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Environmentally friendly management is a key component of ALTANA’s corporate strategy. Our goal is to steadily reduce the energy consumption at all sites and in all areas. We also implement this objective in other environmentally relevant areas, such as waste and the consumption of drinking water.
Improvements in Environmental Performance
The ALTANA Group measures progress in the area of environmental protection using specific key performance indicators. In addition to the absolute values, the figures are set in relation to the quantity of produced finished goods. ALTANA sets annual upper limits for energy consumption, water consumption, and waste quantities in relation to produced finished goods. The development of these indicators is published in the document “Facts and Figures on Sustainability 2020.”
The ALTANA Group’s energy consumption decreased to 668,000 megawatt hours in the 2020 fiscal year, compared to 675,000 megawatt hours in the previous year. Owing to the weakening of global economic performance due to the coronavirus pandemic, the volume of produced finished goods decreased from 527,000 tons (2019) to 524,000 tons (2020). In spite of this reduction, the specific energy consumption of the previous year (1.28 MWh/t of produced finished goods) was maintained.
CO2 emissions decreased by around 50 % compared to the previous year. This reduction was achieved mainly by switching global electricity procurement to renewable sources via certificates of origin. In addition, we implemented projects to improve energy efficiency at various sites (see the following pages).
This year, for the first time, we are also reporting CO2 equivalents, which apart from CO2 include other greenhouse gases, such as nitrous oxide (N²O). The figure for 2020 is 92,600 tons according to the “market-based” method (CO2 emissions from electricity based on the information provided by suppliers or certificates of origin). In addition, biogenic CO2 emissions accounted for 330 tons of CO2 equivalents.
In 2020, the ALTANA Group managed to further reduce the amount of hazardous waste, from 18,100 tons in the previous year to 17,800 tons. The key figure related to the quantity of produced finished goods remained at the prior-year level (34.1 kg/t of produced finished goods). The amount of non-hazardous waste decreased significantly by 10 % from 9,600 tons to 8,600 tons. The indicator related to produced finished goods was reduced from 18.2 kg/t to 16.4 kg/t. The reasons for the improvements in the waste volume balance include the optimization of production processes and the reuse of by-products (details can be found in the document “Facts and Figures on Sustainability 2020”).
In terms of water consumption, ALTANA managed to improve both the absolute figures and the key performance indicators in the reporting period. Consumption of drinking water in 2020 was around 1,150,000 cubic meters (2019: 1,250,000 m³). The key figure derived from this based on the volume of produced finished goods was 2.19 m³/t (previous year: 2.38 m³/t).
A total of 571,100 tons of raw material was needed, of which 386,500 tons were fossil raw materials, 21,100 tons renewable raw materials, 116,400 tons non-fossil and non-renewable raw materials, and 47,100 tons water. Detailed information on ALTANA’s resource and energy consumption (differentiated according to electricity, natural gas, and oil), as well as the environmental indicators can be found at www.altana.com/facts_figures_sustainability_2020.
In 2020, 92 % of the ALTANA Group’s production sites met the ISO 14001 standard. Ten sites also have energy management certification in accordance with ISO 50001.
On Course for Climate Neutrality by 2025
ALTANA plans to reduce its CO2 impact in production and energy procurement to zero worldwide by 2025. The climate neutrality encompasses the company’s own production, administration, and research. Included are CO2 emissions resulting from the combustion of fossil fuels, primarily natural gas (Scope 1), as well as indirect CO2 emissions from energy consumption, particularly in the form of electricity (Scope 2). The climate neutrality to be achieved by 2025 also includes the CO2 emissions resulting from necessary business trips, company cars, and goods transport (Scope 3). This means that for the areas mentioned, CO2 emissions into the environment will be avoided or compensated for through suitable measures. As a result, ALTANA is contributing to the achievement of the climate goal adopted at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris in 2015 by limiting global warming to well below 2°C by 2050. ALTANA uses the following levers to reduce its CO2 emissions:
- Avoidance of unnecessary energy consumption
- Improvement of energy efficiency
- Use of energies from renewable sources
- Replacement of energies from fossil sources
In the year under review, ALTANA consistently pursued its climate protection goals and created facts.
To avoid unnecessary energy consumption, facilities and machines were identified that can be temporarily switched off or run in a reduced operating state without impairing operational processes and safety. These include, for example, ventilation systems, circulation pumps, and heating and airconditioning systems. Corresponding projects have already been launched at ECKART in Güntersthal and Wackersdorf, and at ELANTAS in St. Louis. By means of numerous measurements, ACTEGA identified suitable measures to reduce the energy consumption of machines and processes. For example, at ACTEGA Terra, production times were significantly cut due to continuous measurements of the pH value. Hence approximately 30,000 kWh/year can be saved.
In fiscal 2020, ALTANA carried out numerous projects to improve energy efficiency. For example, BYK optimized the thermal afterburning and drying processes at its site in Gonzales, Texas. Consequently, natural gas consumption for these processes was reduced by around 50 %. BYK in Wesel refurbished the entire heating and cooling system of the laboratory area to make it energy-efficient. In the process, several buildings were connected with uniform heating and cooling circuits. This saves around 380 tons of CO2 a year.
The ECKART division, too, was able to further increase its energy efficiency thanks to improved process flows and the installation of low-energy motors and cooling units. At the Güntersthal site, it was possible to significantly increase the material throughput in the mills, saving around 160,000 kWh/year. At one tank plant, the running time of the circulation pumps was changed from continuous operation to adapted interval operation. Due to this measure, around 60,000 kWh/year are conserved. ECKART also replaced cooling units in Güntersthal, saving around 135,000 kWh/year. Comparable projects were also carried out at the Painesville and Louisville sites.
ELANTAS succeeded in reducing natural gas consumption by 670,000 kWh/year at its site in Ascoli by optimizing thermal afterburning. Meanwhile, in Collecchio, ELANTAS implemented further energy-saving measures, including adjustments to the ventilation system, automatic control of the heating chambers, optimization of the compressors, and the use of LED lighting. The division thus achieved total savings of 50,000 kWh. With a new training program, employees at ELANTAS in Italy are being made more aware of how to use energy more efficiently. In the production of a two-component resin system, targeted process optimization reduced the reaction temperature from 240°C to 120°C and at the same time cut production time from eight to two hours. Both effects lead to significant energy savings. At the ELANTAS site in Zhuhai, China, energy consumption can be monitored via a new system and suitable countermeasures can be initiated promptly if necessary.
Some ALTANA sites already generate their own energy from renewable sources. ELANTAS operates its own photovoltaic systems in Ascoli, Collecchio, and Pimpri, and BYK in Deventer. ECKART in Güntersthal additionally generates electricity from a hydroelectric generator, and BYK in Denekamp uses biogas to generate energy. In total, ALTANA already generates and uses around 3,000 MWh/year from renewable energies.
ALTANA switched to purchasing electricity from renewable sources worldwide back in March 2020. To this end, the company acquired so-called certificates of origin for electricity from renewable sources (for about 247,000 MWh) in accordance with the recognized quality standards (for example CoO for Europe, IREC for China, and GREEN‑E for the U.S). As a result, CO2 emissions were cut by approximately 51 % compared to the previous year. In parallel, ALTANA is working intensively on further possibilities, such as direct procurement from sustainable energy generation plants.
In the reporting year, ALTANA launched several global initiatives with the aim of replacing natural gas as an energy source in the long term with renewable energies such as biogas, green electricity, biomass, and in the future also “green” hydrogen. ALTANA will compensate for the unavoidable use of natural gas by 2025 by financing equivalent climate protection projects in the regions where the CO2 emissions occur.
Responsible Usage of the Resource Water
Water plays an important role in many of the ALTANA Group’s production processes, and so the specialty chemicals group is making various efforts to use this resource sparingly. Water is used in the chemical industry as a raw material, as a cleaning agent, and as a coolant. ALTANA aims to keep its water consumption as low as possible and to use it as a cooling medium in closed loop systems.
In the year under review, we were able to significantly reduce water consumption at several sites. ACTEGA began operating a new water treatment plant in Vigo. ECKART optimized the cooling supply in Güntersthal and installed a new closed-circuit water cooler in Painesville. ELANTAS implemented a recirculation system for cooling and condensate water in Zhuhai. In all, these projects saved around 10,000 cubic meters of water.
Optimization of Waste Management
Chemical processes generate waste and wastewater, which mainly applies to production sites. ALTANA aims to avoid or reduce wastewater and waste and thus minimize the negative effects on people and the environment, among other things by using suitable raw materials and cleaning agents.
At some sites, for example at ELANTAS in St. Louis and at the ECKART sites in Schererville and Louisville, the amount of waste was reduced by a total of around 90 tons in the year under review by recycling or reusing packaging materials. The distillation of cleaning solvents and other waste at the ELANTAS sites in Zhuhai, China, and Ascoli, Italy, as well as the optimization of manufacturing processes at the ECKART sites in Güntersthal and ELANTAS in Cerquilho resulted in a total of 230 tons less waste in 2020.
A patented process developed by ECKART enables mills to be cleaned in an environmentally friendly manner using only water and compressed air and thus without chemicals.
In addition to technical improvements, ACTEGA implemented a training program in Araçariguama, Brazil, with the aim of raising employee awareness of waste separation and prevention.
Emissions Further Reduced
In addition to the greenhouse gas CO2, which mainly arises during the combustion of fossil fuels, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) also contribute to emissions. ALTANA aims to continue keeping these emissions as low as possible in the future. To achieve this goal, various technical options are available at many sites. Further measures to reduce emissions were implemented in the year under review.
Due to the expansion and improvement of ventilation systems, the ACTEGA site in Araçariguama and the BYK sites in Geretsried and Gonzales are achieving a significant reduction in emissions in their production.
At some sites, new reactors and pumps were installed which can be operated largely without emissions. ELANTAS installed an automated system for dust removal during filling operations at the Collecchio site. ELANTAS in St. Louis built several closed mixers with corresponding separation devices. At BYK in Geretsried, fans on the roof were soundproofed to minimize noise pollution in the surrounding area.