Press release

BIRBALAS project testing commences in the Basque Country

13 September 2021
Se inician las pruebas del proyecto BIRBALAS en el País Vasco
  • The project analyses the technical and market feasibility for the use of iron and steel aggregate recovered from electric arc furnaces as railway ballasts and sub-ballasts
  • The consortium made up of Sidenor, Elinfe, SAITEC and COMSA, in collaboration with TECNALIA, has carried out the first test on a section of the ETS in Derio (Vizcaya).

15 July 2021. Sidenor, Elinfe, SAITEC and COMSA, in collaboration with TECNALIA, have started BIRBALAS project testing on a section of the rail network managed by the Basque public entity, EUSKAL TRENBIDE SAREA, passing through the municipality of Derio (Vizcaya).

The initiative consists of the development and validation of railway ballast and sub-ballast products based on iron and steel aggregate recovered from electric arc furnaces and will give a second life to waste from this industry, which represents 400,000 Tm each year in the Basque Country.

The purpose of BIRBALAS is to analyse the technical and market feasibility for the use of this product in the railway sector, considering its sustainable and environmental specifications. These will foster the smart management of the ballast’s preventive maintenance, as well as the generation of new materials to replace the traditional ballast.

Steel aggregate is a waste product obtained as a by-product from the steelmaking process in electric arc furnaces. This process consists of two stages: the first involves melting raw materials in an electric arc furnace, and the second involves refining the casting bath, which ends in the ladle furnace.

The commencement of testing in Derio is a further step in the BIRBALAS project, which is subsidised by the Basque Government's Hazitek programme and will open up a new way of managing surpluses of this type of waste in the region, in line with the strategic guidelines for the circular economy promoted by the Department of the Environment and Territorial Policy.

About Sidenor

Sidenor is a leading industrial group in the production of special long steel products. It has production centres in the Basque Country, Cantabria and Catalonia and sales offices in Germany, France, Italy and the United Kingdom. The company is at the forefront of the sector thanks to its strong commitment to research. It has one of the largest R&D centres among European special steel producers, where it carries out technological developments to create new products and optimise its processes.

About Elinfe

Elinfe, SA has 20 years of experience using iron and steel aggregates in the various ways that each government defines as appropriate, or even desirable. That is the aim of the circular economy, where what is promoted is the use of materials that are waste from certain industries and their recovery in order to turn them into raw materials for others, thereby improving the efficiency of natural resources and stimulating research into the reduction of unused waste that would otherwise go to landfill.

Elinfe is involved in a number of projects in conjunction with its customers and various research centres to define new uses for steel slag and other waste, which have proven the suitability of recovered waste in products that are already on the market, and to develop new solutions that are suitable for different markets. Elinfe continues to be fully committed to this unstoppable process and its commitment to being part of the definition and development of projects that will broaden the range of new uses for materials that until now have been considered waste


SAITEC S.A. is one of the leading Spanish engineering firms providing consultancy services from a position of professional independence, with a strong innovative approach and a firm commitment to sustainable development and being environmentally friendly, with more than 30 years of experience and a worldwide presence with more than 300 people across 4 different continents.

Its main activity is related to undertaking projects in the following fields: roads, railways, water, environment, industry and energy, and architecture and urban planning. SAITEC's area of activity covers the entire engineering value chain (planning, design, construction and operation), and it provides its services to both private and public companies.

About COMSA Corporación

COMSA Corporación is a global group focusing on sustainable infrastructures which has been operating for 130 years. In 2020 it recorded a turnover of 778 million euros, with a workforce of more than 5,300 people and operations in about twenty countries.


As part of the BRTA (Basque Research and Technology Alliance), TECNALIA is a benchmark research and technological development centre in Europe, with 1,400 professionals representing 30 different nationalities, focusing on transforming technology into GDP to improve people’s quality of life, by creating business opportunities for companies. Its main areas of action are: Digital Transformation, Smart Manufacturing, Energy Transition, Sustainable Mobility, Urban Ecosystem, and Precision Health.