Electric utility company E.ON has launched a large investment for the construction of an energy recovery plant at Imerys’ production site in Willebroek, Belgium.
The production of syngas from Imerys will be used as an energy source for the new power plant. Thanks to the exhaust gas treatment system, emissions will be heavily reduced resulting in significantly improved air quality. The new E.ON power plant – with a capacity of up to 29 Megawatts electric (MWel) – will produce sufficient electricity to supply the Imerys site and 40,000 families in the region all year round.
Imerys is the world leader in the production of high-performance conductive additives that are essential for lithium-ion batteries and technical polymer applications. Following the rapid development of e-mobility and the increasing demand for lithium-ion batteries globally, Imerys recently decided to expand its production capacity of high-purity carbon black in Belgium from two to four production lines. Carbon black’s high electrical conductivity is needed to improve the performance and lifetime of lithium-ion batteries. The production process releases heat and generates significant amounts of syngas. The syngas, which contains high concentrations of hydrogen and carbon monoxide, is currently flared with a loss of energy content.
E.ON will build on the Imerys site a state-of-the-art energy recovery plant to fully valorise and recover the energy content of syngas by producing steam. In the future, E.ON will also explore the possibility to recover the residual heat of the power plant as a source for a potential district heating network.
“The project represents a step change in the sustainability of carbon black production at Willebroek and aligns with Imerys’ ambitions to improve environmental stewardship throughout our operations. We are pleased to partner with E.ON to bring this to fruition for the benefit of the Willebroek plant, the environment and the local community,” said Frank Wittchen, Division Graphite and Carbon VP and GM at Imerys.
“Together with Imerys, we will improve the energy efficiency of the production site,” added Manfred Wirsing, Managing Director of E.ON Energy Projects. “As the produced carbon black is primarily used for lithium-ion batteries, the environment benefits on the one hand due to its importance in the transition towards e-mobility and on the other hand by the generation of power by the recovery of energy from the off-gasses − a double win for the environment. I am pleased that with this exemplary project, we are fully aligned with the growth strategy of E.ON and helping to decarbonize our customers’ operations and processes with sustainable solutions.”
The energy recovery plant will be built, owned and operated by E.ON Power Plants Belgium, a 100 per cent subsidiary of E.ON SE. The start of commercial operation of the plant is scheduled for the second half of 2025. The supply of electricity to Imerys is secured by a long-term partnership agreement between the companies.