August 10, 2022

Industrial mass production without negative impacts

The electrolyzer producer Enapter has set itself the goal of developing its entire production process so that it operates without negative impacts on the environment. An important step in this journey, it is building the Enapter Campus production tool, which will be powered entirely by renewable energies produced on site and in the neighboring Bioenergiepark. The site in Saerbeck, North Rhine-Westphalia, combines the production of electrolysers, an R&D building, administrative and office premises, as well as a canteen on 82,000 square meters. The company now wants to investigate what further measures can be implemented to achieve its “Life Cycle Impact Zero” aspirations – together with researchers from Fraunhofer UMSICHT, the Wuppertal Institute and the Institute for Sustainable Nutrition (iSuN) by FH Münster.

With the Life Cycle Impact Zero project, launched on April 15, 2022, the parties wish to develop and apply a particularly comprehensive and holistic approach to environmental assessment. This includes the manufacture of chemicals and the production of electrolysers, as well as issues such as the use of energy and water resources, the generation of waste or the human factor in general. This is intended to cover all interactions between businesses and people. This includes in particular Enapter employees, but also actors in the upstream and downstream value chains, technology users or people living near the production site. A sustainable catering concept for employees is also being developed.

“In addition to this, the project extensively explores the recycling of critical raw materials that are essential for electrolysis, which only underscores the pioneering nature of Life Cycle Impact Zero,” says Dr. Henning Wilts, Director of the circular economy division at the Wuppertal Institut.

The basis of any environmental assessment that will be carried out is the ISO 14040 standard. The recognized international standard divides the research into four phases: objective and scope of the study, inventory analysis, impact assessment, and interpretation. Sensitivity analyzes and scenario techniques are also used as additional methods.

Based on these analyses, the 18-month project should deduce concrete measures to completely avoid, if possible, negative environmental impacts, for example in production, employee mobility or energy supply. In addition, it will examine whether these measures are transferable to other Enapter sites – such as in Italy. In the continuity of the project, the steps defined should be implemented by Enapter in the next phase. In the following phase 3, a new analysis is planned. This will determine whether the technological innovations made by then in the production and use of Enapter’s electrolysers can enable further ecological improvements.

“Electrolyzers are a key element of a future hydrogen economy. We are delighted that together with Enapter and our science partners, we can work to anchor this technology regionally and in NRW and, in doing so, advance the achievement of important sustainability goals,” said Jürgen Bertling, Chief Deputy of the Department of Sustainability and Participation. at Fraunhofer UMSICHT.

The Life Cycle Impact Zero project is supported by the State of NRW.