In 2010, Elkem Carbon set an ambitious goal of zero dust in production. Given that finely crushed, dried coal (anthracite) is one of its most important input factors, this was an ambitious goal. Many in the industry consider it impossible to achieve dust-free, clean production premises.
However, systematic work on combating dust has produced very good results for Elkem Carbon. In Norway, dust levels are reduced from 4 mg/m3 to 0.64 mg/m3 in five years. The result for the first quarter of 2015 was 0.46 mg/m3. Elkem Carbon’s plant in China has also achieved very good results.
Changing equipment has a great effect: new equipment has better seals and is smaller, meaning the extraction is more effective. New sieves and new mixers result in large reductions in dust. Less dust in production premises provides opportunities to introduce automated solutions where the machinery would otherwise be unable to withstand the wear from dust. In turn, automated solutions result in less dust. For example, Elkem Carbon has considerably reduced the use of trucks and now uses conveyor belts for inwards transport in production premises. This avoids stirring up dust.
Interdisciplinary improvement groups work on dust reducing measures where the goal is to eliminate root causes. The strategy is to remove the largest sources of dust first. Eliminating these has ena- bled the company to achieve major dust reductions and the air and machinery are now so clean that even minor sources of dust are noticeable. These are sealed as they are detected.
Detecting dust sources is a regular task on all shifts. When dust leaks are detected, they are sealed immediately. Leaks are therefore never left open for very long.
In 2014 the plant in Fiskaa introduced a practice whereby production stops if the filter system stops. This has resulted in everyone paying extra attention to how the filter system is working and error correction takes place before the consequences become so serious that the filter system fails.
A standard has been established in South Africa – Floor of excellence – for how the production plant should be fi out. This means the gradual upgrading of the plant according to a set standard, which facilitates effective work against dust. According to the Floor of excellence standard all shifts must leave the production premises clean and tidy.
The dust reduction work is inspiring because it means a great deal for all parts of production. Primarily, dust reductions means a lot for employees. Elkem Fiskaa achieved an important goal in 2014 when the general requirement to wear a protective mask in the production hall was rescinded. Eliminating and sealing sources of dust provides control over a number of important factors:
- Greater well-being thanks to a better physical working environment, because dust wears on people
- Greater operational stability for machinery and equipment, and reduced repair and maintenance costs because anthracite dust is abrasive and wears out equipment
- It enables the introduction of more cost saving automated processes and the use of equipment that cannot tolerate high dust loads
- Reduced pollution because dust can be a source of PAH emissions.