Phy2Climate - A global approach to reclaiming agricultural land through a combination of phytoremediation, biofuel production and climate-friendly copper smelting.
Contaminated industrial wastelands or former mining areas are areas that usually cannot be used for further agriculture without extensive remediation. The contamination by organic pollutants and heavy metals is so high that the cultivation of food is impossible.
A cost-effective approach to making these areas usable again is phytoremediation. This process uses plants that selectively absorb certain pollutants from the soil during the vegetation period. So-called hyperaccumulators can be particularly effective. However, such remediation requires several vegetation periods - years in which the land cannot be used.
In the Phy2Climate project, the plants are already used during the period of remediation: with the help of thermochemical conversion processes, they are converted into fuels and reducing agents (coke) for copper smelters after harvesting. On the one hand, the remediation areas are thus used productively; on the other hand, the biomass provision corresponds to a None-iLUC (indirect Land Use Change) approach, i.e. no forests or other food production areas have to be converted for energy crop cultivation.
EU project with 17 partners from 10 countries
As part of the project, five experimental plots will be set up in Serbia, Spain, Lithuania, Argentina and India for phytoremediation. The harvested biomass is brought to Sulzbach-Rosenberg for thermochemical conversion. The oil obtained from thermochemical conversion is further processed into diesel and petrol as well as marine diesel. The reducing agents produced are examined together with the company Aurubis for their suitability as a substitute for fossil reducing agents in the copper smelting process. By substituting fossil coke in the smelting process, the biofuel produced in the project will be CO2-negative in balance. According to the EU calculation basis, the savings in greenhouse gas emissions thus amount to 149%.
Phy2Climate also contributes to 16 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.
The project is funded by the European Commission with about €4 million. It involves 17 partners from ten different countries, spanning the continents of Europe, Asia and South America. The project started on 1 January 2021. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the kick-off meeting was held as an online event in early February.
Phytoremediation produces biochar and fuel