15.03.2022

How can Elkem Silicones Division contribute to a resource efficient, climate-friendly, circular economy?

Elkem Silicones Division, like the rest of the Elkem organisation, is an active player in the definition and implementation of the group’s climate roadmap.

Moving into 2022, we continue to build this roadmap to define and deliver on diverse subjects including: heighten awareness internally and externally, define a sustainable portfolio management approach, deepen, and widen our circular economy initiatives.  

Raw materials and supplier engagement 

One of the most notable differences with the other divisions of Elkem ASA is how our emissions are allocated among the three scopes. Elkem Silicon Products has significant scope 1 emissions, while Elkem Silicones’ emissions come primarily from our raw materials (scope 3) with silicon metal bringing the main impact. This means, now more than ever, that being an integrated manufacturer is a critical advantage to anticipate the impacts linked to climate mitigation on our upstream activities. In the future, corporate initiatives such as the switch to biomass as reduction agent and carbon capture utilisation and storage investment will have a direct impact on the carbon footprint of our products and those of our customers. Elkem Silicones also intends to engage key suppliers in this journey to supply low carbon raw material. 

Focus on process improvement and energy efficiency  

Investing in the upgrade of our facilities is a priority. Digitalisation, energy efficiency, process optimisation, are all examples of projects conducted last year with the overriding aim to go beyond industrial regulations on environmental performance.  

Since 2018, our French upstream plant in Roussillon, France is certified ISO 50001, which includes a commitment to continually optimize and reduce our energy consumptions. We achieved a 13% improvement in specific energy consumption over the past 5 years based on heat recovery investment, digitalisation, and employee engagement. We committed to achieve another 5% improvement over the next 5 years. 

As a concrete example of the progress made, the industrial team in Roussillon implemented a digitalized tool to automate and stabilise what was currently in place. Our quality control system improved and, most notably, we drastically optimised our energy performance with the elimination of 3,700 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year. Such tools will be deployed in other workshops to pursue overall improvement. 

2021 was also the kick-off year for two ambitious projects in France and China to support the growth of the company in our upstream plants with the aim to increase material efficiency, reduce waste, and overall improve energy performance. 

Shifting to renewable power  

Elkem has led and supported landmark projects to decarbonate our energy mix and increase the energy efficiency of our operations around the world. In France, the electricity used at our two main sites (Roussillon and Saint Fons) is widely (92,5%) decarbonated thanks to the local energy mix – predominantly combining renewables and nuclear power. In the future, the upgrade of our Chinese facilities to match global best practices will be critical in meeting our targets and add up to China’s roadmap to increase the share of renewable energy use in the country.  

Circular economy 

Resource efficiency and circular economy projects that look at how we can reintroduce materials into the value stream or reuse them for other purposes are the other pillar of our strategy moving forward.  

Developing a 3R culture to reduce, reuse, and recycle will be key to protect and preserve rare resources. Our research and innovation teams are already engaged to include eco-design principles in current and future projects with significant successes from bio-based solutions, to design for recycling projects and reprocessing services.  

Recycling, whether mechanically or chemically, is another way of increasing circularity into our traditionally linear value chain. Today the very nature of silicones and their longevity in end-applications means the need for recycling at end of life is hard to identify. Our first focus will be on recycling waste from our own processes. A collaborative project is currently running in France with a double objective to reduce waste and develop a circular economy approach of silicones at a regional level. This will be achieved by setting up a value chain around the recycling of silicone products, revolving around the treatment of waste and internal downgraded products ultimately could lead to reducing recycled products footprint by up to 65%.  

Supplying the green transition 

Elkem provides advanced materials essential to the green transition. A study conducted by CES – Silicones Europe estimates that for every ton of C02 emitted during silicones manufacturing and end-of-life, the use of silicones allows for savings 9 times greater. As the requirements for decarbonization increase in many end-markets (durable construction, new energy vehicles, wastewater management, etc.), choosing silicones over another material has a direct impact on GHG emissions reduction.