Back in 1992, 154 nations signed the first international agreement to reduce atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases caused by human activity – such as burning fossil fuels – in order to prevent dangerous changes to Earth's climate system.
In the decades since, the N+P Group has worked to produce alternative fuels derived from non-recyclable solid waste streams. These fuels have the potential to save money for major energy consuming industries, such as power plants and cement, lime, and steel manufacturing, while also significantly reducing their CO2 emissions for an ecological benefit.
How did N+P become involved in the waste to resource industry?
Not long after that first climate agreement, Karel Jennissen, founder and CEO of N+P Group, had a novel idea: What if we could turn at least part of those vast acres of landfilled waste into a sort of alternative fuel that could power a cement kiln or blast furnace?
The idea seemed so logical that Jennissen took a risk, quitting his job and starting a family business along with his wife. His focus at the beginning, however, was on creating a fuel cheaper than coal; it wasn’t until a few years later that the added benefit of reducing CO2 emissions with the help of waste-derived fuel grew to become a vital piece of the business, and N+P’s alternative fuel called Subcoal® was born.
“Over the years, the growing public and political pressure for sustainability and a circular economy have helped us enormously in getting the word out about alternative fuels like our Subcoal® products,” Jennissen said.
Converting non-recyclable waste to resources can reduce the cost of emissions
However, according to Jennissen, many energy intensive businesses are talking about reducing emissions and are willing to do something about the problem, but not at just any cost. What helps is that a growing number of regulators are putting a price on emissions of CO2.
“In many European countries, industries must pay around 75 euros a tonne for CO2 emissions,” he said. “Independent research has shown that replacing 1 tonne of coal with N+P’s Subcoal® saves about 1.3 tonnes of CO2, giving an economic benefit of roughly 100 euros per tonne (75 X 1.3) when companies use our product.”
Jennissen adds that with the war in Ukraine, energy prices in Europe and elsewhere have jumped. Unfortunately, this has made the dependence on fossil fuels – and the need to reduce that dependence – painfully clear.
“The result is now we have much more interest in our product, because of local availability and the significant reductions in CO2 emissions being sought by our clients,” he said.
Why does N+P believe in waste to resources as a solution?
In addition to climate improvements, Jennissen and N+P quickly recognized that alternative fuels derived from waste could help solve another environmental concern: overflowing landfills that continue to add more than 2.1 billion metric tons of municipal waste each year.
Waste is not a problem, it's a potential valuable resource
“The world looks at waste as a problem, but if you look through the glasses of N+P, it's the other way around: waste is not a problem, it's a potential valuable resource,” he said. “That 2.1 billion tons of waste has already been in the value chain at least once and could be the equivalent of 1 billion tonnes of Subcoal. In fact, this amount of landfill could potentially replace approximately 700 to 800 million tonnes of coal and thus saves 975 million tonnes of CO₂. This is apart from the fact that it is decaying on a landfill and also emitting large amounts of greenhouse gas like methane.“
“These municipalities are sitting, not only on a landfill, but also on a 'gold'mine which they can use to partly solve their energy problem,” he said. “It's just the way you look at it and what you are willing to do with it and invest in it.”
To find out more about these benefits, be sure to download the trend report ¨Myths & facts about the use of alternative fuels¨.
What did N+P learn about turning waste into resources over the years?
For almost 30 years, Jennissen says that he and N+P Group have learned to be patient, to listen to the market, and to invest in the quality research needed to produce fuels from waste that can benefit different industries.
“We are on a learning curve and we're constantly developing new processes and looking to new possibilities for turning waste into resources,” he said. “We have a complete development department looking for things like new ways to split waste into fractions of different caloric values and properties using innovative technologies.”
In addition to helping solve climate issues for its clients, N+P Group is also looking to use less energy in its own fuel production plants and improving its carbon footprint – even looking at incorporating small cogeneration installations to produce electricity and residual heat for the drying process, and solar panels on the roof of the building, all in the pursuit of decarbonizing N+P operations.
This is just the beginning
“We believe we are just at the beginning of the quest for ways to turn waste to resources, and we believe the snowball is rolling faster and faster downhill,” said Jennissen.
“For many people, waste is an end-stage, and it's useless, so they want to focus on wind and solar power generation as the quickest way to reduce CO2 emissions,” Jennissen said. But as already said, at N+P we don't see waste as just waste. We see it as a resource, and our Subcoal® products as real fuel that can save CO2, money and reduce greenhouse gases to benefit the climate,” mentioned Jennissen.
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