Industrial and territorial ecology
Location: Mejillones, Antofagasta, Chile
Creator of industrial waste management projects.
Faced with the evidence of climate change and a growing demand from society, ENGIE works to limit its impact on the environment.
For some years, the Chilean branch has been showing intense activity in this area. In particular, the center of Mejillones, in the north of the country, has played the role of a real incubator of circular economy projects, allowing prototypes to be tested on an industrial scale.
The Mejillones power station supplies electricity to a large part of the Antofagasta region. To do this, it uses mostly coal. In order to limit the environmental impact of its activity, ENGIE (E-CL) has decided to carry out many waste recovery loops.
First, the water heated by the combustion must be cooled before returning in the sea. The solution commonly adopted is to pass it through a long coil so that it cools slowly.
Here, water has been used to heat fish ponds, and thus allow the local production of farmed fish. But that’s not all: instead of being simply discarded after use, water is now used to feed a cactus plantation. These, thanks to the water they are watering, recover some of the carbon emitted, and can in turn serve as fuel. Another part of the carbon emitted is injected into a circuit that feeds pools of micro-algae: these grow thanks to the CO2 and then serve to create bio-fuel.
Finally, the ashes are recovered and transformed to make bricks and serve the construction of houses in the region.
Although the various projects hosted by the Mejillones power plant are not all permanent within the plant itself, the plant has a major role as an incubator, and allows different companies to test projects on an industrial scale.
Today, those who have been experimented are very promising: from water – first hot, for fish farming, then cold, for irrigation – to carbon, used to produce bio-diesel and bricks, all resources are reused to the fullest, and waste is avoided.
E-CL reduces its carbon footprint by using its materials for both biodiesel and construction materials. Moreover, the same amount of water has several uses.
With the introduction of many circular economy loops, the Mejillones power station uses its resources much more efficiently, and can create more value from the same starting resources. What’s more, this project incubator system allows the development of many initiatives and thus boost the local economy.
Setting up loops following the example of E-CL is only feasible if the company is big enough to face the potential complications. The strength of an international group, driven by the need to reduce its environmental impact has certainly had a great influence on the funds released for this type of project.
Copyright CirculAgronomie 2020