Towards carbon-neutrality – Metals producers and research organizations to develop solutions for reducing CO2 emissions

Leading metals producers in Finland together with domestic research organizations have launched a large 3-year research project with an aim to develop tehcnologies for CO2 mitigation in metals production. Metals production possesses greatest CO2 potential of all industries in Finland. Business Finland funds the project with almost 10 million Euros. The total budget of the project is 18 million Euros.

The project, Towards Carbon-neutral Metals, TOCANEM, is a significant step towards carbon-neutral metals production. In addition, project contributes to realization of national and EU level low-carbon roadmap.

The project lays the groundwork for the large investments required for carbon-neutral metals production. The aim of the project is to regularise Finland's position as a forerunner and commercializer of process innovations and process technologies as well as to strengthen knowhow on use of electricity and hydrogen in metals production.

Boliden Harjavalta, Boliden Kokkola, Freeport Cobalt, Fortum, Metso Outotec and Outokumpu are responsible for piloting the processes developed in the project. Kivisampo, Owatec and Sapotech comprise the SME partners. In addition, Metsä Group, Ovako and SSAB are collaborative partners in the project.

The research organizations in the project are Aalto University, LUT University, University of Oulu, Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT) and Åbo Akademi. The project employs 40 researchers in the participating research organizations. University of Oulu coordinates the project.

"The project leads metals production industry significantly towards the carbon-neutrality target set in Finland and it promotes strategic renewal of the ecosystem.", says professor and project's principal investigator Timo Fabritius from University of Oulu.

The project is also part of the strategic research agenda of The Association of Finnish Steel and Metal Producers. In 2019, metals producers employed 15 000 people and the turnover was 11 billion Euros. The share of metal products of Finnish visible exports was 12 percent and the export comprised 80 percent of the gross sales.

"The aim of regulating status as a forerunner in carbon-neutral technologies and products as well as circular economy strengthens Finnish metals producers' position in global market. It has a positive impact on economic life in Finland and it creates new business and jobs.", adds Kimmo Järvinen, the CEO of The Association of Finnish Steel and Metal Producers.

LUT studies hydrometallurgical metal extraction

Several separation technology research teams from LUT are involved in the TOCANEM project. Their work is supervised by Sami Virolainen, Docent of Industrial Hydrometallurgy at LUT.

"LUT's share focuses on hydrometallurgical techniques, which involve the use of aqueous solutions in metal extraction. With the help of our research, industrial actors will be able to increase the efficiency of their refining processes, recover valuable metals from side streams, and separate impurities that disturb processes. All this will reduce the carbon footprint of metal refineries and make them more eco-friendly, which is the ultimate goal of the research project," says Virolainen.

The key technologies LUT will examine are liquid-liquid extraction and ion exchange chromatography.

"Liquid-liquid extraction is a so-called mainstream separation technique in metal refining, but we are further developing it and investigating its application to new areas. Ion exchange chromatography, on the other hand, is an emerging technology in the metal refining industry."

The more efficient utilization of side streams holds great potential in reducing carbon dioxide emissions. "One of the applications in our project is the utilization of side streams from cobalt refineries," Virolainen sums up.

Business Finland finds that the project is well in line with its new strategy. R&D investments for new carbon-neutral processes are essential. Process innovation and their successful implementation enable significant CO2 mitigation. The investment on research of carbon-neutral metals production places Finland among the global forerunners in development of new carbon-neutral technologies and products.

"In the long term, sustainable development enables economic growth. It is our task to promote the development of Finnish knowhow which secures the success of our country in the future as well.", states Nina Kopola, Director General & CEO of Business Finland.

More information:

Sami Virolainen, Docent of Industrial Hydrometallurgy, LUT University, sami.virolainen@lut.fi, +358 40 709 3444
Timo Fabritius, Professor, University of Oulu, timo.fabritius@oulu.fi, +358 40 554 6683
Kimmo Järvinen, CEO, The Association of Finnish Steel and Metal Producers, kimmo.jarvinen@teknologiateollisuus.fi,

+358 43 825 7642

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