Climate and environment
Climate neutral operations
We have set a vision towards climate neutral operations, although we are aware that it is a challenge. We will need to work both with established methods to minimise our climate footprint, and to break new ground. Emissions of carbon dioxide are inevitable in the production of iron and steel, due to the usage of carbon in the production process. We pursue continuous efforts to reduce its airborne emission volumes. Emissions per ton of material produced have been reduced progressively since the mid-1980s.
The Energy Challenge
All Höganäs production is today powered by natural gas and/or electricity. The transformation from using oil in the 1980s reduced not only the emissions of carbon dioxide, but also the emissions of other pollutants like sulphur oxides and nitrogen oxides.
We have an energy efficiency initiative, the “Energy Challenge” with the goal of a 10% reduction per produced ton of metal powder within our direct operations between 2010 and 2020. We have had a steady decline in energy use since 2010 our current status being a reduced specific energy consumption of 6.6% since 2010.
The challenge includes not only production processes but also buildings and support media systems like water and compressed air. Technical improvements, investments, training and ways of working are key elements in reaching this goal.
We are working to replace fossil fuels and coal in our reduction process with alternative energy sources such as biomass. Our most ambitious effort to date is the 100 million SEK Probiostål project. Höganäs, together with our partner Cortus Energy AB and others, will build a 6 MW pilot-scale plant onsite in Höganäs, Sweden.
Biomass will be turned into energy gas to replace equal amounts of the natural gas used today. This technology has the potential to reduce our CO2 emissions on commercially viable terms. The plant uses a process called Woodroll®, and if the technology is proven for use on an industrial scale, the installed unit alone will enable Höganäs to reduce fossil CO2 emission by about 10,000 tonnes per year.
Reduced use of resources
Höganäs continually strives to reduce the consumption of resources. Some two-thirds of our production is based on recycled material, scrap iron. The remainder is based on virgin iron ore, which is still necessary in some products with the characteristics and qualities customers need.
Our current material efficiency rates are at 98-99%. This means that almost all raw materials used on-site are converted to products and by-products that are used or recycled.
Höganäs is particularly active in the Swedish Steel Producers’ Association. One project is recycling of slag – a residual product from iron smelting – which, for instance, can be used as a construction material. This may further streamline the consumption of resources.
With an annual production of about 500,000 tonnes of metal powder and about 130,000 tonnes side stream material, we are committed to minimising waste in our operations. We have set a long-term goal for Zero Waste and targeted the reduction rate.
In 2016, we reused 78% of all our process-related waste and 80% of all our non-process related waste. Part of our side stream materials, such as classified fractions of slag, can be directly recycled as raw materials or as consumables in our own production.
We have developed a range of products from side stream materials, such as fillers in asphalt, construction materials, raw material in production of insulation materials in walls, just to mention a few. We are also currently exploring the possibilities of using mineral-based by-products as filter media for water treatment purposes, and to produce lime additive products used in agriculture, which makes the soil less compact and facilitates ploughing.
Responsible use of water
We are operating in a water-intensive industry with a total process use of close to 28 million m3 water yearly. Water is used in our operations in a number of ways, such as for cooling metallurgical processes by heat exchange, by circulating it over a cooling tower or a secondary heat exchanger. At our facilities in Halmstad and Höganäs in Sweden, the heat exchange is used to produce district heating. Minor losses of water in cooling towers and in bleed flows are replaced. The percentage of recirculation is 90-99% in these systems, rendering a water reuse rate of 10-100 times.
Water is also used in the atomizing process where molten steel is atomized into the desired particle sizes in a controlled “steam explosion”-process. The water is treated, cooled and largely recycled in the atomizing process again. Some water is lost in cooling towers as vapour and a small amount is also exchanged in order to keep the needed process water quality, rendering an average of about 90-96% recirculation grade in these systems.
Water for hygiene and consumption (e.g., dust binding and slag quenching) is also needed. These waters are treated onsite or, alternatively, sent off to external water treatment plants.