Water management

As Elkem has developed into a global company and increased its presence in chemical processing, water management is becoming more important, both when it comes to water economisation, recovery and reuse at the plant and controlling and monitoring emissions from our plants to water.

Historically, the majority of Elkem’s production facilities were located in areas where freshwater supplies were abundant and more than sufficient for Elkem’s production activities. Water management activities were mainly focused on discharge control to ensure that public permits are respected, and that water bodies close to our production sites were duly protected.

Our EHS management policy, covering water management, covers all our units. The policy includes having an environmental program covering the following topics regardless of activity level and risk:

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

We work continuously to comply with all environmental permits and regulations, and improve our work so we prepare ourselves for stricter regulations. Key action points are:

  • Investment in improved water treatment capacity
  • Reduce wastewater at generation point by better understanding of the processes and better follow-up
  • Develop full understanding of limited water resources for Elkem activities

Water monitoring has been done activity at Elkem’s plants for decades in accordance with applicable regulations and permits. In Europe this means compliance with the EU Water Framework Directive, while other regulations apply in other regions around the world where we operate.

Water consumption and discharge is limited in silicon and ferrosilicon production. Emissions to air from the smelting process will however have an effect on water bodies close to the production sites as rain washes residue into the sea. Many old plants were also built on landfills and/or have landfills where there is a potential for run-off to water bodies. Water monitoring focuses on sediments and biota in water bodies that may be affected by emissions from our production or by run-off from landfills. Key parameters include levels of heavy metals and organic compounds in blue mussels and sediments.

Carbon production has historically used more water directly in the production process to cool products. For water management the main focus has been on avoiding discharge of PAH as it contains hazardous components that can affect marine life. Substantial efforts have been made to reduce water consumption and to capture and clean PAH polluted air and water before it reached water bodies where it can do harm.

Water management in Elkem Silicones

With growth in silicones, water consumption and management are becoming increasingly important for Elkem. Water is an important raw material in the production of base and intermediate silicones and is also used extensively in the different processing steps. Elkem’s upstream silicones production is located close to important freshwater bodies in both France and China where effluent from chemical production is closely regulated. All applicable plants have comprehensive systems for water monitoring and water treatment in compliance with local regulations.

Elkem’s Silicones division does not have a standalone water policy. Water management issues are included in the Responsible Care Global Charter to which the Silicones. All silicones plants have permits, which limit effluent discharge and define daily limits for discharge volume, flow rate and concentration of pollutants. The parameter used is chemical oxygen demand (COD), expressed as metric tonnes of oxygen. COD emissions are measured at all plants and analysed and managed daily. The total emission of COD flow in Elkem was 324,665 kg in 2019, 319,836 kg of this in the Silicones division. 2018 was the first year we gathered information on a global level, through an improved reporting system. For the coming years we will be able to track progress of our water management.

Results for 2019

In 2017, Elkem included fresh water consumption and process water discharge as a monthly corporate performance indicator. A common platform for categorisation made it possible to agglomerate global water data from 2018 onwards.

The total fresh water consumption in Elkem was 79,745,341 m3 in 2019. 
The total process waste water discharge was 12,651,938 m3.
Water storage has no significant water-related impact.

Fresh water consumption and process water discharge for 2019, per division
  Total fresh water consumption Process water discharge
Elkem Carbon 4,1 million m3 14,279 m3
Elkem Foundry Products 16,1 million m3 358,382 m3
Elkem Silicon Materials 35,6 million m3 7,1 million m3
Elkem Silicones 24 million m3 5,1 million m3