How Can Energy-Intensive Companies Sustainably Limit Their Gas Dependency?
On April 1, 2022, the Minister for Economic Affairs, Innovation, Digitalization and Energy of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia, Prof. Dr. Andreas Pinkwart, visited KMA Umwelttechnik GmbH in Königswinter. During the company visit, he also spoke with Dr. Holger Wagner, managing director of KMA Umwelttechnik, about economic policy issues, such as the explosive gas dependency of industrial companies nationwide, the growing demand for energy-efficient environmental technology and the challenges of the energy transition.
The Minister for Economic Affairs, Innovation, Digitalization and Energy of North Rhine-Westphalia has had to deal intensively with the question of how to reduce gas consumption in industry since the start of the Ukraine war. This is because energy-intensive industry in NRW, which accounts for 40 percent of total gas consumption in the Federal Republic, would be particularly affected by a Russian gas supply freeze. Therefore, it was no wonder that he was particularly interested in the energy-efficient filter technology presented to him during his visit at the Königswinter-based company KMA Umwelttechnik.
Founded in 1958, the medium-sized family-owned company develops customized systems for cleaning emission-laden process exhaust air for a wide range of industries, such as the metalworking, food and textile industries. There, complex exhaust air streams are often treated with thermal afterburning - an energy-intensive and thus expensive process. The principle of thermal afterburning (TNV) is based on the complete combustion of the organic carbon compounds in the exhaust air to H2O and CO2. In the food industry, for example, afterburning systems must be operated at high temperatures above 750 °C in order to adequately separate emissions and odors. Especially the compliance with CO limits requires operation with high exhaust air temperatures. The permissible limits for the purified exhaust air can thus be achieved, but at the expense of the environment: The supply of fossil fuels required for these high temperatures consumes immense natural resources and releases secondary emissions such as CO2 and NOx.
KMA Umwelttechnik, on the other hand, relies on e-filter systems in which a strong electric field is generated with little energy input, electrostatically charging the dust particles, smoke and aerosols. "The particles are then attracted and separated in the e-filter as if by a magnet. An automatic cleaning system, similar to an integrated dishwasher, removes these deposits regularly so that filter replacement is not necessary," said KMA Managing Director Dr. Holger Wagner, explaining the principle of the durable and low-maintenance KMA technology. In addition, the system can be equipped with heat recovery to utilize the energy of the exhaust air stream and UV light treatment to combat odors.
The proven process technology uses integrated heat recovery systems to extract the heat from the exhaust air and make it usable for customer-specific recycling (for example, for heating fresh air in winter to reduce heating costs). This means that, compared with conventional systems, the installation of KMA filter technology can save around 80 percent of energy consumption and up to 90 percent of CO2 emissions.
During the tour of the plant, Economics Minister Pinkwart was impressed by the wide range of products and the energy benefits of innovative environmental technology. He announced that he would bring the KMA technology to the attention of the national company Energy4Climate. Since the beginning of the year, this has been bundling all operational energy and climate protection activities in NRW and advising companies and municipalities on their way to climate neutrality. "We not only have to implement the climate protection targets, but also ensure security of supply. This requires a rapid and broad roll-out of technologies for energy transition and climate protection. And it is precisely this technology that your company supplies," the minister praised.
The Königswinter-based company, which as a leading solution provider for energy-efficient exhaust air filtration systems exports 70 percent of its equipment to customers around the world, has registered a sharp increase in demand in recent weeks. "We are getting more and more inquiries from companies and also from associations that have hardly dealt with this topic before," reports Managing Director Wagner. This is because energy savings have suddenly moved to the top of the priority list in many companies in view of current developments. As is usual in the field of special production plant engineering, KMA manufactures almost exclusively tailor-made plants. "There is no blueprint for our exhaust systems because each customer's production facility is different and, in addition, we must comply with local regulatory requirements for air quality or emission discharge to the environment. But innovation is part of our corporate philosophy.
When a new problem arises, we are always convinced that we will find a solution for it as well," Wagner explains. For example, the innovative family-owned company develops environmental technology solutions for leading companies with a wide range of industrial applications, advises the Federal Environment Agency on industry-relevant committees, or supports industry associations and trade journals with best-practice recommendations. Minister Pinkwart shares KMA Umwelttechnik's optimism: "The current situation presents us all with major challenges. But in NRW we have great companies, outstanding research institutions and many bright minds who are rising to the challenge. Therein lies a great opportunity for us all."