A zero-harm philosophy implies protecting the health and safety of all people working at all Elkem locations. It also means running operations with resource-efficient processes where negative environmental impacts are minimised throughout the value chain.
Using highly developed production technology, Elkem converts natural resources into products that today’s society is fully dependent on. With recent growth, Elkem is an integrated value chain covering all aspects of production from quartz to silicon and silicones. Each step of the process has its environmental challenges that we believe are managed in a sustainable manner. Our sustainability approach is based on the general principle of producing as efficiently as possible and with the maximum use of all input streams to avoid waste.
The process of converting quartz to silicon is a high temperature smelting process that consumes vast amounts of energy. As the main energy base for this production is hydropower at almost all of our smelters, the electrical energy supply does not have a climate effect. The process itself, however, uses carbon sources like fossil coal, charcoal and wood chips as a reductant in the chemical conversion. This gives emissions of CO₂, NOₓ and SO₂. These emissions are inherent to the process and cannot be fully removed with today’s technology.
Our main strategy has therefor been to reduce our environmental footprint as much as feasible with today’s technology, at the same time as we develop tomorrows technology that will be carbon neutral. Efforts include replacing fossil carbon with biocarbon by increasing the amount of charcoal and wood-chips in the process, rebuilding furnaces to reduce NOₓ generated in the smelting process and using more low-Sulphur raw materials to reduce SO₂ emissions. All of these have had a substantial positive effect on our environmental footprint.v
In 2018, Elkem presented a renewed environmental strategy for the board of directors confirming its commitment to:
- Full compliance with all applicable environmental regulations wherever Elkem operates worldwide.
- Create and sustain a strong environmental reputation wherever we operate worldwide.
- Ensure sustainable production and emissions/discharge control based on our knowledge of the environmental effects of our production. This also applies in countries where applicable environmental regulation is weak or non-existent.
- Strengthen our position in the development of technology and materials that enable reduction in greenhouse gas emissions throughout the world.
The strategy also provides KPIs, reported quarterly, for energy consumption, emission to air and water and waste/by-products. This will be fully disclosed in the 2019 sustainability report for the first time.