The beginning was a research project in the Port of Hamburg in the METHA (MEchanical Treatment of HArbor Sediment). As in most ports in the world, the harbor must be dredged constantly to ensure the minimum depth of the harbor basin for overseas ships. The mud is sucked or dredged from the harbor basin. Subsequently, in most cases this silt is dumped on the high seas, that is, it is simply discarded into the ocean in the designated areas.
With METHA, The Hamburg Port Authority has taken a different route.
Since in the past the water of the Elbe was very heavily loaded with pollutants of all kinds, the silt is treated and disposed of in such a way that future generations can get to that deposited silt in order to operate so-called urban mining, because the mud contains, among other things, copper, rare earth elements, which cannot be economically recovered at present. In the future this deposited silt may constitute a valuable resource.
Polymeric flocculants were used to dewater the silt. Here METHA, the CUTEC Institute, and the Emsland Group developed starch-based, cationic flocculants, which are used in the pre-conditioning and in the dewatering of the silt with chamber filter presses.
The new fertilizer regulation should enter into force on January 1, 2017. The new DÜMV (German law on the user of fertilizers) only provides for the use of synthetic polymers, which after two years are at least 20% decomposed, if the conditioned sludge is in agricultural use.
In our view, this is where starch-based flocculants have some advantages:
- The flocculants are produced on the basis of renewable raw materials, which reduce CO2 emissions and conserve resources.
- Regional farmers create value. The agricultural land has been used for growing starch potatoes for decades. These kinds are special varieties for the production of starch, but are GMO-free.
- The raw material supply is secured through long-term contracts with our farmers. Since the raw material comes from the region, medium-term price stability can be secured.
- In the long run, finite resources, rising prices, and the negative impact of the use of fossil fuels on the climate promote/demand the use of renewable raw materials. By replacing fossil fuels, renewable raw materials can make a significant contribution to reaching the climate protection goals of Germany and the European Union. Another efficient and sustainable development of the portion of biomass of the supply of raw materials in Germany is provided by the Federal Government.
In our modern research and development laboratories we have already brought our first products Emfloc KC 750, Emfloc KCG 750, and Emfloc ECG 750 to market.
Additional products are being tested and are currently being assessed and thoroughly evaluated for their suitability, so that in the near future a broader product portfolio of cationic and anionic flocculants is available for environmental disposal.
Due to the positive field tests in the Port of Hamburg and at municipal wastewater treatment plants, the sludge treatment areas as well as manure and digestate treatment are receiving stronger focus as future markets for environmental technology as part of the Emsland Group strategy.
The Emsland Group cationic potato starches have been used in successful practical tests at the METHA plant in the Port of Hamburg. These starch-based flocculants are biodegradable and are technically equal and ecologically far superior to the polymer flocculants (PFM) based on acrylamide.