On 1 April 2022, the Minister for Economic Affairs, Innovation, Digitalization and Energy of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia, Prof. Dr Andreas Pinkwart, visited KMA Umwelttechnik GmbH in Königswinter. During the company visit, he also spoke with Dr Holger Wagner, Managing Director of KMA Umwelttechnik, about economic policy issues, such as the explosive gas dependency of the state's industrial companies, the increasing demand for energy-efficient environmental technology and the challenges of the energy transition.
The NRW Minister for Economic Affairs, Innovation, Digitalization and Energy has had to deal intensively with the question of how to reduce gas consumption in industry since the start of the Ukraine war. This is because energy-intensive industry in NRW, which accounts for 40 percent of total gas consumption in the Federal Republic, would be particularly affected by a Russian gas supply freeze. And it was no wonder that he was particularly interested in the energy-efficient filter technology presented to him during his visit by the Königswinter-based company KMA Umwelttechnik.
The medium-sized family-owned company, founded in 1958, develops customized systems for the purification of emission-laden process exhaust air for a wide variety of industries, such as the metalworking, food or textile industries. There, complex exhaust air streams are often treated with thermal afterburning - an energy-intensive and thus expensive process. The principle of thermal afterburning (TNV) is based on the complete combustion of the organic carbon compounds in the exhaust air to H2O and CO2. In the food industry, for example, afterburning plants must be operated at high temperatures above 750 °C in order to adequately separate emissions and odors. In particular, compliance with CO limits requires operation at high exhaust air temperatures. The permissible limit values of the purified exhaust air can thus be achieved, but at the expense of the environment: the supply of fossil fuels required for these high temperatures consumes immense natural resources and releases secondary emissions such as CO2 and NOx.
KMA Umwelttechnik, on the other hand, relies on electrostatic precipitator systems in which a strong electric field is generated with little energy input, electrostatically charging the dust particles, smoke and aerosols. "The particles are then attracted and separated in the e-filter as if by a magnet. An automatic cleaning system, similar to an integrated dishwasher, removes these deposits regularly so that filter replacement is not necessary," KMA Managing Director Dr. Holger Wagner explained the principle of the long-lasting and low-maintenance KMA technology. In addition, the system can be equipped with heat recovery to utilize the energy of the exhaust air flow and UV light treatment to combat odors. The proven process technology uses integrated heat recovery systems to extract the heat from the exhaust air and make it usable for customer-specific recycling (for example, for heating fresh air in winter to reduce heating costs). Thus, by installing KMA filter technology, about 80 percent of energy consumption and up to 90 percent of CO2 emissions can be saved compared to conventional systems.
During the tour of the plant, Economics Minister Pinkwart was impressed by the diverse products and the energy benefits of the innovative environmental technology.
He announced that he would bring KMA technology to the attention of the state company Energy4Climate. Since the beginning of the year, this company has been bundling all operative energy and climate protection activities in NRW and advising companies and municipalities on their way to climate neutrality. "We not only have to implement the climate protection targets, but also ensure security of supply. This requires a fast and broad roll-out of technologies for energy transition and climate protection. And it is precisely this technology that your company provides," praised the Minister.
The environmental technology company, with its 100 employees at its headquarters in Königswinter and its branch office in Shanghai (China), has been developing special systems for environmentally conscious industrial companies for 60 years.
The Königswinter-based company, which as a leading solution provider for energy-efficient exhaust air filter systems exports 70 per cent of its systems to customers all over the world, has registered a strong increase in demand in recent weeks. "We are getting more and more enquiries from companies and also from associations that have hardly dealt with this topic so far ", reports Managing Director Wagner. This is because energy savings have suddenly moved to the top of the priority list in many companies in view of current developments. Yet KMA, as is usual in production engineering special plant construction, almost exclusively manufactures customised plants. "There is no blueprint for our exhaust air systems, because every customer's production plant is different and, in addition, we have to observe the local legal requirements for air quality or emission discharge into the environment. But innovation is part of our company philosophy. When a new issue arises, we are always convinced that we will find a solution for it, too," Wagner explains. And so the innovative family-owned company develops environmental technology solutions for leading companies with a wide range of industrial applications, advises the Federal Environment Agency on industry-relevant committees or supports industrial associations and trade journals with best-practice recommendations. Minister Pinkwart shares KMA Umwelttechnik's optimism: "The current situation presents us all with great challenges. But we have great companies, outstanding research institutions and many bright minds in NRW who are taking on this challenge. That is a great opportunity for all of us."