Energy consumption, recovery and efficiency

Energy is a critical input factor for Elkem’s production and represents a significant cost. Energy efficiency and sustainable use of energy is of upmost importance to secure necessary supply while at the same time reducing our global greenhouse gas footprint.

Elkem’s environmental and energy strategy Elkem works continuously to reduce the company’s environmental footprint. Elkem’s sustainability philosophy is based on the general principle of producing as efficiently as possible and with the maximum use of all input streams, like materials and energy. All divisions and plants are responsible for implementing environmental and energy strategies, and conducting their business in accordance with Elkem’s principles in this area.

Through our EHS management policy, all units shall have environmental programs covering the following topics regardless of activity level and risk:

  • Energy and resource utilization
  • Environmental impact through emissions to air and discharge to water
  • Waste reduction and waste management

Well established groupwide audit and reporting systems for EHS are also being expanded to include a higher level of focus on environmental and energy issues. New regulatory framework, such as concessions, directives, taxes and positive stimuli in the form of public support underscore the importance of focusing more strongly on energy efficiency.

Parts of Elkem’s value chain are highly energy intensive, with silicon, ferrosilicon and foundry alloys being produced in electric arc furnaces. Elkem’s smelting furnaces consume just under 5 TWh of electrical energy per year.

Elkem was an industrial pioneer in the utilisation of waste heat, with the first energy recovery system on a smelting furnace being installed already in the 1970s. Recovered heat from smelting furnaces can be utilised as hot water for district heating, steam for other production processes and to generate new electricity. Electricity is sold back to the grid while hot water and steam are used both internally and externally to supply other companies and communities in the vicinity of each plant.

Energy consumption

Total gross electricity consumption in Elkem in 2019 was 6,010 GWh, down from 6,228 GWh in 2018. Most of this change is related to reduced production because of the general global market situation for Elkem’s main products. More than 83% of the total gross electricity consumption is based on renewable power production. With the exception of one smelter in China, all smelting furnaces in Elkem run on renewable electrical energy.

In addition to electrical energy, Elkem also consumes approximately 1.4 TWh of other types of energy for internal vehicle operation and heating/cooling of facilities and processes. Most of this is fossil based energy.

Total gross electricity consumption
2016 2017 2018 2019
4,399 GWh 5,279 GWh 6,228 GWh 6,010 GWh

 

Energy recovery

Elkem has a long-term strategy to increase energy recovery year on year as part of its climate programme. A number of Elkem’s production processes generate surplus heat that traditionally has been emitted through off-gas systems or cooling systems. Much of this can be recovered to hot water for district heating, both internally on site and to other public facilities (such as buildings and sports arenas) and industries close to the plants, and to steam used in industrial processes and/or to generate electricity.

The potential for energy recovery has been mapped at all smelters. Three of Elkem’s smelters already have large boilers attached to their off-gas systems to recover substantial amounts of energy to steam or electricity. A fourth facility will come online in 2020 giving another 270 GWh of electrical energy.

Globally, a total of 698 GWh heat and electricity was recovered from our plants in 2019. This represents an increase of 54 GWh from 2018.

Energy recovery from our plants
  2016 2017 2018 2019
Electricity 193 GWh 210 GWh 209 GWh 200 GWh
Steam/heat 330 GWh 479 GWh 436 GWh 498 GWh
Total 523 GWh 689 GWh 645 GWh 698 GWh

 

Energy efficiency

All Elkem sites are required to have an appropriate energy management system and an energy inventory showing the potential to increase energy efficiency and thereby save energy. Examples of this could be replacing old, inefficient electrical motors with new motors with advanced digital energy control. 

In 2019, Elkem realised energy reduction efforts of 51 GWh in projects related to infrastructure and utility consumption, of which several initiatives received public support.