Fighting pollution and building waste-to-energy plants

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Antonio Zocche of Ekoplant talks about the latest industry developments.

How is Ekoplant different from other companies?

We have our expertise and, for example, our low-pressure bag filters. Inside of a casing there are filtering elements made of textile or fabric felt with the correct pitch for having the correct ascension velocity. Air flows through the bags, the dust contained in the air stays on the outside, and the clean air then flows through the inside. Since the dust remains on the outside of this filter, the system will then inject compressed air, at low or high pressure, back through in the opposite direction from that of the untreated gas to regenerate the bags by forcing the dust to detach from the filter and fall down into the hoppers.
We clean them with compressed air but at low pressure (2.5 bar). Not every company can do that and so it’s something that sets us apart from the competition. Why do we use low pressure? Because the filters are put under less stress and therefore, we can guarantee a longer lifetime. For example, 5 years full time in the cement industry or 3-4 years in the steel industry.

So what’s the story behind the development of this product?

It’s kind of a long story. It started when Mr Gramigna, the father, was the CEO of a foreign-owned company located near Milan that produced air pollution control plants for industry, including bag filters. At the time many companies were developing new filtering technologies. While the father retired, his son, Marco Gramigna, implemented this new technology at Ekoplant with the name of EKO E3.

And you’ve installed facilities for ILVA?

Yes for ILVA we’ve manufactured perhaps one of the largest low-pressure pulse jet type bag filters installed in Italy. They were operational in 2014 with capacity of 3,250,000 m³/h. Recently we’ve also been working with Paul Wurth, Midrex, Tenaris, Arcelor Mittal, etc.

Do you have some statistics relative to the environmental benefits of your products?

Certainly, but above all our plants are built to meet the environmental regulations in force in any given country. We work around the world and we’re able to build facilities in places from India to Italy to the U.S.A. that are guaranteed to meet the legal air quality requirements of the country where they are installed. Here in Italy the standard is 5mg/m3, of dust, and we meet that standard. When we’ve worked in India, they’ve requested 10mg/m3 and our technology will is certainly able to achieve a result of less than 5.

How long have these requirements been in place in Italy?

Well, in Italy we don’t have a national standard; every region has its own environmental protection agency (ARPA) that establishes specific emission standards. For example, here in Lombardy they are very demanding while in Taranto, where there is a great deal of industry, they request 5mg/m3. We’ve even been able to meet standards that went as low as 2mg/m3.

Have you built any plants in Lombardy?

We can say that Ekoplant is global company that works around the world. Europe is too small of a market for our technology. You have to understand that Ekoplant is a young company, we started up in 2009 but, collectively, our staff has more than 300 years of experience in the installation of air pollution control plants. We’ve been working in the industry for just 10 years now. All the same, our background is extremely solid. As for myself I have 35 years of experience and I’ve manufactured urban waste incinerator plants from the ground up. That involved dealing with all kinds of waste, industrial, biomass from agriculture, or industrial wood incinerators, sludge waste and coal reactivation de-dusting systems.

So here you’re talking about the waste-to-energy cycle.

Yes, waste-to-energy is a process that involves combustion process, which creates heat, which can then be used to produce energy. Meanwhile, the combustion process creates particulate matter and toxic gasses that must be managed with filters.

Once a plant is installed, what happens next? What is your relationship with the client?

It’s a bit like when you buy a car. We give you a maintenance manual that needs to be read and followed by the person in charge of managing the plant. There are procedures to be followed; every ‘x’ years the bag filters need to be changed. When necessary we’re happy to offer after-sales service. The important thing is what we’re working on now, which is very innovative, is virtual engineering. We’re able to do the engineering in 3-D in such a way that you can ‘go inside’ the plant in real time and check on what the issues are with that plant. Then we can help the client remotely to figure out what the problem is and to find a solution.

Is this an additional service?

It’s an additional service, a part of Industry 4.0; but this is just to highlight how advanced our technology has become.

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