Mannok and FLSmidth are celebrating the successful implementation of the Fuelflex Pyrolyzer – a new combustion system which has almost eliminated the use of fossil fuel in the most carbon-intensive stage of cement production at Mannok’s plant, reducing 240 tonnes of carbon emissions per day, whilst significantly reducing Nitrogen Oxides (NOx emissions).

To mark this significant milestone in the completion of this international R&D project, which is set to transform the cement manufacturing industry and is helping Mannok’s cement production be more sustainable, the two companies held a launch event with politicians, stakeholders, industry experts, government agencies, local councils and schools from the Republic of Ireland, the UK and Denmark attending last Thursday.

The new system is enabling Mannok, at present, to replace 90 per cent of its coal use with SRF (solid recovered fuels), which would otherwise go to landfill, in the pre-calcination stage of cement production, and it is working towards eliminating the use of coal.

FLSmidth, a Danish engineering company which created the new technology, partnered with Mannok on the development of the world’s first pilot of the Fuelflex Pyrolyzer back in 2018.

During the event last week, Lars Skaarup Jensen – FLSmidth’s Research and Development Specialist – explained the collaboration of the two companies for the design and testing of the system over the last four years.

He said: “When we reached out to Mannok, Fuelflex was still very much at a concept stage. We’d performed some testing in our lab in Denmark, but that is very different to deployment in a fully-operational cement works.

“It was a brave decision by Mannok to partner with us in the development of this world-first technology, and it took great commitment and expertise on both sides to achieve a successful outcome, which has enormous potential for cement producers globally.”

With the technology operating successfully at the Irish producer’s facilities since July, 2022, it has already enabled Mannok to cut its fossil fuel use in the cement production process.

The production of clinker, a precursor to cement, is the most fuel-intensive part of the process, and the pre-calcination phase accounts for the largest portion of fossil fuel use – 60 per cent of all fossil fuels in Mannok’s case.

Operations Director, Kevin Lunney, said: “The key challenge for the entire cement industry is decarbonisation, and it’s our primary area of focus. We’ve set ambitious targets to reduce our carbon emissions by a third by the end of the decade, and go on to achieve net zero by 2050. This requires innovative thinking, and we’re very proud to partner with FLSmidth and to help provide leadership in this space.

“The success of the Fuelflex technology is a big win for us, as we are now on track to eliminate all coal use in the pre-calcination phase of production, which surpasses our initial expectations of displacing 80 per cent.

“This will remove around 40,000 tonnes of coal, and the resulting 58,000 tonnes of carbon emissions per year, so it’s a significant leap forward in our decarbonisation journey.”

Beyond fossil fuel displacement and the resulting reduced carbon emissions, another environmental benefit of this new technology is the reduction in NOx emissions.

There are very strict limits to permitted NOx emissions, and Mannok, like many cement producers, has used significant quantities of ammonia water to ensure compliance with these regulatory limits.

Since the introduction of Fuelflex, the company has practically eliminated its use of ammonia water, and is running at around 20 per cent below its permitted NOx limits on occasion, which brings an unexpected commercial benefit by significantly reducing the previous need of 48,000 litres of expensive ammonia water per week.

Alison McCullagh, Chief Executive of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, attended the event along with her team.

She said: “It was important for the Council to have a presence at today’s event, firstly to support Mannok, who is one of the key employers in the district, to learn at first-hand not only the work that has taken place to develop the Fuelflex Pyrolyzer, but also Mannok’s very ambitious future plans.

“We are always keen to see what best practice looks like in business, so to see the sustainability vision and ambition on the scale we have seen today, it was very important to be here.”