Target: Increase our absolute energy conversion efficiency to 80%
Net energy positive
Efficient energy use and recovery is critical to our business. We have been tracking our energy conversion efficiency since FY2015, with the aim of increasing our absolute energy conversion efficiency to 80% by FY2020. This means that out of 100 carbon units, a minimum of 80 would be converted either to carbon black or to a useful form of energy.
In the two years since we implemented our energy conversion KPI, we have made real progress: we now recover more energy from our own facilities and consume less energy to produce a tonne of carbon black. The recovered energy is used for our manufacturing process, while the surplus is sold to neighboring facilities and local grids in the form of electricity, steam, tail gas or hot water. Globally, Birla Carbon is energy positive, selling more energy than buying. Our energy conversion experience has taught us that our initial FY2020 target was too optimistic and will probably not be reached; we will re-evaluate this objective in FY2018.
Our energy efficiency efforts are led by Regional Energy Managers (REMs), who assess the energy cycle of each of our plants and provide local expertise and support. Knowledge gained is then shared across the business through our World Class Manufacturing group. We also partner with the Aditya Birla Group’s Corporate Technical and Energy Services team for knowledge-sharing purposes.
Energy positive solutions in China
Achieving energy positivity depends in part on the availability of a local energy market near our operations. These markets are not guaranteed, as shown by the recent example of China. Historically, the tail gas generated by our facility in Weifang was sold to its nearest neighbor: a coal-fired power plant. However, in FY2016 the power plant closed, depriving our facility of a useful outlet for the tail gas and forcing us to resort to flaring the gas.
We responded to this situation by investing in a co-generation unit in the Weifang facility in FY2017. The unit, operational since November 2016, combusts tail gas, using the heat to generate steam, which, in turn, is converted into electricity. The electricity is used internally with the surplus being distributed through the local grid. The co-generation unit has also been fitted with a desulfurization system, and no liquid is discharged in its operation.
Weifang is now back to being an energy positive carbon black manufacturing site.
Pioneering technology in Hungary
Our facility in Tiszaújváros, Hungary, implemented pioneering technology to improve its overall energy efficiency. The Tiszaújváros team installed a waste heat boiler in their dryer stack, and it was the first project of its kind at Birla Carbon. Flue gas generated by the drying process is now routed to the boiler, which generates steam for internal energy purposes and electricity. This reduces our dependence on electricity coming from fossil fuels.
By implementing this innovative technology, we are set to save money, increase the electricity we generate internally and improve our overall energy conversion efficiency. We anticipate that our other plants will be inspired by the gains generated by this technology and that this best practice will be shared across our facilities.
Reducing our direct CO2 emission intensity
We continue to work to reduce our direct CO2 emission intensity. Thanks to the implementation of best practices and continuous technology investments, we have achieved 40% of our ambitious FY2020 CO2 emission intensity reduction target.
Progress towards targets
Target: Reduce our direct CO2 emissions intensity by more than 22%
Target: Record zero environmental releases year on year
These results are accomplished through a series of global, regional and local initiatives that are capital-intensive. For example, we design reactors and technology that enable us to optimize temperatures and gas flows, improving the conversion of carbon into carbon black.
The current economic environment with a relatively low crude oil price makes these investments harder to justify. This environment is also forcing us to redirect our feedstock portfolio to lower-quality oil. Despite the lower-quality oil, we’ve sustained our efforts and maintained direct emissions performance over the last few years.
The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP)
The CDP is a non-profit organization that works with companies and shareholders to disclose carbon emissions and the use of natural resources. We disclosed our performance through the CDP online platform for the first time in FY2015, and intend to continue disclosing annually.