Life Cycle Assessments

We conduct Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) to better understand the impacts of our carbon black product from manufacture to its end of use. LCAs are a recognized approach to review all environmental impacts in a product life cycle: from raw material extraction through material processing, manufacture, distribution, use, repair and maintenance, to disposal or recycling.

Understanding our impacts

Over the past four 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 was, to our knowledge, the first conducted by a carbon black manufacturer.

The scope of our LCA is 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. Our LCAs enable us to better understand our impact with regard to CO2 emissions and identify opportunities to reduce our overall carbon footprint.

Our LCAs have taught us that each stage of our manufacturing process has an impact on the overall carbon footprint. Over the years, we looked at feedstock delivery, production and product distribution data to establish a baseline and to better understand where we can reduce carbon emissions most effectively.

Responsible consumption and production

We strive to reduce our carbon footprint, which includes being more efficient about the energy we consume; we have been net energy positive since FY2016. We aim to avoid emissions and leaks as much as possible. We annually report on our sustainability efforts.

Carbon stewardship across our value chain

Our carbon footprint:

Carbon-rich raw material extraction, refinement and transportation

31%

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

10% Extraction

Extraction:

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

12% Transport to refinery

Transport to refinery:

The crude oil is sent to refineries for processing.

8% 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

65%
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.

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

4%
Transportation

Transportation:

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

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.

The results of our most recent LCA in FY2017 indicate that our overall carbon footprint per tonne of carbon black has decreased by 12%, relative to the FY2012 baseline.

We have been able to achieve this result through several key factors:

  • Greater efficiency in
  • Increasing the proportion of our feedstock that is sourced locally.

The intelligent and efficient use of raw materials and feedstock, such as natural gas and oil, is crucial to our long-term viability, as it reduces our carbon footprint and 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.

Though the transport of our carbon black products to our customers represents just 4% of our carbon footprint, we are working to minimize the impact of this process.

Global carbon footprint intensity

Global carbon footprint intensity (tCO2-eq / tcarbon black) relative to FY2012 baseline (%)
 FY12FY13FY14FY15FY17
Leg 1: feedstock extraction, refinement and transportation31.230.527.230.927.2
Leg 2: carbon conversion and energy performance66.563.659.557.757.7
Leg 3: transport of product to customers2.22.62.22.23.3
Global average100.096.289.190.588.2

Note: FY16 data not available.

In FY2017, we have taken our LCA further by expanding it to include other environmental indicators. These were estimated for each of our facilities, based on the energy imported and exported1.

The impact categories assessed include:

  • Risk to humans (both carcinogenic and non-carcinogenic);
  • Land and freshwater pollution, both in terms of chemical run-off and toxicity;
  • Mineral, fossil and renewable resources depletion;
  • Ozone layer depletion and smog generation;
  • Ocean acidification;
  • Particulates; and
  • Land use.

We also compared our results with those of the general carbon black industry, as recorded in the database maintained by ecoinvent, an external company that specializes in developing LCA methodology and compiling data. While the ecoinvent process is not specific to Birla Carbon’s operations, and is not fully representative of our manufacturing process, it does represent a reasonable average approximation of impacts for carbon black production globally.

The results show that our carbon black production impacts are lower than the industry averages, which is encouraging. 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.

Read more granular detail on our latest LCA assessment (pdf, 0.8MB) and the ecoinvent results.

1 Feedstock input levels were excluded due to limitations of the LCA model.

Partnerships for the goals

We help achieve the goals by working closely with our stakeholders, including our suppliers, regulators and governments.