutions.

To avoid the most significant effects of climate change, experts say greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions must be halved before 2030 and net-zero emissions achieved before 2050. In response, more companies are committing to carbon neutral ambitions and are looking for innovative technologies and solutions to help achieve their goals. Carbon capture and utilization (CCU) and biogas upgrading are two such technologies that are helping pave the way for a carbon-neutral future.

In addition to its portfolio of leading water treatment solutions, Pentair provides carbon capture and biogas upgrading solutions to help its partners reach their environmental and GHG reduction goals. For a company built on innovations that help customers reduce their impact and increase value for the resources they use, Pentair’s offering of these solutions is not only essential to its ESG strategy, but also to its to its customers and the planet.


Capturing emissions and value

The first carbon capture plant was proposed in 1938 and the first project to inject CO2 into the ground launched in 1972. It wasn’t until 1996 that the first integrated project to capture and store carbon began operations — a concept now called carbon capture and sequestration (CCS).

Pentair has a deep history in this space — delivering the technologies for extracting, recovering, purifying, and liquefying carbon for over 80 years — and brings an understanding that captured carbon is a valuable byproduct that can be repurposed, not just stored in the ground. As understanding of environmental issues grew alongside evolving regulation, customers and industry peers needed innovative solutions. Pentair recognized it had the resources and technology available to create CCU solutions that could transform waste into value.

The company’s CCU business has since grown to over 2,000 customer installations. For example, in cooperation with the Technical University of Denmark, Pentair installed the first carbon capture pilot plant at Amager Bakke, a waste-to-energy plant in Copenhagen. Commissioned by the Amager Resource Center, a joint municipal company, the plant has the capacity to help eliminate 500,000 metric tons of CO2 by 2025 — a crucial step to making Copenhagen the first carbon neutral capital in the world.


Pentair’s latest project with chemicals specialist Tata Chemicals Europe (TCE) is the United Kingdom’s first industrial-scale CCU demonstration plant. The plant will enable TCE to reduce carbon emissions by capturing CO2 from its combined heat and power system’s emissions. The captured CO2 is then repurposed into sodium bicarbonate, which is often used as a treatment for kidney failure. Designed with the capacity to capture 40,000 tons of CO2 per year, the plant is taking the equivalent of over 20,000 cars off the road in the U.K. — demonstrating that this technology can also help the U.K. meet its 2050 net-zero goal and ensure ongoing emissions are balanced.


Upgrading waste into worth

As global pressure to limit emissions continues to increase, entities across the supply chain are also looking for new solutions, such as biogas upgrading. Biogas is produced during anaerobic digestion of organic material (like manure), and the upgrading process separates methane from CO2 and other gases to create a concentrated biogas close to 100 percent methane called ‘biomethane’ or ‘renewable natural gas’ (RNG). This process is growing in popularity because it can replace natural gas, as well as generate new uses for biogas, including vehicle fuel or use in the gas distribution network. Due to the closeness of the CCU market in which Pentair was already established, offering biogas solutions was a natural extension and, 10 years ago, the company added biogas upgrading to its business. In that short time, it’s clear that these solutions have had an impact.

One of Pentair’s first projects was with Schaap Bio Energie in the Netherlands. The Dutch farm operation and energy producer was already creating heat, electricity and fertilizer from manure but did not have an adequate end market to support the volume of organic waste it received. To obtain a better return on investment, Pentair installed biogas upgrading technology that reduces methane slippage to nearly 0 percent and allows for the recovery of pure CO2. This is particularly important because biogas upgrading can only be considered a viable climate solution if it minimizes or eliminates methane slippage, as methane has a GHG effect 23 times greater than that of CO2. Schaap Bio Energie now produces 1.6 million cubic meters of biomethane per year supplied to the national gas grid and food-grade fluid CO2 that is used in a variety of commercial applications. The installation has been running for 10 years with an uptime of above 99 percent, proving its reliability, longevity and viability as a climate solution.

McCulla Trucks Moving Outside

The transport sector is another area that has historically been dependent on fossil fuels, and innovations in biogas upgrading are paving a promising path to mitigate emissions. This was the focus of Pentair’s work with McCulla, a refrigerated transport company in Northern Ireland. In 2021, Pentair launched a new biogas upgrading plant to fuel McCulla’s fleet with Compressed Natural Gas (bio-CNG) produced from food waste collected from supermarkets throughout the country. When compared with diesel, the benefits of bio-CNG are promising. A recent study compared a diesel-fueled heavy goods vehicle with one that runs on bio-CNG or biomethane and found that the vehicle running on biomethane emitted approximately 78.2 percent lower equivalent carbon emissions than diesel, and the vehicle running on bio-CNG emitted 12.3 percent lower emissions. And while there’s a move toward electric, the technology is not yet available to all sectors (like heavy transport) and biogas is a viable and sustainable alternative.


Where do we go from here?

Each of these projects illustrates the potential of technologies that transform waste into value. Since 2001, Pentair has supplied biogas upgrading solutions with the capacity to produce 955M normal cubic meters of biomethane, an alternative to natural gas, thereby avoiding the emittance of 1.7 million metric tons of CO2 from fossil fuels. This is the equivalent to CO2 emissions from 214,137 homes’ energy use for one year, as estimated by the EPA’s GHG equivalencies calculator.

The progress and impact over the past 80 years is exciting, and the CCU and biogas upgrading markets offer large growth opportunities. Industries where operational emissions are unavoidable, such as cement and chemical companies, are turning to companies like Pentair for decarbonization solutions, while soft drink bottlers, breweries, farms and wastewater plants recognize the opportunity to capture and recycle waste into valuable byproducts.

With climate change becoming more immediate, mitigating emissions is critical and sustainable gas solutions like CCU and biogas upgrading offer new ways to transform waste into value. Pentair is excited by the positive impact made so far and is continuing to leverage its deep expertise, proven innovation process and global perspective to advance these technologies on the path to creating a more sustainable carbon neutral future.

Back to top of page