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EU Industry Days is Europe’s annual flagship event on industry. This year’s edition is happening at a time when green and digital transformations are opening up new opportunities for EU businesses and citizens. Numerous LIFE projects are already addressing this challenge and play a key role in the transition to a more sustainable EU economy. The projects below represent the entire LIFE community at this year’s event.
Several LIFE projects are being showcased during EU Industry Days. This is because they endorse the business case for a greener and more resilient industry. They are creating jobs, helping the EU recover from the Covid-19 pandemic. Most importantly, they help the continent to meet the ambitious European Green Deal targets.
Sustainable ice cream
Most existing gelato machines use Hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants that contribute to global warming and cause around 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The team at LIFE ICEGREEN - an Italian project from NEMOX International - is reducing the negative impact its ice cream machines have on the environment while creating new jobs in the process. Instead of HFCs, the project’s partners are using an alternative refrigerant with near-zero global warming potential. This gas has the potential to cut emissions from ice cream machines by nearly 100%. The team has already built several prototypes, which they are currently testing. These machines are made of recyclable materials and their state-of-the-art motors cut energy consumption by 40%. All going well commercially, 30 new jobs will be created by 2023.
The heat is on
Each year, industries across the world release huge amounts of energy into the atmosphere in the form of heat. In Europe alone, this lost energy equates to the annual electricity consumption of Ireland. LIFE – HEAT R, coordinated by AEInnova, is working to convert this waste heat into electricity. Their waste heat recovery units (WHRU) are modular and easy to install in factories. They are also low maintenance, inexpensive and the most efficient way of recovering waste heat and boosting energy efficiency.
The team plans on integrating this new ‘energy harvesting’ solution into four sectors with high levels of waste heat. The technology is already being tested at Europe’s leading car manufacturer.
A cleaner gas for high-voltage circuit-breakers
SF6 (sulphur hexafluoride) is a synthetic gas used as an insulating material in electrical substations’ high-voltage circuit breakers. A circuit breaker is a protective device used to shut off power, preventing the black-out of large electrical networks. Despite being effective, SF6 has the highest global warming potential of any known substance - it is 23 500 times more warming than carbon dioxide (CO2) and stays in the atmosphere for around 3 200 years.
The LifeGRID project from GE Grid Solutions aims to develop a new eco-friendly gas called g3 (Green Gas for Grid) for use in Europe’s most powerful circuit-breaker. g3 has a CO2 equivalent 99% lower than SF6 but delivers the same performance.
Once completed, the g³ innovation should be the first SF6-free 420-kilovolt gas-insulated substation switchgear in the world. It will be on offer to all key high-voltage levels used in European electricity transport networks and beyond.
g3 could also be used as an alternative gas to SF6 in the nuclear fusion, magnesium and electronics industries.
A natural refrigerant
Many of today’s commercial refrigerators contain substances like hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). Used as cooling agents, these refrigerants harm the ozone layer and contribute to emissions.
The Natural HVACR 4 LIFE project team is developing a combined air conditioning and refrigeration system that uses CO2 as a natural refrigerant instead of HFCs. Their ‘Conveni-Pack’ combines a refrigeration, cooling and heating unit that is easy to install. The unit recovers heat from the refrigeration display cabinets and reuses it to heat other areas of the building at no extra cost.
The prototype is already being tested in a simulated convenience store in Belgium. The team will then install these prototypes in real supermarkets across Germany and Spain.
Breaking the glass ceiling
Energy-intensive industries are responsible for a large share of Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions. Glass manufacturing is one such industry that uses a lot of energy. The team behind LIFE OPTIMELT has tested an innovative waste heat recovery concept called OPTIMELTTM. It uses waste heat from high temperatures generated during the glass manufacturing process.
The technology provides the Libbey glass plant in Leerdam, the Netherlands with ground-breaking techniques to manufacture glass using less energy and emitting less CO2 and nitrogen oxides. A considerable reduction in emissions has been achieved. This has resulted in better air quality for the local community.
The team’s work has also attracted interest from various European countries, as well as Brazil, Japan and the United States.