South African companies involved in using or producing recycled rubber products can look forward to becoming more environmentally compliant, while at the same time saving on production costs.

According to Sachin Kulkarni, Sales Manager of Bulk Gases, at industrial and specialty gas products and chemicals company, Air Products, the evolution of oxygen enrichment for cement kilns and cryogenics for rubber recycling companies, is extremely beneficial to the industry.

“These rubber recycling methodologies are finding increasing favour with companies who seek ways of reducing their carbon footprint. At the same time, they benefit from decreased operational costs and a higher profit margin,” Kulkarni explains.

Kulkarni says that oxygen enrichment evolved when cement producers sought alternative fuels to the expendable and non-renewable natural resources, such as coke and coal, for use in the cement kilns.

“They researched many options, such as waste fuel and solvents. However, the noxious fumes derived when heating these substances using traditional methods in the kilns was considered detrimental to the environment and humans,”

Kulkarni pointeds out.

Ultimately, the dilemma is one of energy versus emissions.

“One of the alternative fuels the researchers considered was waste rubber. In the late 1980s, oxygen enrichment was adopted as the ideal methodology for achieving full combustion when re-using rubber as a fuel in cement kilns.”

“Due to the fact that oxygen enrichment allows high temperatures to be reached very quickly, the impact of emissions is drastically reduced, while at the same time producing the requisite amount of heat required for the cement manufacturing process,” Kulkarni explains.

The heat produced is so intense that it effectively removes all nitrogen from the process.

While oxygen enrichment is now commonly used in cement kilns, which utilise recycled rubber as a fuel, Air Products’ burner system has evolved to a stage where its optimised design allows for complete process stabilisation and maximised output.

“Air Products’ expertise and experience with burner technology has been carefully developed and honed in multiple applications worldwide and our systems are considered to be huge contributors to the ongoing stewardship of the environment,” Kulkarni adds.

The return on investment of an oxygen enrichment system is excellent. Companies adopting this methodology would require an oxygen burner, an oxygen flow meter and NOx monitoring equipment, which monitors flue gases, to adequately decrease or increase oxygen flow.