Lighthouse: Escombreras Valley

Cartagena (Murcia), Spain

Main drivers to join the project

  • For the whole industrial area, to improve water management and consumption, eliminate Ca waste and reduce the overall CO2 emissions at park level.

  • For QSr, to reduce raw material imports, decarbonise their fertiliser production line and recycle a by-product formation.

  • For the desalinization plant, access to efficient energy from renewable sources.

  • For the whole industrial area, to explore new collaborative schemes fostering the interaction among the industries involved in the park.

Sectors involved

  • Chemical

  • Minerals

  • Water


  • Industrial area promoter: Fertiberia

  • Number of companies: 4

  • Number of employees: over 1200


  • CO2 // Water // H2SO4 // CaCl2

  • Heat (future CSP Plant, currently: NG boiler)

Annual energy use


Overall concept of the demonstration activities to be implemented

Creation of new value chains for fertilizer and industrial production

The aim is to readapt the current fertilizer production process in QSr (currently producing KNO3, Ca(NO3)2, Mg(NO3)2, Sr(NO3)2, SrCO3, (NH4)2SO4 and NH4NO3) to replace imported raw material (HCl and CaCO3), utilise CO2 from surrounding industries and reduce waste water discharge and water consumption.

Currently, fertilizers and strontium derivates are produced in parallel processes in the same facility in QSr. First, the strontium mineral is leached with HCl to purify SrSO4.

As a result of the leaching process, wastewater with high concentration of CaCl2 is produced, which reacts with the sulphates discharged upstream, generating CaSO4 which causes severe plugs in the pipeline infrastructure.

This SrSO4 is fed into a set of carbonation reactors working with NH3 and CO2 imported from a nearby industry (“Ecocarburantes Españoles”) to produce SrCO3, obtaining (NH4)2SO4 and NH4NO3 as by-products. Additionally, KNO3 is produced by reacting NH4NO3 and KCl.

NH4Cl is obtained as a by-product, which has little market demand. In parallel, Ca(NO3)2 is obtained by direct reaction of HNO3 and CaCO3, emitting CO2 in the process.

The demonstration action will pivot around a novel KNO3 process as depicted in the Figure above, developed by Fertiberia.

This process will use HNO3 and KCl as raw materials, obtaining diluted HCl, which will be neutralized and mixed with the CaCl2-containing water from the leaching process.

The CaCl2 solution will be concentrated and treated with H2SO4 (by-product from a nearby industry (“Aemedsa”)) to produce concentrated HCl (30%) and CaSO4, thus eliminating the CaCl2 and reducing wastewater. This wastewater treatment process will be tested in a pilot plant in QSr. The demo plant for the new KNO3 process will be installed in QSr.

Concentrated HCl can be then reused in the leaching process while the CaSO4 can be recovered for two purposes: 1) part can be fed into some of the carbonation reactors to produce CaCO3, which replaces mineral-based CaCO3 for the Ca(NO3)2 production, reducing overall CO2 emissions in the park; and 2) to produce Ammonia Nitrate + S, which is currently obtained in other Fertiberia  plant located in Sagunto, which uses carbonate and gypsum from mines. Hence, the process to be demonstrated in Escombreras will indirectly reduce CO2 emissions of Fertiberia group.


Energy efficiency


Energy intensity


CO2 emissions


Raw materials intensity


Waste generation (CaCl2)

Techno-economic assessment of the implementation of a CSP plant

CORALIS will study the technical and economic feasibility for the implementation of at least 4-MW CSP Plant at industrial area level. This project is under planning and is expected to start in 2021, so CORALIS will provide the basis for the facility design and interaction with Escombreras.

The CSP will produce steam at high pressure, supported by a molten salt storage developed and patented by Fertiberia.

This HP steam will be fed into a steam turbine, that will produce low pressure steam to cover the energy needs of QSr processes and mechanical energy into a water closed-circuit to provide mechanical energy to the desalination plant.

The study will also consider the assessment for the design of the plant in order to supply energy to the rest of industries at the Escombreras Valley Area.

In order to facilitate the implementation of the CSP plant, the new process demonstrated in QSr will be tested under variable steam pressure conditions, simulating a potential scenario of low-RES generation.

Description of the demonstration readiness level towards Industrial Symbiosis (IS)

  • Legal dimension: Readiness to close deal. QSr and Ecocarburantes are already exchanging CO2 for SrCO3 production. The water management infrastructure is managed directly by the industries in the park, instead of relying on a third entity. Since the new KNO3 process will solve the pipe plugging issues, there would not be any kind of legal issues for the implementation of this case. As for the CSP plant, QSr is in negotiation with the regional government in Murcia for the land permissions for this facility.

  • Economic dimension: Readiness to invest. The expected benefits at park level and company level have been already estimated ensuring a win-win situation for every partner involved. In this sense, by-products exchange contracts are already in place for CO2and H2SO4.

  • Social dimension: Readiness to collaborate: The companies involved in the two phases of the project are aware of its implementation and are willing to support it, as demonstrated through the by-products supply agreements. Finally, the desalination plant is also aware of the project, particularly for the CSP plant

  • Technical and spatial dimensions: Readiness of technology and land. The KNO3 process and the CaCl2 treatment system has been validated at TRL5 in Fertiberia facilities in Avilés and Huelva. Its demonstration in Escombreras is motivated by the already existing synergies and those that will be created with the surrounding industries to create new value chain for fertiliser production, reduce overall CO2 direct emissions in the industrial area, reduce water consumption and wastewater, reduce mineral raw material imports and solve common water infrastructure issues

Main challenges to be addressed and barriers to be overcome

The main challenges of this demonstration are:

  • considering the CSP plant to be constructed, the new processes could face for a potential case of low-RES generation and should be designed consequently;

  • the accounting of CO2 emissions should be defined, since despite replacing the use of CaCO3, the CO2 will be still emitted in QSr facilities;

  • it would be necessary to coordinate the production of CaCO3 for fertilizer production and SrCO3, since they share the same equipment for both processes;

  • it is necessary to reach an effective concentration of HCl in order to avoid wastewater and recover the Ca compounds.

  • quality of end-products and wastewater is crucial for this project, that is why monitoring instrumentation is necessary to avoid contamination of end-products and wastewater, for instance, N in wastewater or Cl in Nitrates

Equipment to be installed, modifications required and relevant activities for each stakeholder involved


Coordination and direction of the demonstrator. Calculation, simulation and predesign of KNO3 demo plant and HCl concentration system pilot plant. Replication assessment in other plant of the group. Support to the impact analysis (CO2 and raw material reduction) in other plants of the group.

Química del Estroncio

Support to the design, installation and operation of the KNO3 process and the HCl concentration pilot plant. Products and by-products validation.


IS facilitator. Modelling of the process flows and support to the symbiotic case design and monitoring. Technoeconomic assessment of the CSP Plant. LCA of the symbiotic case


Design, engineering and construction of the KNO3 reactor and support to its operation


Design, engineering and construction of the pilot plant for HCl concentration system.

Other stakeholders

  • Ecocarburantes Españoles: Provider of CO2 to carbonation process

  • Aemedsa: Provider of H2SO4 to the process

  • Desalination: Provide data for the design of the CSP Plant

  • REPSOL: Interest in providing CO2 for QSr process

  • Murcia Region: Owner of the land for the CSP. Construction permits

Targets of the overall IS demonstrator

  • Reduce os wastewater problema and improvement in the management of common water infrastructure

  • Reduce overall CO2 emissions at park level

  • Direct reduction of raw material and water consumption at local level and at industrial group level (FTIB)

  • Design the CSP Plant for maximizing its supply efficiency and decarbonize the energy supply of the industrial area