Chemical giant looks to nuclear heat to decarbonise

10 September 2021

Polish chemical producer Ciech will consider nuclear technologies to replace coal burnt for power and process heat in its plants. Ciech has signed a Letter of Intent to cooperate with Synthos Green Energy, which is already working with GE-Hitachi and Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation.

Inside the Janikowo plant (Image: Ciech)

"Clean, emission-free nuclear energy may become an important element of the strategy of achieving ambitious climate goals by our group, as well as an important factor increasing the competitiveness of Ciech in the long term," said Dawid Jakubowicz, chairman of Ciech's management board. In May the company noted nuclear could play a role in its decarbonisation in its ESG (environment, social and governance) report, which foresaw the end of coal-burning in 2033, and carbon neutrality in 2040.

Ciech said it is considering nuclear to replace coal at its plants producing soda ash (sodium carbonate), which has applications ranging from the manufacture of glass and bricks, to domestic soap and food additives. The company is the second largest producer of soda ash in the EU, with large, energy-intensive plants at Inowrocław and Janikowo. They currently burn coal in combined heat and power plants that provide steam for process heat.

The Letter of Intent announced yesterday will enable Ciech to "thoroughly analyse the use of small and micro modular reactor technology" by cooperating with Synthos Green Energy. As a subsidiary of the Synthos chemical group, it has already made agreements with GE-Hitachi towards potential deployment of its BWRX-300, and with Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation regarding its Micro Modular Reactor. Both the reactor designs can produce process heat, at 100-200°C and at 630°C, respectively.

Ciech and Synthos said they will "define the possibility of building small or micromodular nuclear reactors on the premises of Ciech's production plants and they will analyse possible models of energy supply under mutual agreements."

"The first Generation IV reactor is to be launched in Canada in 2025, the next units will be built in the USA. If the licensing process in Poland runs correctly, there is nothing to prevent the Generation IV reactors from being commissioned at Ciech plants before the end of the decade," said Rafał Kasprów, chairman of Synthos Green Energy.

Synthos is a large chemicals group based in Poland. It has taken a leading role in the pursuit of nuclear energy in the country, particularly in the industrial sector, through Synthos Green Energy. Earlier this month it signed an agreement to explore construction of six BWRX-300 units at the Pątnów coal-fired power plant with the plant's owner, ZE PAK. In June Synthos began cooperation with Polish state petrochemical firm PKN Orlen to cooperate on small and modular reactors. It has been working with GE-Hitachi since October 2020 and with Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation since November 2020.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News