@ Daniel Hinterramskogler

Sustainable Milestone: Europe's Greenest Brick Production is Being Established in Uttendorf

by Oxana Schmidt
Caption (from left to right): Wolfgang Hribernik (NEFI Network Coordinator/AIT), Johann Marchner (Managing Director of Wienerberger Austria), and Bernd Vogl (Managing Director of the Climate and Energy Fund) @ Daniel Hinterramskogler


In the Uttendorf plant, the most sustainable brick production within the Wienerberger Group is being built. After many years of collaboration with the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology, the NEFI project "GreenBricks" is now starting, which is funded by the Climate and Energy Fund as part of the FTI initiative "Energy Showcase Region." Wienerberger is responsible for the majority of the investment. With this project, the brick manufacturer is pioneering new paths in decarbonizing its manufacturing processes. The world's largest industrial electric furnace for brick production, new clay mixtures, and other measures will lead to a reduction in CO₂ emissions of approximately 90 percent at the site next year. In addition, 30 percent less energy will be required for production, with 100 percent green electricity being used.

The Uttendorf plant is known as a global demonstration site where Wienerberger tests groundbreaking technologies in live operation. For example, an industrial high-temperature heat pump (DryFiciency) for drying processes was successfully demonstrated here for the first time. Now, Uttendorf is once again becoming a flagship plant and setting new standards: With the `GreenBricks` project and the installation of an industrial electric furnace, Wienerberger, together with the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology, is embarking on decarbonising brick production.

Johann Marchner, Managing Director of Wienerberger Austria, says, ´With this project, we provide evidence that at Wienerberger, we roll up our sleeves when it comes to climate protection, take new paths without hesitation, and make our contribution to decarbonising the industry through investments in Austria with full entrepreneurial risk. We are setting new global standards in industrial brick production from Austria and are absolute pioneers in terms of energy efficiency and CO₂ emissions reduction.´

Wolfgang Hribernik, NEFI network coordinator and Head of Center for Energy at the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology, says, `With the NEFI projects, we have the opportunity to test new technologies in real time in companies - we research and develop very close to immediate implementation. In the 'GreenBricks' project, AIT experts are developing a comprehensive concept for energy efficiency in the dryer, burner, and heat pump. The calculations are simulated in a digital twin and optimised for the site. The goal is an optimised concept for this innovative, highly efficient, high-temperature tunnel kiln.`

World's largest industrial electric furnace for brick production

`GreenBricks` pursues several goals to liberate the industrial production of bricks from dependence on fossil fuels. This includes the holistic optimization of the manufacturing process through new technologies. An essential step towards carbon neutrality is the elimination of the gas-fired burner and its replacement with a modern, electrically powered high-temperature furnace - the world's first industrial electric furnace in brick production.

´With the new electric furnace, we can reduce CO₂ emissions at the Uttendorf site by up to 90 percent in the future. This means that bricks surpass wood and other building materials in terms of carbon footprint by a long shot. We use 100 percent green electricity, with a portion coming from our in-house photovoltaic system. Furthermore, we will need less energy for production, allowing us to keep production costs under control,` explains Johann Marchner.

A digital twin of the dryer-burner-heat pump heat network is an additional tool developed by the experts at the Center for Energy at the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology. With this, calculations regarding the new electric furnace can be digitally simulated, and processes can be continuously optimized in terms of climate protection. In addition, new clay mixtures are currently being developed with a minimal CO₂ footprint, taking into account site-specific product and clay properties as well as industrial production environments.

Starting in 2024 in Uttendorf: Production of 270 tons of `green` bricks per day

The installation of the new electric furnace will begin in August 2023 and will take approximately 12 months. The new furnace will be gradually put into operation and tested and evaluated up to a production capacity of 270 tons of bricks per day. The first nearly carbon-neutral wall brick is expected to be manufactured in the summer of 2024, and the plant will be fully operational from 2025 onwards.

The technology behind the new electric furnace comes from OneJoon, one of the world's leading companies in the construction of industrial furnaces with approximately 125 years of experience in manufacturing custom high-temperature industrial furnaces.

Even the reconstruction itself is focused on resource conservation: Building materials from demolition work will be recycled and used as base material for the new factory road. Other components of the previous plant, such as steel and electric motors, will also be kept within the resource cycle. Most of the renovation or expansion work will be carried out by local partners from the region, thus keeping a significant portion of the added value in the local area.

Climate and Energy Fund supports ambitious Wienerberger goals

Wienerberger takes responsibility and contributes to the reduction of domestic industrial energy consumption with "GreenBricks." Wienerberger is financing the ambitious project almost entirely on its own. Furthermore, due to its forward-thinking concept, "GreenBricks" is one of those projects that is promoted by the Austrian Climate and Energy Fund within the as part of the FTI initiative "Vorzeigeregion Energie" driving it forward.

Bernd Vogl, Managing Director of the Climate and Energy Fund, says, ´Austria's goal is climate neutrality. For this century-long task, we need pioneering companies that, together with research, implement practical solutions. Wienerberger will prove in Uttendorf that successful climate protection is possible in the industry.´