Yesterday it became known that the European Commission would shelve their circular economy package of waste, recycling and incineration laws for now, in favour of an even more ambitious legislation to be presented by end-2015 (read here or here).

That led me to browse tweets using the hashtag #circulareconomy, and I ended up unearthing two nice Sankey diagrams…

The first one is by WRAP UK, showing the EU-27 material flows estimated in 2020. This is not for a specific type of material, but all material.

Flows are in million tonnes, with the 2020 values in blue, and the current (2010) figures in brackets below for comparison. There are three nodes: ‘Direct Material Input’, ‘Domestic Material Consumption’ and ‘Waste’. Unfortunately the size of the node icons is too large, and the flows are difficult to see. But still, this is a nice idea!

The main message is that in comparison to 2010, Europe could have 350 million tonnes of recycled material in 2020. Check out these Sankey diagrams by WRAP UK that basically convey the same messsage, but are less infographic.

Another Sankey diagram I found when browsing through the tweets was this one below. The title of the diagram is “How circular is th UK?”.

I found it in a blog post ‘Designing Out Waste Consortium’ by Ramon Arratia on Interface’s Cut The Fluff blog on sustainability, but it is originally from this Green Alliance blog post by Julie Hill.

No values shown along the flows in this Sankey diagram, but neatly shaped circular flows. The question raised in the title is answered prominently with the message that 19% of the material in the UK is led in a loop (pink flow).

A research group from INRIA Grenoble engineering school has set up a website for visualization of environmental data. Sankey diagrams are one available visualization option. The below is a sample provided on the website.

The Sankey diagram shows flows along the cereals production chain in France from the 2007/2008 harvesting campaign. Quantities are in 1000 tonnes.

Different grains are shown on the left: wheat (‘blé’), hard wheat (‘blé dur’), maize, barley (‘orge’) and others. Two large end nodes for unprocessed grain exports and use as animal feed (‘consommation animale’). There are further exports as intermediate and processed products. Only a comparatively small fraction is consumed by humans in France as bread, pasta, biscuits.

Could not detect use as energy crops, it is maybe hidden in the ‘industrial use’ flow. Anyway, an interesting application case for Sankey diagrams.

Energy flows in a waste incinerator facility of MVR-HH (‘Mullverwertung Rugenberger Damm’) in Germany are depicted as Sankey diagram on their website.

Flows are for 2013 in MWh per year (MWh/a). The hot red area is the boiler (‘Kessel’), followed by the turbine. Almost half of the energy is used as process steam and for district heating (‘Warmwasser Neugraben’). Losses branch out vertically.

Steve from posted a comment calling attention to a new free web app they have launched on their website.

This is a straight-forward drawing tool for simple left-to-right distribution diagrams. On the website just pick a node (called “budget” there) and an arrow (called “transfer”), add amount, choose color. The elements can be dragged freely in the browser window. Easy zooming with mouse wheel or double-click on an element. The ‘Save Image’ command from the browser’s context menu lets you store a PNG file.

The motto of is to “Visualise public budgets. Rationalise politics. Tackle Corruption. Eliminate waste. Fight bureaucracy.” The Sankey diagrams everyone can produce with this tool aim at visualizing financial transfers in US$.

According to the blog this is a first early release of the open source Sankey app for desktop UI. Touch friendly editing for mobile devices is under development.

Added to the list of Sankey software.

Happy New Year to all followers! Kicking off with a distribution diagram (aka ‘alluvial diagram’) for cobalt (chemical element ‘Co’) by the Geospatial Engineering Research Group at the University of Newcastle, taken from the article ‘Sankey diagram of cobalt life-cycle’ on their blog.

This shows the mining, refining, manufacturing and use stages for cobalt broken down by continent.

Not sure what the orange and green arrows stand for, or what the unit is. Also, there seems to be a mismatch between the input and the output quantitites at some nodes (check, for example, cobalt flows received from mining countries for refining in Europe compared to the deliveries to the manufacturing stage).
This could be due to mismatches in data from the different sources, or caused by changes in cobalt stocks (i.e. Europe mining and importing less but reducing stocks from previous year, thus being able to ship more to manufacturing in the same period). Maybe one of the authors wishes to comment?

The scientific paper ‘A Sankey Framework for Energy and Exergy Flows’ by Kamalakannan Soundararajan, Hiang Kwee Ho, Bin Su (Energy Studies Institute, National University of Singapore) features these two Sankey diagrams.

Energy flow in an open rack vaporiser (ORV):

Exergy flow in an open rack vaporiser (ORV):

The authors explain that “ORVs regasify liquefied natural gas (LNG) from temperatures below -160°C to room temperature through a heat exchange process with sea water at room temperature and pressure. (…) The Sankey representation of energy and exergy flows here presents a large potential for energy savings that could be realised in the regasification process.”

Found out via the news feed from ifu Hamburg, maker of e!Sankey that they have released an SDK based on e!Sankey that allows software makers to integrate Sankey visualizations into their application.

Two main features help to achieve this: (1) building Sankey diagrams from an XML file that contains structural and layout information (2) feeding values into a Sankey diagram template by reading ID/value pairs from a CSV file.

Consulting firm Rytec analyzes energy and heat utilization level of Swiss waste incineration plants and visualizes the processes using Sankey diagrams.

This Sankey diagram from their website is a simplified view and offers no details as to the actual figures. More detail can be found in this project summary (PDF).

Diagram labeled in German, but thanks to my friend Google Translate, I can identify ‘heating’, ‘boiler’, ‘energy conversion’ and ‘flue gas losses’. Orange streams to the top are losses.