ENVACT CARB – Activated carbon manufacturing using xylite charcoal for environment application 

Project coordinator: Metallurgical Research Institute – ICEM (Research Institution), Bucharest                              


Mrs. Eniko Volceanov, Head of Research Development Direction 

Email: evolceanov@yahoo.com, enikovolceanov@gmail.com, evolceanov@metal.icem.ro                  Website: http://icem.ro/                              

Address: 39, Mehadia street, district 6, Bucharest, Romania                                Phone: +40 (1) 2205506                            Fax:40 (1) 2204295

References: more information you can find  here, here, here, here.



WHERE: Romania
WHEN: July 2002 – June 2005
WASTE MANAGEMENT HIERARCHY: Recycling: Reuse – Reprocessing

About: The ENVACTCARB project developed a clean technology for producing activated carbon from recovery of xylite waste from brown coal mining. Xylite-based activated carbon is an environmentally friendly absorbent, that can be used in the purification processes of gases or water, as it fixes and retains the substances effectively from the fluids which it comes into contact with.

The project was conducted considering the need to observe the environmental standards and to preserve the nature in line with European Union strategies and objectives.

In the context of extended use of ecological products as a worldwide trend, a continuous rise of activated carbon production (30% over the last decades) has recorded, particularly with respect to its utilization in environment protection area (purification of waste gases and waters).

In Romania, low rank coals – xylites – due to their woody-like physical-chemical and structural characteristics, are promising materials to produce carbonaceous absorbents, charcoal and activated carbon.

The main actions performed under the project were:
1. Design and build a prototype that can produce 50 tonnes/year of activated carbon from xylite and homologation of both product and technology;
2. Identify the opportunities for using the heat generated during the production of activated carbon (for household heating systems);
3. Design the process of taking the xylite from dumping sites, process it to turn it into a suitable raw material;
4. Conduct a Market Review to identify potential users and producers of the activated carbon. 

Photo Source: ec.eruropa.eu


The „ENVACTCARB” project objective was to develop a clean technology, based on the recovery of xylite waste from brown coal in order to obtain a new ecological product – activated carbon.

The project’s main goals were :
• To recycle the xylite (fossil wood) – a waste material and an undesirable component for the lignite combustion process in power plants;
• To create a new ecological product – xylite activated carbon – by applying a new, non-polluting technology. With a uniform porous structure, the new product is comparable to or higher than the classical absorbents;
• To promote the utilization of the activated carbon in the purification processes.

Photo Source: ec.europa.eu


1. The main resource was represented by the knowledge and expertise of project coordinator:

ICEM S.A. (Metallurgical Research Institute from Bucharest) is an institute specialized in metallurgy applied research, including the manufacture of activated carbon. It also has expertise in the manufacture and tests of absorbents. The Institute owns the Romanian invention for the “Procedure and installation for producing a precursor for activated carbon manufacturing”, which was applied in this project.

2. Project partners :
– The Chemical Engineering Institute – IPROCHIM, as general designer
– The National Company of Lignite Oltenia – SNLO, as main supplier of raw materials and potential user of project results;
– Motru Municipality, whose role consists in promoting the development of technology on industrial scale, in order to reduce the social impact due to the restructuring of the mining sector, predominantly on regional field.

3. Project reference LIFE02 ENV/RO/000461
4. Duration: 01.07.2002 – 30.06.2005
5. Total budget 830,820.00 €, out of which EU contribution 390,160.00 €
6. Project location: Romania


The „ENVACTCARB” project was successful: the objective to develop a technology to process the xylite (waste) into activated carbon was reached. The prototype, which has a capacity of 50 tonnes/year, works correctly and the carbon is of satisfactory quality to enter the market. The technology was homologated, and the basic calculations were made available for the technological and economic parts.

Urban metabolism relevance

The project activities offered and promoted environmentally friendly solutions:
– The xylite is taken from the dumping sites, its use significantly reducing the environmental impact;
– Residual heat from burning the xylite is also used.

Turning this xylite into activated carbon leads to significant environmental benefits , such as:
– A reduction of beech wood deforestation (50 ha of wood are needed to produce 1000 tons of activated carbon);
– A further reduction of the greenhouse effect (1 ha wood consumes around 14 tons a year of carbon dioxide and generates approximately 15 tons of oxygen);
– A limit to the use of a waste material, which adversely affects the combustion process in power plants;
– Prevention of air and soil pollution by the powders (fly ash) resulting from the incomplete combustion of xylite at the power plants;
– A decrease of wood flour and other wastes produced by wood processing, which represent precious renewable raw materials in the process of activated carbon manufacturing;
– Less space will be occupied by xylite dumping sites.

Also, the project results, where applied, can have social and economic implications:
– creation of new jobs in a new environmental business market;
– economic and social rehabilitation of the closed-down mining regions (as they can provide an alternative to skilled labor force at a relatively cheaper cost).


The project was innovative for its focus on using a non-polluting technology to process the xylite as raw material for the production of activated carbon, which is a uniformly porous structure that proved higher absorbtion capacity than conventional activated carbon.

Engaged participatory processes

The project dissemination activities have been well planned, targeted and intense, conducted following a Dissemination Plan elaborated at the project beginning.
Four target groups were defined, and products were developed to meet the target’s needs:
1. Investors in the technology and policy-makers
2. End-users of the carbon
3. Professionals
4. General public.

Dissemination has been made through:
– The project website http://www.icem.ro/life1/SiteLife/index.html
– A quarterly Bulletin: Ecoproducts/ Eco-activated carbon (8 issues produced)
– A presentation brochure and a project CD
– A film (40 min) in DVD, English and Romanian versions
– Layman’s Report.

The project was presented at 14 international workshops, press releases were distributed to 32 central and local newspapers and seven major articles were published.

Also, the „After Life Communication Plan” comprised: participation in 6 international thematic workshops/meetings, permanent update of the website, continued distribution of the printed LIFE project products (e.g. CDs).

Sustainability and replicability


The project was focused on developing of a coherent strategy for local community interests – decreasing of unemployment rate for the local labor force and improving the life quality – by promoting the development of modern clean technologies for manufacturing of eco-products and providing energy recovery resources.

This approach can be successfully replicated at national and regional level, by those communities which are facing with same pressures, in order to reach progresses in their economic, environmental and social development towards sustainable development.
Romania has abundant amounts of low-grade coal – xylite – which, due to its wood-like characteristics, is an excellent material to produce absorbents. The chosen location for the project pilot action – Gorj County (a Romanian traditional mining area) enjoys abundant local land-filled xylite.

The technology developed for producing activated carbon from xylite proved to be both technically and economically viable.

Success Factors

Absorbents are increasingly used to purify gases and water. Among them, activated carbon (which effectively attaches itself to particles) has become highly popular. The production of activated carbon proved to be a promising industry, also in terms of reusing mining waste and
addressing potential cleaning up liabilities of pollution.

After this project, the ICEM has started, in 2006, to implement the follow-up project “Innovative technologies for sustainable manufacturing and use of some multipurpose carbon materials by wastes recycle for environment application”. The project represented the widening of LIFE ENVACTCARB technology towards vegetal wastes on multipurpose carbon materials manufacturing and obtaining of selective filters based on high grade adsorbents capable to retain some polluters from the air and water streams.

As a recognition of its success, ENVACTCARB has been selected as one of the 21 “Best” LIFE Environment projects in 2005-2006.


Waste, Resources, Innovation.

Key Challenges

The main challenges are represented by the incurred risks:
– Relatively few raw material (xylite) suppliers. This inconvenient can be overpassed by adding alternative materials to the raw material basis, such as recyclable vegetable and industrial wastes originating from wood and natural processed and unprocessed fibers;
– The methods of xylite sampling and processing which are involving a low mechanization level;
– The raw material prices depend mostly on the costs of xylite picking up and processing methods, with high costs as consequence of the low mechanization level;
– Limited valorization of the secondary energy resulted from the industrial process;
– Specific consumptions higher than the estimated ones within the Life project proposal, but with possibilities of improvement.


The information presented above was taken from public sources, and assessed by UrbanWINS experts according to the project requirements, field research, deductions and analytical process. Key assumptions and projections may deviate from the opinions presented by author, this may typically be the result of differing time horizons, methodologies, contexts or other factors.

We do not assume any rights or guarantees, the sources of all data can be found in the „References” section, in the document. At the time of publishing, we did not received a point of view from the owners/beneficiaries of the practice (although have been requested an official position to the authors, via e-mail), and it can be withdrawn simply by email notification.

Any investor must particularly ensure the suitability of an investment as regards his/her financial and fiscal situation and investment objectives.

For more information, please contact the implementing body.

Click on the green icon on the left side of the page to print and download this Best Practice as PDF.

Share This