Carbon stewardship

Our carbon stewardship strategy is based on two pillars: converting more carbon from oil into carbon black; and optimizing our energy cycle. Our work is directly influenced by the energy market in general and oil prices in particular; lower oil prices in FY2016 have had significant impacts on our operations, restricting our ability to optimize energy conversion and efficiency.

Our understanding of our product life cycle continues to help us to strengthen our strategy and direct our actions on reducing our carbon footprint and emissions. Our work to reduce our carbon footprint goes hand in hand with our customers’ expectations and helps them to improve the life cycle of their own product.

Assessing our total carbon footprint: product Life Cycle Assessment 

Over the past three years we conducted a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to measure the impacts of our feedstock and carbon black. LCAs review the environmental impacts of all stages of a product life cycle: from raw material extraction through material processing, manufacture, distribution, use, repair and maintenance, to disposal or recycling. Birla Carbon’s LCA is, to our knowledge, the first conducted by a carbon black manufacturer.

The scope of our LCA was from ‘cradle to gate’: from the ‘birth’ or extraction of raw materials to the delivery of carbon black to our customers’ gates following the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 14040 guidelines. The objective of the assessment was to better understand our impact with regard to CO2 emissions and identify opportunities to reduce our overall carbon footprint. We looked at four years of feedstock delivery, production and product distribution data to establish a baseline and to better understand where we can reduce carbon emissions most effectively.

The results of our most recent LCA indicated that our overall carbon footprint has decreased by over 9%, relative to the FY2012 baseline.

Understanding our carbon footprint

Our Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) have taught us that each stage of our manufacturing process has an impact on the overall carbon footprint. It is our responsibility to ensure that we closely monitor our carbon footprint and gain a better understanding of how to reduce it.

These LCA results strengthen our efforts to reduce the carbon emissions we produce at the manufacturing stage, which we monitor closely through relevant KPIs. We are committed to ensuring that our operations are globally energy positive, meaning that we generate surplus energy while manufacturing carbon black. We are also actively working with various suppliers to optimize transport routes and reduce further our overall carbon footprint. Though the transport of our carbon black products to our customers represents just 2% of our carbon footprint, we are working to minimize the impact of this process. 

We are currently expanding the LCA to include other environmental indicators such as ozone depletion potential, human health impacts from air pollutants, carcinogens and non-carcinogens and fossil fuel depletion. We hope to share these results with both key customers and suppliers in the near future so that we can engage with them to further reduce our global environmental impact.

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Climate Action


We focus on carbon stewardship, being net energy positive and reducing our greenhouse gas emissions

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Affordable and Clean Energy


By recovering energy generated by our operations and either using it in our facilities or selling it to local electricity boards

45%

Direct CO2 emission intensity reduction target achieved

Carbon stewardship across our value chain

Our carbon footprint:

Carbon-rich raw material extraction, refinement and transportation

28% Carbon-rich raw material extraction, refinement and transportation
Carbon-rich raw material extraction, refinement and transportation

Birla Carbon has no control over carbon emissions during the extraction and refinement stages.

9% Extraction

Extraction:

Carbon-rich crude oil is extracted as a raw material.

11% Transport to refinery

Transport to refinery:

The crude oil is sent to refineries for processing.

7% Refinement

Refinement:

Through fractional distillation, crude oil is separated into different chemicals including gas, petrol and kerosene. The low-value carbon-rich fraction, a waste product from this process, is our feedstock.

Birla Carbon has limited control over the transportation stage.

1% Transport to Birla Carbon

Transport to Birla Carbon:

The feedstock is transported to our manufacturing facilities. We source our raw materials from regional suppliers as much as possible, reducing the carbon footprint that we generate through this stage.

Carbon black manufacturing process

70% Carbon black manufacturing process
Carbon black manufacturing process
Manufacturing process

Manufacturing process:

During our manufacturing process, the feedstock oil is converted into valuable carbon black. This stage has the single largest contribution on our overall carbon footprint, and it is the stage over which we have the greatest control.

Discover more about our process here.

Energy management

Energy management:

Through co-generation, we convert the tail gas produced into heat, steam or electricity. This recovered energy is used in our own operations, with the surplus distributed through local networks. Although any residual energy is flared, we minimize this where possible.

Product delivery to our customers

2% Product Responsibility Head
Product Responsibility Head
Transportation

Transportation:

Carbon black is delivered to our customers in a variety of containers, ranging from bags to supersacks or bulk transportation.

End product

End Product
Customer Sites

Carbon black is used by our customers and found in countless different items, from tires to cables, from ink to food packaging. By engaging and working closely with our customers, we actively help them to better understand the carbon lifecycle of their own products.

Reducing our direct CO2emission intensity

We believe that SOE is the right approach to achieve our goal to reduce direct CO2 emission intensity. The implementation of best practice and continuous technology investments have allowed us to considerably reduce our direct CO2 emission intensity again in FY2015. With five years to go, we have already achieved over 45% of our ambitious FY2020 target.

These remarkable results are accomplished through a series of global, regional and local initiatives. For instance, we have started to use natural gas rather than light oil, where appropriate, as natural gas contains less carbon per unit of energy, with the additional benefit of less sulfur. New feedstock oil sources have also been identified, allowing us to further reduce our direct GHG and SOx emissions.

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Proactive Emission Monitoring in India

Our facilities in India have taken their environmental performance to the next level. These improvements were not only a response to a change in regulatory requirements, but also an example of our proactive approach towards emission prevention and environmental care.

This was certainly the case in our facility in Gummidipoondi, Tamil Nadu state. To better monitor our air emissions from the combustor stacks, we commissioned an automatic system to continuously measure the release of SOx, NOx and suspended particulate matter (SPM) in the atmosphere. Our monitoring system is connected to a center run by Care for Air India, an organization dedicated to cleaner air, which enables the authorities to track our emissions.

As part of this project, smoke (opacity) meters were also installed in various appropriate locations in the plant, to act as an early warning system for plant personnel to ensure that any deviation from expected levels is notified immediately. Gummidipoondi’s employees have also been further trained in environmental awareness, with a specific focus on air emissions. These actions further demonstrate Birla Carbon’s commitment to environmental stewardship.

Progress towards targets:

Target:Reduce our direct CO2 emissions intensity by more than 22%
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Target: Increase our absolute energy conversion efficiency to 80%
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Target: Record zero environmental releases year on year
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Target: Reduce our direct CO2 emissions intensity by more than 22%
FY2013FY2014FY2015FY2016FY2020 target
95.2% 90.7% 90.1% 90.20% <78%

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Target: Increase our absolute energy conversion efficiency to 80%

FY2013FY2014FY2015FY2016FY2020 target
69.4% 69.8% 70.6% 71.0% 80%

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Target:Record zero environmental releases year on year

FY2013FY2014FY2015FY2016FY2020 target
0 1 4 2 0
1 This new KPI, which replaces our previous energy output KPI, will be a more granular indicator monitoring our ability to convert energy.

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. After encouragement from several stakeholders, we disclosed our performance through the CDP online platform for the first time in FY2016. Birla Carbon will go through this process for a second time in FY2017, reporting on climate change, water and our supply chain.

Energy: Recovery and Positivity

Efficient energy use and recovery is critical to our business. In FY2015, we implemented a new energy conversion efficiency KPI, which compares our overall energy output relative to the equivalent energy input in all forms, within our boundaries. The new KPI has since allowed us to monitor our ability to convert energy in greater detail and take better business decisions. The FY2020 target is to increase our absolute energy conversion efficiency to 80%.

In the year since we implemented our new KPI, we have made great progress: our ability to recover more energy from our tail gas has increased, while we consume less energy to produce a ton of carbon black. The energy that we recover within our own facilities, which would have otherwise been wasted, is then used internally to produce carbon black, with the surplus being sold to neighboring facilities and local grids in the form of electricity, steam, tail gas or hot water.

In FY2016, Birla Carbon remained energy positive and generated surplus energy while manufacturing carbon black despite some adverse circumstances. In some countries, low energy prices have caused stockpiles and customers couls not absorb all of the energy that we recovered.

For example, the nearest neighbor to our Weifang facility, China, a coal-fired power plant, was shut down in FY2016 and as a result halted their purchase of our tail gas. Although we are currently using a flare to incinerate the tail gas, this is a wasteful process. For this reason, we are in the process of installing a cogeneration facility, designed to burn the tail gas in a boiler to generate electricity through steam. The project is near completion and should be operational during the first half of FY2017.

Overall, Birla Carbon has made marked progress on the energy front and our absolute energy conversion efficiency increased by a significant 0.4%. It is estimated that if we had not suffered the Weifang difficulty, our energy KPI would have improved to 71.4%. One facility that has seen success is Camaçari, Brazil, where optimization of the dryer system reduced tail gas consumption by almost a third when compared with FY2013.

The introduction of Regional Energy Managers (REMs) to reinforce our energy strategy at our sites in Asia, Europe and Africa has seen success.The REMs assess the energy efficiency of each of our plants and provide local expertise and support as they implement improvement processes. Knowledge gained is then shared across the business, encouraging all of our plants to adopt similar initiatives where possible.

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Record-breaking Energy Optimization in Spain

Our committed investment since FY2013 towards our energy cycle at our plant in Santander, Spain, is bearing fruit. The energy optimization improvements are not just visible, but record-breaking, setting a new benchmark across Birla Carbon.

The work has been led by a newly hired and dedicated energy manager José Luis Martínez, who mapped the facility’s entire energy cycle, extended meter capabilities where required, implemented cutting-edge software for better energy monitoring and identified equipment upgrade opportunities. Furthermore, Martínez holds daily kaizen meetings with his production colleagues to review the energy data for fine-tuning the process parameters.

Over a period of three years, a series of pumps, fans, compressors, heat exchangers and variable frequency drives for electric motors were upgraded and installed, resulting in increased energy efficiency for the plant.

When compared to FY2013, the absolute energy conversion efficiency has improved by a stunning 3.5% (0.1% is generally considered significant). The energy required to produce a ton of carbon black has also decreased by a remarkable 21.4%, reducing energy purchases by 30.1%.

For the record, in December 2015, the plant in Santander achieved the lowest energy consumption levels per ton of carbon black ever registered across the company, setting our new benchmark.

“I am very happy with what has been achieved thus far, but we know that there are further opportunities and we will go for these with enthusiasm and confidence.”
José Luis Martínez

In FY2016, our plant in Renukoot, India, received certification in the ISO 50001 standard, bringing the total to seven certified facilities in Europe, Africa and India. ISO 50001 stimulates organizations to establish systems and procedures necessary to improve their energy efficiency, use and consumption. Our goal is for all sites to achieve ISO 50001 in the future.

Thanks to the continuous investments in our workforce and technology, we are confident that we will achieve our FY2020 target in all of our plants. We expect our new greenfield facility in Jining, China, which should be operational by the end of FY2017, to be the showcase for our energy leadership.

Sourcing our raw materials

Intelligent and efficient use of raw materials and feedstock, such as natural gas and oil, is crucial to our long-term viability, as well as helping to reduce our environmental impact. Traditionally, a large percentage of our feedstock oil has come from the US Gulf Coast in the form of Fluid Catalytic Cracker (FCC) oil.

Despite the efficiency advantages of this oil due to its high carbon content, transportation costs and sulfur emission restrictions have led us to identify alternative local feedstock, especially in India and in the South East Asia and Far East region.

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Taking the Korean example

We source our feedstock oils from a variety of locations around the world. We have diversified our oil procurement in recent years considering regional suppliers as much as possible. This approach reduces our carbon footprint with no compromise on quality.

One region that has recently reviewed its oil procurement process and feedstock diversification is Europe and Africa. A team led by the regional Technology Manager, David Nuñez, was formed to tackle this situation. Inspired by the success of our Korean sister plant in FY2013, the European team traveled to Yeosu, Korea, to gain a better understanding of how diversification was achieved there through SOE and best practice sharing. The Korean experience showed us that it is possible to find solutions that are closer to our operations and more sustainably viable.


Climate Action

We focus on carbon stewardship, being net energy positive and reducing our greenhouse gas emissions


Affordable and Clean Energy

By recovering energy generated by our operations and either using it in our facilities or selling it to local electricity boards


45%

Direct CO2 emission intensity reduction target achieved