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Research and innovation for the environment


Research and innovation are activities which thanks to the collaboration of external entities such as institutions and research bodies provide important value added to the Group’s development and growth. The main sectors addressed by research and innovation activities regard the optimisation of the waste cycle, smart-grids and sustainable mobility.

Measures taken on the desulphurizing system

The desulphurizing system at the Lamarmora (Brescia) district heating power station was the subject of a study aimed at establishing which components required strengthening in order to increase the system’s efficiency and reduce sulphur oxides. From the analyses performed the opportunity emerged to increase the surface of the sleeve filter and improve the reactor.
The project was divided into two separate stages, one following the other. During the first stage, carried out in 2011, the sleeve filter was strengthened, extending its surface area by 38% by increasing the number of sleeves and their length.
On the basis of the results following this step the measures needed to be taken to strengthen the reactor will be established in detail.


Inertisation of fly ash: the Cosmos project

Cosmos is a project financed by the European Union (the LIFE+ project) whose purpose is to study the feasibility of the process for rendering inert the fly ash that is produced by the incineration of solid waste; the project involves the University of Brescia, the Multi-sector and Technological Service Centre (CSMT) of Brescia, the company Contento Trade S.r.l. of Udine and the Spanish laboratory Tekniker.
The University of Brescia has developed a new process for rendering inert the fly ash deriving from the incineration of waste, based on the use of colloidal silica. The treatment enables heavy metals to be stabilised, with an inert material called “ Cosmos” being obtained that can be used as the filler in materials such as cement, rubber and ceramics for use in various applications.
This type of treatment provides a series of economic and environmental benefits:

  • energy savings, as the developed process is based on a reaction that takes place at low temperature, with the resulting energy savings compared to other methods;

  • segregation of carbon dioxide, thanks to the fact that during the reaction the formation of Cosmos absorbs carbon dioxide;

  • elimination of waste treatment fumes, given that a useful material is obtained in place of waste to be taken to the landfill.

Following the encouraging results that the testing of the process in the laboratory has given, the European Commission financed the construction of a pilot plant for producing Cosmos at the Brescia waste to energy plant, in order to test its characteristics. The plant has been in service since October 2011.


Reverse osmosis coupled with electrodeionization to produce demineralised water for thermoelectric production

The replacement of the ion exchange resin system for demineralising process water through a reverse osmosis coupled with electrodeionization system is currently being completed at the Cassano d’Adda thermoelectric power station. This is one of the few applications of this technology at a thermoelectric power station. The main environmental benefit of this system over the previous one is the fact that the use of acid and basic substances which serve for the periodic regeneration of the ion exchange resins in the traditional demineralised water production plant is no longer required.
Demineralisation is needed because water is the primary fluid in the thermoelectric cycle; when heated by the combustion fumes it becomes steam and therefore the presence of dissolved minerals leads to crusts forming in the piping and equipment with the resulting problem of having to deal with this situation. Reverse osmosis exploits the features of certain membranes of being permeable to water molecules but impermeable to the molecules of minerals.
Electrodeionization occurs through the use of electrically charged metal plates which attract the ions into which the minerals dissolved in the water are broken down.