Mines Nantes is home to PREVER – France’s only technological platform that offers a large range of competencies and tools for converting industrial and household waste into energy. It provides customized support for companies wanting to produce combustibles or fuel from miscellaneous residues.
As a species, Homo sapiens have a very strange way of disposing of their waste. They dig an enormous hole, put their waste and debris in it, cover it up, then start the process all over again in a nearby location. And there you have it! “Out of sight and out of mind”. Over the past few decades, some individuals from this species have been warning their fellow creatures about the dangers of continuing this practice. They describe its consequences for the sustainability of their habitat and environment, and therefore their own survival. Consequences that could almost make them deny their very identity as humans. Fortunately, solutions are beginning to emerge!
At Mines Nantes, an area of almost 520 m2 is dedicated to a research and analysis platform for energy recovery from residues (PREVER). What is the goal of the scientists working there? To work together with companies to explore new solutions for recycling household and industrial waste and transforming it into energy sources. “This includes any companies that want to use their residues to produce their own energy, and SMEs and start-ups that want to develop a recycling program,” explains Mohand Tazerout, who is in charge of PREVER.
The platform team meets with companies and identifies their needs, whether this involves solving specific problems for very small businesses, or developing large-scale programs for major companies. The researchers then prototype a solution, taking the entire recovery chain into account: from the raw residue to the final product. This residue may be in the form of a synthesis gas, a solid fuel or another fuel. This platform also offers the benefit of working alongside companies from the prototyping to full-scale production stages.
A technological solution that’s unique in France
Another advantage is that PREVER has all the machinery required to study the performance of recovery processes. “When we’re working with a liquid fuel, for example, we have engine test units that enable us to study its energy characteristics or its impacts on the environment,” describes Mohand Tazerout. The platform is very well equipped with cutting-edge equipment, including electricity-generating boilers, gas microturbines, hydrothermal liquefaction machinery, etc. “I believe we are the only platform in France to feature all the material for the recovery chain in the same place,” the researcher continues.
In addition to the technical aspect, PREVER also boasts a physico-chemical analysis laboratory, which extends its range of services: atomic spectroscopy, thermogravimetric analysis, octane number measurement, etc. It can also rely on its qualified staff, who are highly qualified for their tasks. As Mohand Tazerout mentions, “The department associated with PREVER includes around ten researchers who work with the companies on the programs, plus technicians and PhD students who are specially recruited for specific projects.”
The reason the platform offers this wide range of energy recovery methods is because it can work with all types of residue. The researcher explains, “We work with all types of waste, from the food industry to household waste, organic, inorganic, liquid and solid waste…” This also includes unusual and atypical waste, such as maritime wood contaminated by oil spills. PREVER seeks to demonstrate that all residues can be converted into energy, and that hiding them in a hole is no longer a solution in our modern day and age.
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