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Elkem to pilot CO2-free silicon production with support from Enova

July 2024 | Elkem is researching a new concept for silicon production, which aims to eliminate nearly all direct CO2 emissions. The concept involves capturing and recycling the carbon in the process off gas and reusing it in the production process. Enova has granted Elkem 31 million Norwegian kroner for a medium scale pilot, to be carried out in Kristiansand, Norway.

von | 10.07.24

Elkem is researching a new concept for silicon production, which aims to eliminate nearly all direct CO2 emissions.
© Elkem
Elkem is researching new concept for silicon production

Elkem is researching a groundbreaking new concept for silicon production, which aims to eliminate nearly all direct CO2 emissions.

Silicon is a critical raw material for the green and digital transitions, as it is used in electric vehicles, solar cells, batteries, computers, wind turbines and much more. The production of silicon is however a source of greenhouse gas emissions, as the process requires a source of carbon to reduce the quartz into silicon. Elkem’s silicon production is based on more than 80% emission-free electricity and is one of the world’s most sustainable silicon production processes. The emissions from the carbon needed to produce silicon from quartz is however hard to abate.

According to Elkem CEO Helge Aasen, Elkem has a climate strategy aimed at net zero emissions by 2050, and a switch to more biocarbon and exploring carbon capture are among the company’s measures. With this research into carbon looping, possibly reusing captured carbon in the process, Elkem is exploring a potential game changer in the silicon production industry.

„Enova is impressed by the extensive work Elkem has put into this pilot project. This is future technology. It is therefore very natural that Enova is involved and helps mitigate the risk through financial support. Enova knows that it takes time to commercialize this technology. Now that Elkem is underway, we can hope that the new solutions and processes can be industrialized early in the 2030s. We are following the results with excitement,“ says Nils Kristian Nakstad, CEO of Enova.

The new concept, named Sicalo (Silicon production with carbon looping), will eliminate the need for any carbon used as a reduction material, if realized. In today’s silicon furnace, the process gases end up as CO2 emissions. In Sicalo, the emitted carbon will be captured and reused in the silicon production process as a reductant.

Elkem is about to complete the first phase of the research and development work of Sicalo, where the various subprocesses are tested on laboratory and bench scales together with SINTEF Industry and NORCE. The project has previously received 16 MNOK in funding from the Research Council of Norway for this research phase in 2022-2024.

„We are pleased to receive public funding from Enova for this pilot project. There is still significant research needed before we can see this as a viable solution in full scale, but preliminary results are promising, and we are proud to have world class researchers and pilot facilities for working on these possible future technologies for the silicon industry,“ said Helge Aasen.

Elkem also completed the world’s first carbon capture pilot in a silicon smelter in 2023, with capture rates of up to 95 %.

 

(Source: Elkem/2024)

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