Sustainability initiatives at Elkem Silicones Shanghai, China

In recent years, the Chinese government has frequently issued new environmental regulations and laws. Air quality is a major concern.

The Chinese economy has achieved impressive results over the past decade. However, the pressure on energy resources and the environment has been heavy. Consequently, the environmental awareness has increased. The Chinese government will further tighten the environmental demands on companies’ progress in the 13th Five-Year Plan, operative for the period 2016-2020.

Over the past years, Elkem Silicones plant in Shanghai has been committed to reduce its environmental footprint. In 2012, the plant implemented a clean production initiative, followed by the renovation of the ventilation systems in its workshops. In 2015, the plant made substantial investments in its pollution control systems installing new absorbers in addition to implementing world-class LDAR (Leak Detection and Repair) methodology to further reduce VOC (volatile organic compounds) emissions from valves, pups, mixers, compressors, flangers, connectors and so on. As a result, the plant managed to comply with new requirements under the ‘One Plant, One Scheme’ Programme required for 150 key enterprises in Shanghai earlier than mandated.

To meet the introduction of new regulations for 1 January 2017, the plant launched another series of environmental initiatives at the end of 2015 under the guidance of Shanghai Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau, Shanghai Academy of Environmental Sciences and other experts. After rigorous project assessment, technical discussions with French experts as well as on-site inspections and comparisons among suppliers, RTO (Regenerative Thermal Oxidizer) technology was selected to destroy emissions from one of the main production processes at the plant.

The RTO technology destroys Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs), Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and odorous emissions that are often discharged from industrial or manufacturing processes and converts pollutants into carbon dioxide and water vapor. On site it is now used to destroy the waste gas generated from the manufacturing of toluene-containing products for release coating applications. With a total investment of two million RMB, the equipment has ensured a remarkable reduction in emissions:

  • VOC emissions less than 10ppm, which fully satisfy the new regulation
  • The concentration of NMHC (non-methane hydrocarbon) is 1.8 mg/m3, well under the legal limit of 50 mg/m3 for NMHC
  • Concentration of toluene is 0,704 mg/m3, also well below emission limit value of 10 mg/m3

Elkem Silicones Shanghai has also taken a series of actions to reuse and reduce its energy consumption, and to reduce waste and wastewater from production. Thanks to these initiatives, the plant has both reduced its fixed costs and the environment footprint, and can offer its employees a cleaner and better working environment.

  • In 2014, the plant started to use hot water generated from the production process as bath water offered to operators in the winter
  • In 2015, the plant installed a non-electrical air conditioner that used available steam at the factory site for cooling, thus reducing electricity consumption
  • From 2015, the plant has used a sand filter, carbon filter and RO membrane filter to produce de-ionized water with 50%
  • In 2016, the company stared separating generic waste and solid waste. A project team was set up to reduce solid waste treatment cost. Reduction in solid waste the first year was more than 20%, saving 200,000 RMB

Updates since 2017: 

  • 2017: The RTO project has been completed and running. Effectively reduces VOC emissions;
  • 2017-2018: Start to recycle QC samples and reduce more than 10% solid waste annually.
  • 2018: Clean dishcloth of lightweight was applied and reduced hazardous waste around 15 tons/year;
  • 2018: Completed automatic toluene ultrasonic cleaning filter equipment to avoid operators touching toluene and also avoid VOC emissions;
  • 2018: Installed buffer tank for cleaning toluene which saved 60% of workforce and avoid VOC emissions.