Sustainable offering for customers
Our contribution towards overcoming the world’s environmental challenges is made through our products and services, which enable our customers to run environmentally sound, profitable and socially acceptable businesses. In this sense our handprint – or our positive effect in terms of sustainability – is bigger than our footprint. Our solutions utilize primary resources efficiently and minimize ecological impacts by reducing energy and water consumption, and producing less waste and emissions – while also cutting operating costs. We additionally offer solutions for processing secondary resources.
Outotec’s world-class technologies and services for entire value chains for processing ore into refined metals, for producing renewable energy and waste-to-energy, and for industrial water treatment, allow our customers to make the best possible use of limited raw materials. Customers are increasingly looking for safe solutions to produce more with less, reduce costs, manage their water and effluents, recover energy, minimize emissions and waste to landfill, and turn their side streams into saleable products.
With our broad technology and service portfolio, as well as long expertise in designing and delivering plants, processes and special equipment for the world’s major resource companies, we can offer sustainable solutions to meet our customers’ specific needs.
Our long-term targets relate closely to our handprint – we aim to offer more sustainable technologies and services to our customers with less harmful impacts on the environment by 2020. We measure our success through four indicators:
- The share of Environmental Goods and Services (OECD definition) in our order intake, which we aim to keep permanently at over 90 percent. According to our self-assessment, as much as 90 percent (2014: 90%) of our order intake in 2015 qualified as Environmental Goods and Services.
- The emissions avoided by our customers through the use of five Outotec technologies. We aim that the CO2 emissions of customers using our solutions should be at least 20 percent less than the industry average. Emission reductions are directly proportional to energy savings.
- The amount of fresh make-up water/tonne of ore in non-ferrous metals concentrators. We aim to achieve a reduction of at least 50 percent from 2013 levels through our solutions.
- The amount of energy produced through our waste-to-energy solutions, which we aim to double compared to 2013 levels.
Primary production of minerals and metals
Although metals and minerals, once extracted, have a very long usage life-cycle and are close to 100 percent recyclable, their production is often linked to negative impacts on the environment. As a provider of technologies and services for these industries, we see our role as an essential contributor to positive change.
Outotec’s technological developments have the potential to reduce the environmental impacts of a large number of industrial operations worldwide. However, even if customers use Outotec’s best available technologies in mineral and metal processing, they may have improper operational practices or less sustainable technologies in use at the same time. Industry investments have a lifetime of decades. Outotec also provides machinery, spare parts and services to old industrial plants that may, despite modernization initiatives, still have a significant negative impact on the environment and human health. Therefore, through our customers’ operations Outotec may indirectly be involved in environmental damage, including the contamination of soil or water, or public health effects. To reduce the industry’s negative impacts, Outotec also offers solutions for equipment upgrades and plant modernization, as well as performance and long-term operation and maintenance services. Outotec’s advanced tailings management solutions and mine backfilling technologies help customers to rehabilitate mine sites.
In mineral and metal processing, energy consumption is the most significant cost item, and the main reason for CO2 emissions. Outotec designs sealed processes that utilize the energy contained within the raw materials. In 2015, the emissions avoided by the metallurgical industry through the use of five Outotec technologies amounted to 6.6 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent (2014: 5.9 mt CO2-e ). These technologies are our ferrochrome process, copper flash smelting, alumina calcination, ceramic filters, and the co-generation of electricity in the ferrochrome process, where Outotec’s carbon monoxide filter enables the use of process gas in direct electricity generation.
Metals from secondary resources
Moving towards the circular economy means recovering more metals from residues, scrap and used products. At Outotec we have a technology mix and deep knowledge to tailor-make system solutions to treat a wide range of feed materials, for both primary minerals from geological mines and secondary materials containing minerals sourced from the urban mine. The challenge in using secondary raw materials is the complexity of the raw material, which may include a mixture of alloys in different physical forms, as well as electronics, plastics, oil, fluids, textiles, metals, glass, sand etc. Several different technologies must be smartly integrated to maximize the economically viable recovery of multiple materials and energy.
Outotec’s TSL and Kaldo smelting technologies have the valuable capability that they can recover various metals into different phases, while utilizing the energy content of the non-metallic materials in smelting and/or as reductant. Outotec’s hydrometallurgical solutions can then produce refined metals and materials from these intermediates. Considering the waste hierarchy, smart product design linked to an economically viable system of physical separation and metallurgical processing will minimize the need to resort to the undesirable landfill option.
Many products that we as consumers eventually abandon are highly important in terms of metals recycling. Outotec aims to provide technologies and optimized systems that can minimize landfill. Landfills will nevertheless remain an important part of the system, since they ensure that materials which cannot be further processed under present economic conditions are contained well to ensure they do not harm the environment.
Water management and effluent treatment
Outotec has developed solutions for efficient water management in the mining and metals industry, and we are continuously working to develop new concepts to meet various customer needs.
Water streams in the mining industry are very complex and always site-specific, as the composition of constituents is related to the ore itself and to the processing of the ore. Typical impurities in wastewaters include metals, arsenic, sulfate and chloride. Due to the complexity of wastewater streams and the high concentrations of sometimes toxic impurities, expertise is needed not only in effluent treatment technologies but also in mineral processing technologies. Firstly, the treated water should be of high enough quality that it can be recycled back into the mineral processing facility, and thus reduce fresh water consumption. Secondly, the selected effluent treatment process should be efficient and reliable, so that the mining company can securely meet the requirements of environmental permits.
Outotec’s solutions may include the optimization of water management in entire mines, including concentrator sites. This can involve minimizing fresh water consumption and waste generated by water treatment, as well as implementing water reuse and recycling practices. Our paste plant technology for mineral concentrators and effluent treatment of metallurgical processes are proven solutions. In addition, we have developed a process for managing sulfate, which is a common and growing challenge in the industry. The Outotec Ettringite process precipitates sulfate and calcium, thereby lowering the scaling potential and total dissolved solids (TDS) content in the treated water, while also removing many other impurities, such as metals, within the two to three step process. Companies that struggle with sulfate within their processes or in their environmental discharge streams are now able to flexibly control the sulfate content with this new process, and thereby curb the TDS content in their water streams.
Renewable and waste-to-energy solutions
We offer renewable energy and waste-to-energy systems that can treat over 200 different biomass fuels – from waste wood to the lignin sludge generated during bioethanol production.
The Sewage Sludge Incineration Plant in Switzerland designed by Outotec operates as a self-sustained process, without external fuel. It can produce a surplus of electrical power or heat, and complies with all emission standards.
In addition, we have developed an efficient solution to exploit the energy and nutrient potential of certain farmyard wastes and sewage sludge. This solution combines Outotec’s fluidized-bed-based biomass incineration technology and the ASH DEC process, which cleans the ash from biomass/sludge incineration and converts the phosphate into a bio-available fertilizer compound.
Nutrient run-off from large animal farms today represents a major threat to the sea and groundwater reservoirs. Improperly managed manure also results in harmful atmospheric emissions. To address these problems, Outotec cooperated with KIC InnoEnergy and LIFE+ organizations to build a new pilot plant in Sweden in 2015. The plant enables renewable energy to be generated efficiently from human and animal bio-waste, and allows for high recovery of nutrients. Outotec’s dryers and gasification technology can now be used for sewage sludge, farmyard manure and biomass slurries in renewable energy applications.
Outotec’s bubbling fluidized bed combustion technology is a proven solution for turning waste into energy and disposing of solid or liquid by-products. We can ensure that strict emission limit values set by municipal and federal governments are met, by applying a combination of gas cleaning measures adjusted according to the fuel designated in the overall process design. In 2015 Outotec sold seven such waste-to-energy plants to customers in the United Kingdom and Canada.
Improving performance through life-cycle services
A significant impact on a plant’s sustainability can be achieved through life-cycle services and technological improvements. Based on a site-specific performance assessment, Outotec identifies improvement areas and offers a solution for optimum plant performance and return on investment. Equipment upgrades and plant modernization, as well as long-term operation and maintenance services ensure that the plant will run smoothly, safely, and efficiently with minimum environmental impact at all times.
Thanks to our vast experience and our in-house research and technology centers in Pori and Lappeenranta in Finland, and Frankfurt in Germany, we have the capability to test and scale up processes designed for varied and increasingly complex raw materials, while also developing new processes and concepts.
In technology development, Outotec focuses on increasing resource efficiency, for example, by reducing energy and water consumption and the environmental impact of products and services. Our key areas of expertise include physical separation, chemistry and thermodynamics including pyro- and hydrometallurgy, as well as gas-handling technologies. The company also has extensive knowledge of material technology, plant and equipment engineering, equipment and process automation, and the implementation of large international projects. During the bi-annual Outotec Technology Days held in November 2015, Outotec awarded several teams and individuals on their achievements in technology development.
In 2015 Outotec’s new Dewatering Technology Center was inaugurated in Lappeenranta, Finland. The center is dedicated to developing new products, processes and services to facilitate solid-liquid separation and raw material reuse during the entire life-cycle of processing plants.
In recent years, Outotec has developed modular plant concepts and launched several new products based on these concepts, such as the modularized VSF®X Plant for copper solvent extraction, a modular hydrometallurgical precious metals process, and the cPlant for flotation of ores. Modular design provides a novel way to create, manufacture, transport, install, operate and maintain a plant with environmentally sound and safe methods, and lower total cost of ownership. In 2015 Outotec’s VSF®X plant was selected for the International Mining Technology Hall of Fame for its environmental benefits and innovative design.
Outotec’s new Dewatering Technology Center in Lappeenranta, Finland was inaugurated in September 2015
Cooperating with universities, research institutes and authorities
Outotec has been very actively involved in response to the call made by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) for proposals relating to the Raw Materials Knowledge and Innovation Community. One of six Co-location Centers of the EIT Raw Materials KIC will be on the Otaniemi campus in Espoo, Finland.
Our expert representatives in both the EU’s technical working group and an environmental working group of the Federation of Finnish Technology Industries enabled Outotec to contribute to the finalization of BREF best available technique reference documents on non-ferrous metals. BREF documents are created for authorities involved in the implementation of the EU Industrial Emissions Directive, which deals with pollution prevention and control. Outotec also participates actively in the technical secretariat of the EU’s Operational Environmental Footprint Sectoral Rules (OEFSR), piloting for copper.
Outotec was also involved with the work of the International Copper Association’s Health, Environment and Sustainable Development Steering Committee, and the European Technology Platform – Sustainable Minerals Resources High Level Group.
As a response to the increasing need to study the quantitative environmental impacts of producing metals, Outotec has conducted life-cycle assessment (LCA) screening studies for several of its technologies. These LCAs evaluate the potential environmental impacts of our technologies, and typically cover the extraction of raw materials, as well as the production, use and disposal of the equipment/process/plant in question.
Not having production units of its own has driven Outotec to conduct screening LCAs using design parameters, e.g. from Outotec’s HSC Sim process modeling software and basic engineering data. In fact, these data sources allow a fair comparison already in early design phases, which can help customers to choose a more sustainable process option. Furthermore, this mitigates the risky comparison with data from public environmental databases for which the boundary conditions for mining, crushing, location, energy mix and other aspects are not always precisely defined.
Most recently, Outotec carried out a comprehensive LCA for the modular cPlant for the flotation of ores or tailings, aiming to understand and discover ways to minimize the plant’s environmental impact. The LCA studied the impacts in terms of global warming, eutrophication, acidification, photochemical ozone depletion and water consumption. The results clearly indicate that the electricity consumption in the use phase of the cPlant is clearly the dominant flow, contributing to more than 90 percent of the plant’s overall impact on global warming with given assumptions.
As a service for the customer, Outotec is able to provide either early phase screening LCAs for the basis of making an investment decision based on basic engineering data, or more detailed LCA studies to be conducted later, when the actual process data is available.
Extracting valuable gold from complex ore deposits can be highly costly and challenging, but harmful impacts and resource use can be minimized by carefully applying specially devised technologies.
Gold is one of the most useful metals due to its special properties. It conducts electricity, does not tarnish, is very easy to work, alloys with many other metals, and can be melted and cast into intricate shapes. Gold is increasingly used in the manufacture of electronics and computers, and the aerospace and medical industries, as well as for jewelry.
Demand for gold is sure to increase as society requires more sophisticated and reliable materials. Since few substitutes are available, and supplies are limited, the value and importance of gold can therefore be expected to increase steadily. But can it be produced sustainably?
One of the most challenging issues facing the gold processing industry is to find ways to effectively recover gold while minimizing the consumption of energy and water, and ensuring that residues are sustainably handled. The ore deposits under exploration are increasingly of the more complex ‘refractory’ type. This means that their gold content can only be extracted through leaching processes after the ore is carefully pre-treated. Roughly 20 percent of the world’s current gold projects, and a third of upcoming projects, are seeking to extract gold from complex refractory ores. It is vital to find treatment processes that are both economically viable and environmentally sustainable.
Comprehensive life-cycle solutions
“With our recent acquisition of Biomin’s BIOX and ASTER technologies, Outotec can now provide all three of the main technologies used to pre-treat gold ore as sustainably as possible: pressure oxidation, roasting and bio-oxidation. In addition, we have technologies for the recovery of gold from anode slimes in copper refineries and secondary materials,” explains Mikko Ruonala, responsible for Business Development - Gold.
“Our customers will benefit from our ability to define the most feasible solution for processing gold all the way from the ore to the refined metal. We can supply all necessary technologies under one roof, which reduces costs, and simplifies the engineering and procurement phase. By combining our process expertise with our engineering capabilities and proprietary equipment, such as grinding mills, reactors and thickeners, we can provide gold producers with complete, sustainable plants. With long-term operational and maintenance services, the environmental performance of a plant can be further improved,” says Ruonala.
A wide range of treatment options
No single technology is optimal for the treatment of all ores, and the choice of the best process depends on many technical and financial parameters. Exploitable gold ores have two main mineralogies: oxidized ore, which contains ‘native’ gold; and sulfide deposits that contain ‘refractory gold’. Outotec’s process solutions include comminution, flotation, pressure oxidation, roasting, leaching and recovery with analyzers and automation systems. Tailings and effluent treatment are an integral part of environmentally sound process solutions.
Together with mining companies, research institutes and universities, Outotec has participated in the ‘Tools for sustainable gold mining in the EU’ program to develop more sustainable solutions for gold processing and related water management.
In refractory ores, gold is locked within sulfide minerals making these ores unamenable to conventional cyanide leaching without pre-treatment. Outotec offers two proven pre-treatment options, pressure oxidation and roasting, to convert the refractory or double refractory ores into easily and effectively leachable form. Following the pre-treatment by pressure oxidation or roasting, Outotec can provide gold recovery technologies as an integrated process solution including cyanide detoxification and tailings disposal.
According to Ruonala, Outotec’s newly-acquired BIOX bio-oxidation technology provides a useful alternative pre-treatment step for the treatment of refractory ore. In this biological process bacteria are used to break down the pyrite mineral matrix in the ore, making the gold available for recovery using conventional cyanide leaching methods. BIOX thus provides a complementary alternative to the more conventional roasting and pressure oxidation technologies already available in Outotec’s portfolio.
Safe treatment of cyanide
One problem related to conventional gold extraction methods concerns the use of cyanide, a highly toxic substance whose use is banned in a number of countries. Outotec’s biological process ASTER enables the safe treatment of process solutions containing cyanide and thiocyanate, which are broken down by bacteria, enabling water to be recycled back upstream to the plant or safely discharged.
Environmental legislation on the treatment and disposal of cyanidation tailings and water discharges is becoming increasingly stringent, so there is an urgent need for this kind of safe alternative to conventional chemical processes, especially in arid and semi-arid regions where the recycling of precious water is even more important in mining operations.
“From an environmental point-of-view ASTER is also a very important technology, as it offers a low cost alternative to the more traditional chemical processes for the treatment of contaminated process solutions,” adds Ruonala.
Gold from slime
Anode slime from primary copper production is a very valuable secondary resource, as it contains gold, platinum and other valuable elements. Leaching, pyrometallurgical processing, reduction and refining technologies are used to produce an alloyed mixture of precious metals known as ‘doré’. Gold can be leached and precipitated from the gold mud produced in the silver electrorefining process. In hydrometallurgical processing different components are separated utilizing sequential leaching, precipitation and filtration steps.
New modular concepts
Outotec has recently introduced a modular hydrometallurgical process that enables the cost-effective recovery of precious metals with low environmental impact. The process can be adapted for a variety of different applications and combined with other precious metal technologies. The resulting high-grade silver and gold can be melted and cast into ingots or granules, while impurities can be converted into saleable products such as selenium, copper telluride and lead sulfate, to improve operational profitability.
Such developments show how Outotec is actively seeking more sustainable ways to go for gold. Although the gold processing industry still has far to go before it can become truly sustainable, safe ore pre-treatment methods are particularly essential when it comes to minimizing environmental impacts while ensuring that recovery rates make projects economically viable. “If the optimal pre-treatment technologies are not used, then projects cannot be feasible,” concludes Ruonala.
Reflections of members of Outotec’s Sustainability Advisory Council
In some 30 years there will be 2 billion more people on this planet. The global middle class will have 2 to 3 billion new members. Today humanity consumes natural resources at a rate that would require 1.5 planets to provide them. If we continue with business as usual we will need 3 planets to meet our needs by 2050. This means that business as usual is not an option if we want to keep our planet suitable for human well-being.
With growing and wealthier populations and increasing industrial applications, demand for gold will probably grow. In order to minimize the need to turn the ground and the ecosystems on it upside down to get this gold, we need to take every action to manage demand for gold. It’s also a question of allocating existing above ground gold reserves.
Outotec is bridging the gap between old world gold mining, where methods have not changed for centuries, and new world constraints. In the coming years, most ore deposits will be far more complex than in the past. Elevated levels of impurities, such as arsenic, will become the norm. Sustainable technologies that deal with the processing and handling of impurities will become all the more important. Technology that enhances yields without the use of toxic substances, such as cyanide, is in focus. Effective ways of handling and managing waste will also become paramount. Outotec is well positioned to be a leader in these important shifts.
John’s view of the future is challenging and interesting. From the demand perspective, elements of the circular economy provide solutions for managing the need for gold. It will be essential for example to prolong product life cycles, reuse products as far as possible, recover gold from end-of-life products, and design products to be recyclable. In order to perform to the maximum, totally new solutions that can extract gold from previously discarded waste materials or lower grade ores are also needed. This is where Outotec comes into play.
It seems that Outotec’s business model allows both big picture strategic positioning, and a focus on grassroots level engineering issues. It is like a ‘zoom lens’ that has the ability to see issues both wide angle and in close-up. At first glance, Outotec’s mission ‘Sustainable use of the Earth’s natural resources’ may seem like a paradox, but after a closer look it makes sense. Outotec’s approach to the application of sophisticated science, engineering and technology to resolve some of the complex paradoxes in today’s world is unique.
Modern waste-to-energy solutions can help to ease two major environmental problems by reducing both the landfilling of wastes, and demand for fossil fuels. Outotec’s technologies can greatly facilitate this favorable utilization of recovered wastes.
Refuse derived fuel (RDF), which is created by removing all recyclable and non-combustible materials from solid municipal waste, can be efficiently combusted in Outotec’s fluidized bed boilers.
The main fuels used in waste-to-energy schemes include municipal solid waste (MSW), refuse derived fuel (RDF), solid recovered fuel (SRF), construction and demolition waste, sewage sludge, organic wastes from wood processing industries, and agricultural wastes such as manure and harvesting residues.
In a future circular economy, combustion will not be the optimal way to use wastes, since the recycling of their material content will be preferable. But incinerating waste to generate energy can in the meantime still help to reduce the amounts of waste going to landfill, while also curbing demand for fossil fuels.
Outotec’s advanced combustion solutions can enable a wide range of biomass and waste materials to be used efficiently as fuels, in plants that can be sustainably run and maintained.
A waste-to-energy hotbed in the UK
Over the last few years a perfect storm has been brewing in the UK energy market. A combination of changes in government subsidies and growing demand for green-and-clean energy have helped to make the UK a hotbed for waste-to-energy projects. Outotec has been well positioned to strike while the iron is hot, receiving orders for seven waste-to-energy or renewable energy plants - six of them from the UK - with a total value of more than €150 million over a period of just nine months.
“The UK energy market is quite unique,” says Dr Mika Saariaho, Outotec’s SVP for Energy & Environment. “The global energy market at the moment is very challenging, because the prices of electricity and oil have gone down. But there are always good opportunities for us where governments and the local authorities are promoting green and clean energy.”
BP’s Energy Outlook 2030 spotlights renewable fuels as the fastest growing energy source, with annual growth averaging 7.6 percent from 2011 to 2030. By offering a complete life-cycle solution together with performance guarantees, Outotec has been able to give customers the peace of mind they seek when selecting a green technology partner.
“Particularly in the UK, to get the subsidies that make these projects feasible you have to be able to demonstrate and give absolute guarantees that the technology works, and that targets for greenhouse gas emissions will be met,” explains Saariaho. “The robustness of our technology and our experiences with different fuels have also been major factors. We have also been able to demonstrate a complete technology solution for the whole life cycle of any new plant.”
Over the next few years six new waste-to-energy plants using Outotec’s fluidized bed technology will start running in the UK.
Outotec’s proven bubbling fluidized bed combustion technology is an environmentally favorable option for the generation of energy and the disposal of solid or liquid by-products. Outotec can guarantee that strict emission limit values set by the municipal and national authorities will be met, by applying a combination of gas cleaning measures adjusted to suit the fuel in question, and more than 60 years of experience in fluidized bed technology.
Outotec’s sewage sludge incineration systems are industry-leaders, thanks to our long track record in bubbling and circulating fluidized technologies. A state-of-the-art fluidized bed sewage sludge incineration plant can operate as a self-sustaining process, without external fuel, producing a surplus of electrical power or heat, and fully complying with emission standards.
“We are able to optimize benefits and minimize risks by leveraging the extensive knowhow we have built up over the years,” explains Saariaho. “Our more than 100 waste-to-energy and bioenergy plants around the world utilize more than 250 different fuel sources, and we also have a lot of experience with ‘difficult fuels’ such as RDFs.”
Ash to cash
Saariaho describes Outotec’s ASH DEC ash decontamination process as a good example of a fluidized bed technology that perfectly complements the company’s other waste-, sludge- and biomass-to-energy solutions. Treating ash with ASH DEC creates fuels that can be efficiently utilized regardless of their heavy metal content. The process closes critical metal and nutrient cycles by turning the waste ash into a new product or raw material.
As long as the product value exceeds the process costs, ASH DEC can create welcome savings in landfill disposal, and facilitate the separate storage of materials that may become scarce and expensive in the foreseeable future. The application of this process is not limited to ash. A specially designed process variation was successfully tested for removing cadmium from phosphate rock, and many other applications are conceivable.
This kind of flexibility exemplifies how Outotec’s wide-ranging experience facilitates the development of innovative solutions that can promote the recycling of materials as targeted in circular economy thinking.
Reflections of members of Outotec’s Sustainability Advisory Council
The waste-to-energy topic links strongly with the newer concept of the circular economy, and with core resource efficiency. This gives it incredible importance and value. Societies need two-fold strategies, involving re-using waste, including energy use, as well as reducing and avoiding waste.
Two interesting topics meet here in a fruitful way. Societies and businesses need to transform to a more low carbon direction, and waste is an issue calling out for solutions. The combination of these two issues opens interesting business opportunities for Outotec. Waste-to-energy is also a good portfolio diversifier, as Outotec’s business environment in minerals and metals is challenging.
Health and safety have a high priority from our environment, social and governance (ESG) perspective. What kind of health and environmental risks might waste-to-energy plants cause, and how are those risks mitigated? Comparisons with other energy sources would also offer interesting information. These are potential next aspects for Outotec to highlight.
I agree with Katarina. From an impact viewpoint it is also interesting to consider what kind of economical and social value waste-to-energy generates for local communities and societies in a broader perspective. Less waste and a more flexible local energy supply are likely benefits. What kind of human impact does waste-to-energy leave?
Trends in regulation and international climate change processes are shaping the waste-to-energy business horizon. Predictability is crucial for business, and this is an important message for regulators and decision makers.
To show our stakeholders how well Outotec’s products and services help the environment, we need to accurately calculate their handprint – in terms of quantifiable positive impacts – as well as their negative footprint, including impacts along the entire supply chain.
Wherever companies operate in the metal supply chain, it is becoming increasingly important – and often essential – to be aware of the environmental impacts of their upstream suppliers, and to provide similar reassurance about their own activities to customers downstream. To facilitate compliance with ever tougher legislation and to meet environmentally aware consumers’ needs, large companies, financers and governments are increasingly demanding audit trails of entire supply chains, as well as verifiable figures that demonstrate a company’s environmental benefits.
When at Outotec we proudly say that our handprint is larger than our footprint, we mean that the positive impacts of our products and services on the environment are demonstrably greater than the negative impacts generated by our operations and our supply chain. This is a strong statement that must be backed up by verified data.
“We have worked for many years to calculate the impacts of our technologies in ways that can be assured by a third party,” explains Dr Ilkka Kojo, Director of Sustainability and Environment at Outotec. Life-cycle assessments (LCAs) can be useful tools, though even the best LCA databases are often based on industry averages.
In the steel industry, Outotec’s technology is used only in one part of the process, whereas published figures for production and environmental impacts cover entire plants. In certain areas such as copper production, however, it is possible to get detailed, reliable and comparable information on environmental impacts from producers or research institutes.
“Industry data is also to a certain extent publicly available in producers’ sustainability reports, which helps us in data collection. However, for certain technologies the publicly available data tends to be massive, complex, and seldom comparable. For this reason we have been able to get reliable reference data for five Outotec technologies so far,” adds Kojo.
What makes goods and services green?
Outotec’s benchmark is the definition of environmental goods and services (EGS) made by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). This definition covers goods and services used to measure, prevent, limit, minimize or correct environmental damage to water, air and soil, as well as problems related to waste, noise and ecosystems. EGSs thus include cleaner technologies, products and services that reduce environmental risks, minimize pollution and curb resource use. Outotec has worked with the Finnish consultancy Insinööritoimisto Ecobio to devise methodology for assessing our technologies against the EGS criteria.
Kojo explains that four key questions need to be answered when assessing a specific technology against these criteria: Does the technology reduce negative environmental impacts? Does the product reduce the need for resources or energy? Is the service or product clearly meant for an environmental purpose? Or does it provide a solution to an environmental protection problem?
Using this methodology Outotec’s technologies can be divided into three categories: those that are clearly EGS technologies; those that may qualify as EGS technologies depending on their application; and non-EGS technologies. These definitions can then be applied in-house to determine the proportion of new orders placed in any reporting year that qualify as EGSs.
“Our classification of our sulfuric acid plants provides a good example of how we assess technologies. If a plant produces acid using by-products from a smelter, this is clearly an EGS technology as it is used for pollution management; but in the case of sulfur-burning based acid production, we define the plant as ‘maybe EGS’,” says Kojo.
“Orders cannot be classified as EGS orders if the technologies do not include the latest favorable acid production technologies. Such technologies include Outotec’s improved HEROS heat recovery systems, and our LUREC technology, which allows the treatment of gas containing higher levels of sulfur dioxide (SO2), and enables better SO2 recovery rates than conventional technology.”
Environmental goods and services dominant in Outotec’s offering
The calculations revealed that as much as 90 percent of Outotec’s order intake in 2015 qualified as EGS. “It must be emphasized that this whole approach requires self-assessment, and that there are no formal procedures in place for OECD EGS evaluations by independent institutions – or for EGS labeling,” says Kojo.
“To verify our handprint in practical terms, we also calculate the emissions avoided through the use of Outotec technologies, and the ecological footprint of our own operations and supply chain,” adds Kojo. “We have calculated the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the use of five significant Outotec technologies, combined this information with production data, and then compared it with emissions from other corresponding technologies on the market.”
Tangible net benefits
These calculations have resulted in a figure for the CO2 emissions avoided through the use of the five Outotec technologies during 2015, amounting to 6.6 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent (CO2-e) emissions avoided. This figure and the calculation method have been assured by a third-party auditor.
When it comes to calculating our carbon footprint it is important to look at our whole supply chain. Using supply chain emission factors defined by the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs together with figures for Outotec’s spending, we were able to calculate that the footprint of our supply chain amounted to 345,000 tonnes of CO2-e in 2015. The carbon footprint of Outotec’s own operations is relatively small in comparison, amounting to 33,584 tonnes.
Comparing all these figures reveals that our handprint is much greater than our footprint. Such tangible evidence of favorable environmental performance can give us a vital competitive edge, and benefit all of our stakeholders.
Reflections of members of Outotec’s Sustainability Advisory Council
From the perspective of an industry peer, environmental calculations are an important and increasingly advanced issue. On the other hand, it is of the utmost importance that Outotec demonstrate awareness of their environmental impact, as they are serving controversial businesses. We are also interested to see what Outotec is able to calculate, and how.
Outotec’s handprint concept speaks well to the company’s subtle yet meaningful commitment to understand and minimize the environmental impact of their business. With a global handprint like Outotec’s, I am impressed that the most senior levels of management take corporate responsibility seriously and have taken active steps to actually be more sustainable.
The report gives a good indication of the accuracy of methodology, which is crucial. Classifying order intake according to the OECD’s EGS evaluations seems reasonable. It is also convincing that Outotec has calculated the carbon dioxide emissions from the use of five significant technologies and compared them with emissions from other corresponding technologies on the market. As a development suggestion it could be beneficial to explain how crude comparison between the company’s handprint and footprint is in practice.
Outotec shows strong commitment and puts a lot of effort into gathering and reporting on environmental data. We would like to have a better sense of how they loop back with their employees on what the data means, and what the company’s expectations are with regard to further emissions reductions. For example, it would be great to gain a deeper insight concerning how employees can continue to reduce emissions by improving their own systems, and how the company encourages these extra steps.
Outotec’s policy is to take a bold sustainability approach backed up by sensitive handprint and footprint analysis. Having technologies that help their customers to improve is tremendously valuable for Outotec. They gain additional credibility by also doing the same in Outotec’s own operations.