To better understand the impacts of our carbon black product from manufacture to end of use, we conduct Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs).
LCAs are a recognized approach that evaluates all environmental impacts in a product life cycle: from raw material extraction through processing, manufacture, distribution, use, repair and maintenance, to product end-of-life by way of final disposal, recycling or reuse.
Our Environmental Policy, published in FY2018, outlines our commitment to continually improve the environmental performance of our current and future products and services. We have used LCAs to measure the impacts of our feedstock and carbon black for the past five years.
The scope of our LCA is from “cradle to gate”: from the moment the raw materials are extracted to the moment the carbon black is delivered to our customers following the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 14040 guidelines. This enables us to better understand our impact with regard to CO2 emissions and identify opportunities to reduce our overall carbon footprint.
Over the years, we have looked at feedstock delivery, production and product distribution data to establish a baseline and identify areas where we can reduce carbon emissions most effectively. In FY2020, we took the results of our LCA and used the data to develop a Carbon Footprint Statement. This statement is publicly available as a tool to help our customers determine the complete carbon footprint of their own products. It also ensures we are communicating transparently on our environmental impacts.
Because we use a waste product of the oil and gas industry, Birla Carbon has little control over carbon emissions during the extraction and refinement stages.
Extraction and refinement
Carbon-rich crude oil is extracted as a raw material.
Transport to refinery
The crude oil is sent to refineries for processing.
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 some control over the transportation stage.
Transportation 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.
During our manufacturing process, the feedstock oil is converted into valuable carbon black. This stage comprises the single largest contribution to our overall carbon footprint, and it is also the stage at which we have the greatest ability to reduce our footprint.
Through co-generation, we convert the tail gas produced at our plants into heat, steam or electricity. The recovered energy is used in our own operations, and the surplus is distributed through local networks. Any remaining residual energy is flared, although we minimize this where possible.
Carbon black is delivered to our customers in a variety of containers, ranging from bags to supersacks or bulk transportation.
Carbon black is used by our customers to produce 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 understand the carbon life cycle of their own products.
The results of our most recent LCA, carried out 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 taking a holistic approach.
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 environmental impact.
Traditionally, a large percentage of our feedstock oil has come from the US Gulf Coast in the form of fluid catalytic cracker 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, South East Asia and the 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 further minimize the impact of this process.
Global carbon footprint intensity (tCO2-eq /tcarbon black) relative to FY2012 baseline
Leg 1: feedstock extraction, refinement and transportation
Leg 2: carbon conversion and energy performance
Leg 3: transport of product to customers
|FY2012 (%)||FY2013 (%)||FY2014 (%)||FY2015 (%)||FY2017 (%)|
|Leg 1: feedstock extraction, refinement and transportation||31.2||30.5||27.2||30.9||27.2|
|Leg 2: carbon conversion and energy performance||66.5||63.6||59.5||57.7||57.7|
|Leg 3: transport of product to customers||2.2||2.6||2.2||2.2||3.3|
Note: FY2016 data not available.
In FY2017, we expanded our LCA to include other environmental indicators. These were estimated for each of our facilities, based on the energy imported and exported1.
The impact categories assessed comprise:
We have compared our LCA results with those of the general carbon black industry, which are recorded in a 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 as such is not fully representative of our manufacturing process, it does represent a reasonable approximation of impacts for carbon black production globally. The results show that our carbon black production impacts are lower than industry averages. We are sharing these results with both key customers and suppliers to further reduce our global environmental impact.
Read more granular detail on our latest Life Cycle Assessment and the ecoinvent results.
Our LCA looks at our product from when we first source the raw materials to when we deliver a final product to our customer. But our concern does not stop there. We are also interested in what happens to our product once it is with our customers, including how we can work with them to reduce waste generation.
We are currently researching the benefits of switching from paper packaging to plastic. While this may sound counterintuitive, a large proportion of our European customers can feed polymer-based materials, such as plastic packaging, directly into their products, reducing the amount of waste generated. We are industry leaders when it comes to sustainability, and want to help our customers develop their own sustainability practices. That is why we are constantly collaborating with interested customers to share best practices in developing recycling options and reducing waste emissions for a more environmentally sound business.
Responsible consumption and production
We strive to reduce our carbon footprint, a goal which includes being more efficient in our energy cycle; we have been net energy positive since at least FY2016. We perform regular LCAs to track our emissions progress.
Partnerships for the goals
We are working with our customers to explore how we can reduce waste generation in our production processes.