Two of Elkem’s most important environmental initiatives involve efficient use of energy and energy recovery. In addition, the environmental focus for 2015 has been on activities to ensure compliance with the EU water directive and to further reduce the level of dust emissions. For the EU water directive, information collection through recipient surveillance and analysis is still the main focus. For dust emissions, a number of successful initiatives have been implemented at different plants and measurements show improvement in many areas.
By the end of 2015, all production plants in Norway had implemented systems for energy management according to ISO 50001, and also reduced their energy consumption. Current energy recovery systems connected to furnace operations have a capacity of recovering a total of 200 GWh/year electricity and 400 GWh/year steam and hot water. A major upgrade of the existing energy recovery system at the Bjølvefossen plant in Norway was completed in March 2016, and existing energy recovery systems in both Thamshavn and Chicoutimi have shown good results. New investments for energy saving and energy recovery are in the pipeline.
EmissionsMain emissions to the air include CO2, NOx, SO2 (sulphur) and dust. And these are inherent to our production process, emission levels vary with production from year to year. There are however a number of projects focusing on process and technology development to reduce and/ or clean these emissions. Furnace 3 at Elkem Salten was rebuilt according to plan in 2015. One of the main goals was to reduce the furnace’s NOx emissions by 50 per cent, i.e more than 400 tonnes per year. Because of the NOx reduction potential, financial support was available from the Norwegian NOx fund. Elkem is also planning to convert several other furnaces based on achieved results and operating experiences related to the new NOx-reduction technology. Converting furnace 1 at Salten and furnace 5 in Bremanger will give an additional reduction of more than 400 tonnes per year in the coming years. Together, all of these projects will represent nearly 1000 tonnes of reduced NOx emissions annually.
As far as net CO2 emissions are concerned, improvement is dependent on improving production yield and increasing the amount of reduction materials from non-fossil sources that can be used in the process. The yield has been successfully increased over the years, while the future use of biocarbon will depend on the price and availability of sustainable charcoal.
Elkem allocates significant resources to combat dust. However, extremely high temperatures and ultrafine particles that disperse very quickly make it especially difficult to capture dust generated in some of the production processes. Due to high production volumes and start up challenges after rebuilding the dust emissions have gone slightly up in 2015.
For SO2, the main focus has traditionally been on sourcing raw materials with a lower sulphur content. As this potential is limited, scrubbing systems are also being considered where this is feasible. Elkem is currently evaluating two major projects with support from the Norwegian SO2 fund. Decisions are expected during 2016 with possible effect from 2018.
All plants have actions plans aiming at reducing their environmental footprint. Great importance is attached to the recovery and use of bi-products from the different production processes. Emissions and discharges are recorded and dealt with in compliance with public permits at each site. All identified challenges are being managed in a timely manner in cooperation with the authorities. All environmental incidents are recorded, investigated and followed up.
Since 2013, Elkem plants in Europe have been subject to the EU system for trading CO2 quotas. Energy recovery measures and high consumption of charcoal over many years have given lower net emissions of fossil CO2 and thus reduced Elkem’s need to purchase quotas. Companies like Elkem get the free allocation of 75 per cent of their emissions based on historical product data, but are also credited with quotas for heat sales, energy recovery and/or using biobased means of reduction. In 2015, Elkem purchased 333,151 CO2 quotas to cover the gap between its total CO2 emissions of 1,310,521 tonnes in Europe and the free allocation.
Elkem’s silicon and ferrosilicon smelting plants are based on hydroelectric power. 97 per cent of CO2 stem from process emission. Even though the EU emission trading system (ETS) price is currently relatively low, it does lead to a mark-up in energy prices as power producers pass on their CO2 costs to consumers of power. This has a significant effect on companies that consume large amounts of power like Elkem does. To counter ‘carbon leakage’, i.e. that companies in the European Economic Area (EEA) relocate outside the EEA and thus move their emissions to another region without a CO2 prices, the EU and Norway has introduced schemes to compensate for the unintended effects quota trading has on energy prices in Norway. Elkem received a compensation of NOK 67 million in 2015 (for 2014: NOK 31 mill) for the impact CO2 quota prices had on energy prices. Both the free allocation of free quotas and the compensation for the impact of the prices for CO2 on energy prices are temporary schemes that will be gradually phased out , meaning that Elkem’s allocations via these schemes will shrink each year, while costs will vary according to CO2 as before.