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Solvay - The NOVOSOL® process

Added on 22-03-2013





Business challenge

Silting up of waterways and port areas is a serious problem to inland navigation. It increases the risk of flooding and contamination of drinking water. The solution is to dredge and clean the mud where it has accumulated. 


Today, in Europe, sediments are not tipped on landfill sites but left in the rivers, reducing the mobility of waterway traffic. The Walloon Region of Belgium will soon be the first to treat the sediments from canals using an industrial unit managed by SEDISOL SA. Over 235.000 m3 of contaminated sediments will be treated every year for 4 years, and a total of about one million tonnes will be treated and removed, enabling easier waterway navigation. Phase A of the NOVOSOL®  process will stabilize the heavy metals in sediments through the addition of phosphoric acid. The stabilized sediments will then be used for backfilling (providing natural barriers, anti-noise barriers etc.) The process produces no waste that needs to be tipped on landfill sites.

Solvay provides a technical solution to the problem of highly-polluted industrial, urban and agricultural wastes through the NOVOSOL ® process, which treats contaminated mineral residues.  The chemical solution stabilizes heavy metals and destroys organic material.  Solvay aims to act as an environmental partner, providing environmental technology that offers solutions to problems for which no satisfactory answer previously existed.


The challenge now is:

  • To develop the technology in different markets.  In the coming months, the technology will be used to treat contaminated soils and waste as a solution to environmental problems.
  • To develop the commitment of actors that can collect, clean and dispose of cleaned sediments in productive second uses.  These actors include local communities, those in charge of water resources and rivers, waste treatment companies.

Solvay is also making the NOVOSOL® process available to governmental authorities and industrial organisations by granting operating licenses. Solvay assists its licensees by checking the composition of sediments, running test processes on various scales of operation and providing basic engineering and technical support. If the tests now being undertaken by French authorities produce positive results, a project might be developed in the Region Nord-Pas-de-Calais, in Douai in 2012.

Challenges/Lessons learned:

The removal of sediments improves the use of waterways and harbours and hence encourages river transport.  Fluvial transportation is a key contributor to sustainable development - low energy consumption, low C02 emissions, safety, contribution to economic and social development, reduction of road congestion.  The stabilized sediments can be used in a variety of construction materials, such as bricks and noise abatement walls, and as an element of the hydraulic gravel in road construction.  It can also be used to rehabilitate quarries, eliminating the need for ‘virgin' materials and reducing the amount of final waste to be tipped on landfill sites. 

Benefits to the company include the opening up of new markets and new applications for a process adaptable to a wide range of contaminated mineral residues.  This process brings environmental and social benefits to a variety of actors including public authorities, those living and working in flood areas and near previously contaminated soil, and the construction industry. 

The NOVOSOL® process increases the proportion of residues that can be recycled and limits the final amount of waste to be tipped on landfill sites. Solvay's process reconciles industrial development with the environmental and social objectives essential for ensuring the quality of life of future generations. This is part of the Solvay Group's commitment to Sustainable Development.   

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