LIFE GAIN - Slag layers in railway foundations

LIFE12 ENV/ES/000638

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Contact details:

Project Manager: Joan PESET
Email: jpeset@comsa.com

Project description:


According to the World Steel Association, the European Union produced 177.2 million tonnes of crude steel in 2011.

Steelmaking can be carried out by basic oxygen steelmaking – primary steelmaking – in which oxygen is blown through molten pig iron. Another process is the Electric Arc Furnace (EAF) – secondary steelmaking – in which scrap metal and/or pig iron is directly exposed to an electric arc and melted down.

A by-product of both processes is steel furnace slag (SFS) which forms on the surface of the molten steel. EAF production – which accounts for some 42.8% of the total - generates up to 15 % of slag/tonne of steel. It is usually composed of molten metal oxides, silicates and ferrites, although the exact composition varies depending on the particular conditions of production. Currently, a great volume of slag is dumped, although there is increasing research into different application alternatives. One of the most important is as a recycled aggregate in road construction, as material for road foundation layers.


The LIFE GAIN project aims to demonstrate the feasibility of using SFS as an eco-friendly aggregate in the construction of railway tracks – specifically to form sub-ballast and sub-grade track foundation layers, a completely new technological solution. The ultimate goal of the project is to reduce the large volume of SFS that is annually disposed in landfills.

The project will produce a new eco-friendly aggregate - SFS-Rail – in valorisation plants. It plans to locate these plants next to steel furnaces to minimise the frequency and intensity of transport. A key feature will be the demonstration that it is possible to adapt an existing valorisation plant to produce the new material.

The project plans to construct 100 m-long test sections of rail. It will then use these to monitor the eco-friendly aggregate’s performance and hopefully demonstrate the predicted benefits of the material. Beyond showing that it is a technically feasible application for recycled SFS, existing research suggests that the project can hope to prove that its mechanical properties – strength, hardness etc. – will actually make it a more durable and sustainable product than natural aggregates.

LIFE GAIN hopes to show that SFS-Rail is an innovative, sustainable and eco-friendly alternative to natural aggregates, applicable throughout Europe. It expects to demonstrate that the technology used to produce SFS-Rail will be easily transferrable to other European countries where there are a large number of furnaces currently facing the same environmental problem.

Expected results: Based on the application of SFS-Rail in the test sections of the project:

  • Reduction of the volume of the annual slag disposal on landfills by 1 078 tonnes – with a potential reduction in Europe of 360 000 tonnes/yr;
  • Reduction of the use of natural aggregates by 1 078 tonnes – also with a potential reduction of 360 000 tonnes/yr;
  • Reduction of the environmental impact at quarries;
  • Reduction of the frequency and intensity of transport of SFS;
  • Reduction of energy consumption by 197.5 Mkwh - with a potential reduction in Europe of 65 909 Mkwh/yr;
  • A reduction in overall CO2 emissions of 6.03 tonnes – with a potential reduction of 2 014 tonnes/yr; and
  • Reduction of other environmental impacts, including deforestation, the impact on vegetation and fauna and hydrological impact.



Environmental issues addressed:


Industry-Production - Metal industry
Waste - Waste reduction - Raw material saving


waste reduction‚  rail transport‚  iron and steel industry

Natura 2000 sites

Not applicable



Coordinator COMSA, SAU
Type of organisation Large enterprise
Description COMSA is a construction company, with railways as its core business. It is the main company of the COMSA EMTE group, which is made up of companies covering several areas of expertise including infrastructure, mechanical and electrical engineering, transport and logistics, technology and renewable energy.
Partners ADEC GLOBAL SL, Spain


Project reference LIFE12 ENV/ES/000638
Duration 01-JUL-2013 to 30-SEP -2016
Total budget 1,301,526.00 €
EU contribution 650,763.00 €
Project location Cataluña(España)


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Project web site Project's website


Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version