Rubber recycling paves way for exciting value-add service

A new partnership between Elastomers Australia and Novum Energy Australia is set to help miners offset their carbon footprints through an innovative process to recycle used rubber products.

Novum Energy Australia’s Thermal Vacuum Recovery (TVR) technology is an energy effective, low emission process that converts carbon-based feedstock into reusable materials including carbon black – a base ingredient for rubber. Energy in the form of oil and gas is also produced, providing an efficient source to self-power the recycling process. 

As well as used screen media panels, the process can be used to recycle tyres, conveyor belts, rubber track systems, wear liners and other rubber products used in mining and mineral processing. With many rubber-based products also incorporating steel reinforcement, Novum Energy also reclaims the steel.

In fact, according to Novum Energy Australia Managing Director Rowan Kendall, feedstock products are typically 100 per cent reclaimable.

“If there are other materials, such as paper labels or similar organic materials, they are turned into ash that can be used in fertilisers and garden additives,” Rowan said.

At present, the bulk of such products are sent to landfill, subject to environmental authority approvals, thus creating an issue for miners seeking to reduce their carbon footprints.

Elastomers Australia General Manager Business Solutions Pat Caputo said the partnership provided a positive step forward for suppliers and miners as reduction of carbon usage and effective disposal  became one of the key issues industry had to contend with.

“We’re producing around 100,000 rubber screen panels each year, so that in itself creates a considerable amount of feedstock for Novum Energy,” Pat said.

“But we also intend to take responsibility for recycling non-Elastomers Australia screen media products, tyres, wear liners, conveyers and other used components to help customers deal with what is a considerable environmental issue.

“We’re still finalising the commercial structure, but it could be through the extension of existing service contracts with current customers, or standalone agreements with mine and mineral process operators we may not be engaged with at present.

“Whatever the case, we don’t anticipate it being an expensive option compared to current transport and disposal costs.”

Novum Energy intends to build processing facilities within close proximity to feedstock sources, with a strong focus on key mining regions. Last week, the company announced plans to construct its first commercial scale processing facility in Biloela in the south of Queensland’s Bowen Basin, while the partnership with Elastomers Australia will initially target construction of plants in Western Australia’s key mining centres such as Karratha, Newman and Kalgoorlie.

Pat says while it could take 12 to 18 months for Novum Energy to build and commission a new processing facility, Elastomers Australia would look to commence collecting and stockpiling used rubber components as soon as practical.

Rowan says more than 150,000 tonnes of rubber materials used in the mining and related industries go into landfill each year, and currently just under 10 per cent of it is reclaimed. Novum intends to increase this volume as facilities are brought online.

Due to the size of some of the tyres used in mining – up to 4m in diameter – Rowan says it is important to have reclamation facilities located close to the source. It is then a case of identifying paths to market, which initially include activated carbon, fertilisers and substitution of coking coal in furnace applications.

“Our primary aim is to target the full value chain within Australia, creating circular economies locally and regionally,” Rowan said.

Pat says the partnership marks an exciting point in the evolution of Elastomers Australia, enabling the company to continue its focus on improved environmental and customer value outcomes.

“Since my early days with Elastomers Australia, we’ve talked about how we can recycle products and for a long time we have reclaimed the stainless steel and associated steel components used in many screening applications,” Pat said.

“This deal comes at an opportune time as industries across Australia and the world strive to improve their environmental performance.

“It’s early days but we’ve already commenced research and development to see how the reclaimed carbon black performs for manufacturing new screen media products.

“We’ll also use our position in the supply chain to work with our material suppliers on developing new raw materials from the reclaimed products.”

 

To find out more about the rubber recycling initiative, please CONTACT Elastomers Australia.

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