First shipload of shredded tires to be used as shale oil substitute arrives

The first shipload of shredded tires which Eesti Energia subsidiary Enefit Power is being supplied with from Sweden arrived in Estonia earlier in the week. The discarded and shredded rubber will be used to create an ersatz shale oil, replacing the traditionally mined and refined product over time.

A total of 1,670 tonnes of old ground up tire chips arrived in the port of Sillamäe (see gallery).

These will not, Enefit Power board chair Andres Vainola stressed, be burned, but instead melted down, a more environmentally friendly activity, he said.

"The shredded old tires may be waste to some, but we use it as a raw material, so we're talking about a circular economy. But more important than that, we don't use burn it. For example, a lot of cement factories do use tire shreds in their burning processes, but we make use it in our oil factories via the pyrolysis process, which is essentially a melting process."

"This gives us a much higher yield of liquid fuel, meaning we need to use less shale in order to obtain oil," Vainola went on.

Traditionally, shale was mined and refined in Ida-Viru County, with the ensuing product having a wide variety of applications, including in plastics and the chemicals industry, in addition to use as a fuel at power stations.

Estonia has in the past advised in other jurisdictions, such as the Middle Eastern country of Jordan, and the U.S. State of Utah, but shale oil as a fuel source has come under pressure due to EU climate norms.

Andres Vainola said that the shredded tires will be in use from September.

The first consignment was ferried from the port of Oxelösund in Sweden to Sillamäe in a 30-year-old vessel, the "Wilson Elbe", sailing under the Barbadian flag

The journey took nearly two days.

Last month, regional daily Virumaa teataja announced that waste disposal firm Ragn-Sells plans to build a waste tire shredding plant near Kunda, Ida-Viru County.

Ragn-Sells itself told ERR that if everything goes according to plan, this factory will be opened in the second quarter of next year.

The shreds would be used in the Enefit 280 power station, which is due to come online next year also, initially as a traditional shale oil-burning facility and to transition to the pyrolysis-created fuel.

The multi-year contract with Sweden allows for an inflow of 20,000 tonnes of shredded tires, but this can rise in line with Enefit Power's needs. 

Another consignment of over 3,000 tonnes is due to arrive later this year.

In 2023, in addition to the load that arrived this week, Enefit Power has ordered another shipload from Sweden, or a total of over 3,000 tons of tire chips.

Enefit Power first trialed the use of shredded tires in its oil shale plants four years ago, but difficulties in finding raw materials at the right price and quality hampered things.

Eesti Energia's plan to build its own tire shredding plant did not ultimately materialize, partly due to supply issue.

"This does not mean that we will not continue negotiations here, involving local partners in order to use the potential of our used tires," Vainola added.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera', reporter Rene Kundla; Virumaa teataja.

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