Aerial shot of six members of the RICE and ROCKWOOL team shown at the demonstration unit following its successful installation.

A collaboration between researchers at the Energy Safety Research Institute (ESRI) at Swansea University and insulation producer ROCKWOOL Limited has seen the installation of a new carbon dioxide demonstration unit at the company’s manufacturing plant in Bridgend, South Wales.

The research, which involves the capture of carbon dioxide gas, is an important technological contribution in enabling Wales and the UK achieve net zero carbon by 2050.

The demonstration unit, which will capture carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the manufacturing of insulation products, is being developed as part of the £11.5m Reducing Industrial Carbon Emissions (RICE) project which has been part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government, and is aimed at the deployment of industrial scale demonstrations of new technology.

ROCKWOOL insulation is a stone-based insulation, which is inorganic and ideal for thermal insulation, fire protection, acoustic control and environmental purposes. It is sourced from abundant lava deposits of volcanic rocks which are melted in a cupola furnace like a controlled man-made volcano. As the re-melted lava comes out of the furnace, it is spun, bound together in a wool-like fleece before being cut, shaped and combined into many different products for a wide variety of applications including buildings, systems, services, marine and offshore.

As a point source of CO2, the ROCKWOOL plant is a valuable location for RICE researchers to pilot their technology. The researchers have installed a mass spectrometer to analyse gas emission from ROCKWOOL manufacturing facilities, gathering detailed information which inform the separation system. Through utilising different adsorbent materials and varying conditions, researchers will conduct trials to determine the most effective set-up for removing the carbon dioxide. The demonstration unit will include a Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) system to separate carbon dioxide from the mixture of emitted gases.

Leading this work is Dr Enrico Andreoli and his team who are based at the Energy Safety Research Institute.

“This is an exceptional opportunity for our team to tackle carbon emissions in Wales. ROCKWOOL’s supportive and forward-looking approach is helping us bringing our technology on site, we count to provide a bespoke carbon capture solution to inform feasibility of future scale up and test advanced materials.”

Data from the units installed at ROCKWOOL’s Bridgend plant will be monitored by RICE researchers on site to ensure the system operates at optimum levels and to identify potential enhancements. Having access to industrial facilities to scale up the demonstration units is a vital part of the RICE project, and ROCKWOOL has been an enthusiastic partner in the project.

Darryl Matthews, Managing Director of ROCKWOOL Ltd said:

“The ROCKWOOL Group has long been committed to operating sustainably and in December 2020, ROCKWOOL announced commitments to accelerate the decarbonisation of our business, with specific long-term targets verified and approved by the Science Based Targets initiative. As part of this drive, we are delighted to partner with the Energy Safety Research Institute at Swansea University and to be a part of the RICE project piloting new technology designed to capture CO2 emissions. We are excited about its potential in supporting the drive to net zero.”

Following the successful deployment of the unit at ROCKWOOL’s plant, further units could be deployed at additional industrial sites.

Professor Andrew Barron the Principal Investigator of the RICE project summarized the achievement,

“With 2050 arriving fast, the time for research is over, it is imperative to get new technology onto industrial sites in order to demonstrate viability. Partners such as Rockwool are vital in achieving this goal.”

Welsh Government Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething, said:

“These are the partnerships that will drive a stronger, greener Welsh economy.  Putting world class expertise into practice is critical to our journey to net zero and this work means Bridgend will play a leading role in these exciting developments.  I’m delighted that we’ve been able to support the project through the European Regional Development Fund.”

More information is available here.

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