skip to Main Content

of spent carbon fits well in companies’ strive to be sustainable

Companies have been reactivating carbon since the 70s, but the reasons for reactivating have changed over time. In the beginning, cost was the main consideration, but sustainability is an increasingly important factor in the decision to reactivate spent carbon. Hans-Werner Baums, who came to Jacobi in 2008, has been working on our reactivation offer from the start. Jacobi had just bought land in the eastern part of Germany with a former carbon production facility. It had closed, and nobody was there; a scrap dealer was the last owner. At that time, Hans-Werner was working at Donau carbon and was asked if he wanted to build up our reactivation plant in Premnitz. He then became responsible for developing the site.

Jacobi had just bought land in the eastern part of Germany with a former carbon production facility. It had closed, and nobody was there; a scrap dealer was the last owner. At that time, Hans-Werner was working at Donau carbon and was asked if he wanted to build up our reactivation plant in Premnitz. He then became responsible for developing the site.

Hans-Werner, what is your role at Jacobi today?

Today, I’m not responsible for the plant in Premnitz; we passed that over to my colleague Heiko Thiedeke. I had been travelling from Frankfurt to Premnitz every second week for many years and, eventually, we decided that it would make more sense if someone in Premnitz had the lead. Today I am Technical Director and Product Manager for Filters & Services EMEA.

What does Jacobi’s reactivation process involve?

Jacobi selected the rotary kiln technology in 2008. It is essentially the receiving area with silos followed by conveying into the rotary kiln. Herethe spent activated carbon passes through three zones: elimination of the water, desorption of the organic substances and in the last zone, the final reactivation. After the rotary kiln, the reactivated carbon is cooled down, and the desired grain size is set in the screening plant. After packing in the appropriate packaging units, big bags or silos, the reactivated material is ready for delivery to the customer.

We have two facilities now, what capacity do we have?

With Premnitz in Germany and Vierzon in France, we have an annual capacity of over 10,000 MT.

Working sustainably has become increasingly important; what role does sustainability play in today’s offer?

For many companies, recycling the spent activated carbon is a priority. Disposal in landfills was prohibited a long time ago. And burning spent carbon has become more and more expensive. The reason customers were asking for reactivation in the earlier years was to save money. The cost aspect is still important, but nowadays, sustainability has become increasingly important, especially as larger and medium-sized companies focus on the recyclability of their resources.

Hans-Werner Baums

How has the need for sustainable solutions developed?

Fifteen years ago, the requests came primarily from the drinking water industry, but the need to reactivate spent activated carbon from industrial applications is growing stronger. It is also a  question about sourcing. If the business did not reactivate, we would have to deliver fresh activatedcarbon.

When we deliver MFUs (mobile filter units), we hardly fill them with fresh carbon; the idea is to fill them with reactivated carbon because then we have a more sustainable cycle. We fill the filter with reactivated carbon, get it back to reactivate and bring it back again; that is the idea for the MFUs. Therefore, we need a pool of reactivate carbon.

In addition, Jacobi offers application and laboratory support to make the decision for reactivation in advance.

We also wanted to hear more about reactivation from a sales and marketing perspective and caught Olaf Schmolinski at his home office.

Olaf, could you start by telling us what your role is at Jacobi?

My first responsibility is business development for EMEA services, especially for our Mobile Filter Business. I am responsible for supporting sales to get more MFU business. I’ve been with Jacobi since January 2019, and since 2020, I’ve also been responsible for the ReSorb pool management.

Pool management, what does that mean?

In 2020, we decided to revise the entire ReSorb workflow. The aim of this reform is to operate in a more market-oriented way and to simplify and standardise internal processes across EMEA. The results of this reform were published in Product Bulletin No. 59 – ReSorb range – at the end of 2021. If you want to build up an MFU business, you need to have a pool of reactivated material to run and grow the business. We are working on a project now, for instance, where large filters for air treatment are needed, and the annual activated carbon consumption is between 300 and 500 metric tonnes. The replacement intervals are short and it’s not possible to reactivate the material in time.

Therefore, you need to have a stock of ReSorb material; we call it a pool to run those businesses without interruptions. Pool management covers the whole cycle. From the analysis of the spent activated carbon to the reuse of the reactivated activated material.

Olaf Schmolinski

What does our reactivation offer look like?

As Hans-Werner mentioned, we have two reactivation plants, one in Vierzon, France and one in Premnitz, Germany, and we are working together with a few third-party suppliers to balance the supply of carbon and reactivate specific spent carbon.

So, we can offer reactivation for drinking water applications, food and beverage as well as for industrial water and air applications. Our geographic location in the middle of France and northern Germany also shapes our offer. Premnitz is not far from the Baltic coast, and from there, we can easily ship material from and to the Nordics and the countries in Eastern Europe. From Vierzon in France, we reach the regions in France and Spain. The reactivation business is more a regional business, close to our customers.

How are these services sold? In what way are they packaged?

Mobile filters and reactivated material are closely related because with mobile filters you can organise the complete cycle. We offer solution-oriented service packages tailored to the individual requirements. This includes not only the filter but the activated carbon as well as the logistics arrangements. This may also include preliminary laboratory testing, application and engineering consulting as well as start-up support. The basis for tailoring these service packages isan intensive dailogue with customers where we, as the MFU team, offer multi-layered support.

It sounds like it’s a bit more complicated to sell a whole service package and not separate parts?

It’s often easier to sell products than services, but we want to go more in detail with the customers: What is the application? What are the application conditions? What is the goal to achieve? We want to start from the beginning in close dialogue with the customer to offer the best service package solution at the end.

Is reactivation of activated carbon sustainable?

Use of activated carbon in a reactivation cycle is the most sustainable form of activated carbon use. In a reactivation cycle, on average less than 15% of the activated carbon is lost through burnup and sieve losses. So out of 10t of feedstock, 8.5t are kept in the cycle. We need to avoid disposals (therma  utilisation) as much as possible because spent activated carbon is a very valuable raw material!

Let me give you an example; there are some applications in the food industry, for instance, to decolourise lactose. Often, powder activated carbon is used for this application, but that cannot be reactivated, and it has to be disposed of. In close coordination with the customer, a process can thus be converted from powder to granular activated carbon, including the use of mobile filters. This is a very good way to help our industry to become more sustainable.


Mobile filter EcoFlow C16 L installed in 2021.

Customer: NKT GmbH, Nordenham, Germany
Filter and carbon type: EcoFlow C16 L and ReSorb VT 3–4 mm
Application: Exhaust air treatment/Solvent removal

Background and challenge: NKT produce insulators for high voltage systems. Part of the production in Nordenham is a special coating process. This coating contains Xylene, an aromatic hydrocarbon. Due to a production expansion, the use of solvents increased to an amount that required additional exhaust air purification by law. We were requested to do this by Camfil, one of our key EMEA customers.

Solution: Together with an engineering company, we developed a solution based on our mobile filter EcoFlow C16 L, filled with recycled activated carbon ReSorb VT 3–4 mm. When the activated carbon is saturated, it is exchanged and reactivated within our ReSorb pool cycle.
Start-Up: Q1/2021
First filter exchange: Week 51/2021

How has the need for sustainable solutions evolved during recent years?

Companies need to produce and publish sustainability reports; one reason is to build up a positive image. But during the discussions I have had with customers in the last years, sustainability is not only a marketing phrase. Customers are really looking for ways to make their processes more sustainable, and reactivation, especially in combination with coconut based activated carbon, is a good approach for more sustainability.

Back To Top