Stearate from steel wire drawing processes as a resource

Elena Collina, Carlo Antonini, Giancarlo Capitani, Ugo Cosentino, Marina Lasagni, Valeria Mezzanotte


STAR (Stearato dai processi di Trafilatura del filo di Acciaio come Risorsa) project, funded by the Italian Ministry of the Environment, has the ambition of redesigning the use and life cycle of waste stearates from the steel wire drawing industry, promoting the circular life of such materials. Waste stearate is having a strong impact on the economic and environmental sustainability of the steel wire production processes, adding up to the increasing pressure that industry has been facing in the last years: the pandemic crisis, the raw material price increase, the commercial restrictions related to the Ukraine and other regional conflicts.

The short-term goal of the project is to develop a technology to be applied on a local scale and the long-term one is expanding it internationally. The benefits are both environmental, due to the reduction of waste and related impact on the environment, and economic, due to stearate valorization.

First, stearate waste from wire drawing process were characterized in order to valorize them in the production of new materials or as an energy source.

Samples of stearate waste were provided by wire drawing industries and the analyses showed that the humidity content was always low (0.1 – 5 %), while the volatile solids (VS) content varied from 2 to 70%, covering a very wide range and thus indicating a variable organic matter content. The mean higher heating value was 26 MJ/kg and the Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD) 500 mg O2/g and correlated well with VS. pH was strongly basic (>11).

Anaerobic digestion can surely have an important role in valorization, as it allows to recover energy and to produce a stabilized digestate for which a further use can be studied, according to its properties. Preliminary BMP tests (BMP = Biomethane Potential) determined a biomethane production in the range 500-900 L/kgVS, much higher than the production from animal waste (around 400 L/kgVS). The toxicity of the digestate was assessed by Microtox® assay and was negligible. This finding supports the hypothesis that recalcitrant compounds, which do not undergo degradation in anaerobic conditions, are not toxic.


BMP (biomethane production); characterization; material recovery; stearate waste

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DOI: 10.7250/%x


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