Energy and emissions

Energy efficiency is one of the most important environmental indicators for Ahlstrom. Energy efficiency is identified by the input of both electricity and heat for drying processes, divided by the gross tonnage produced.

The aim of our energy efficiency program is the sustainable use of energy at all of our plants. The reduction of energy consumption has a direct impact on emissions into the air and the cost of manufacturing.

Globally the topic of energy is strongly highlighted. In the European Union in particular, the legislation has given direction to continuously improve the energy management. Consequently Ahlstrom has adopted the initiative and worked with its manufacturing facilities worldwide to improve performance.

Energy sources

Ahlstrom’s main sources of energy are natural gas, purchased steam and electrical power from the grid. The opportunities to utilize renewable energy sources such as solar power and biomass are being studied, but the economics of the transition to more extensive energy portfolio change appear to be challenging.

Ahlstrom’s total energy consumption was 3,605 GWh in 2015 (3,682 GWh in 2014). In the accompanying table we have displayed the share of each energy source.

Energy usage in 2015

MWh 2015 % 2014 %
Natural gas 1,040,806 28.9 1,051,944 28,6
Oil 13,626 0.4 13,944 0,5
Coal 114,988 3.2 85,278 2,3
Secondary fuels and recovered methanol 308,388 8.6 355,278 9,6
Grid - electrical power 542,930 15.1 545,556 15,1
Purchased steam 1,583,777 43.9 1,628,333 44,2
Total  3,604,514 100 3 683 333 100


Despite modern technology and best practices, the processes of the manufacturing operations are inherently energy intensive. A lot of energy is required first to separate the fibers (pulping) and after web forming to dry the water out. 

The awareness of energy efficiency is built into our manufacturing practices in the form of energy reviews and data monitoring and management. Identifying the most significant energy uses, the current energy consumption and the actions to improve the performance are the key activities in the energy efficiency program.

Despite the complexity of the various processes and energy systems, we already can see a turning point in our energy efficiency in the adjacent chart. Similar new decreasing trend can be seen in all subsequent charts for the emissions to the air (CO2, NOx, SO2 and particles), also known as greenhouse gases. The charts are available in the emissions part of the annual report.

Our structured approach to manage energy systems has led our four plants in France plants to being accredited with an ISO 50001 certification. The plants in Ställdalen, Sweden, and Osnabrück, Germany, already have the certification for their energy management system.

We continue to strive for higher energy efficiency. The European Union has been actively promoting its 2020 agenda in which energy efficiency plays an important role. In line with the EU agenda, Ahlstrom has the ambition to aim at a reduction of 20% by 2020 in both specific energy consumption as well as carbon emissions per ton of product, using 2012 as the baseline.

Regenerative thermal oxidizers

In the Sustainability Report 2011 we presented the regenerative thermal oxidizer (RTO) investment to our plant in Turin, Italy. RTOs are used at our Filtration plants. The filter media is impregnated with solvent-based liquid resin, which has to be evaporated and cured using a high temperature. The equipment to treat the fumes from the process is called a regenerative thermal oxidizer. This ensures that emissions to the atmosphere comply with the appropriate environmental regulations.

During the following years we have invested in similar RTOs at our plants in Taylorville, USA, Madisonville, USA and Binzhou, China. These have been success stories for the gas savings as well as reduced air emissions.

Carbon disclosure project

The Carbon Disclosure Project is an independent not-for-profit organization that collects information on companies' greenhouse gas emissions and strategies to reduce them. It holds the largest database of primary corporate climate change information in the world. Ahlstrom has participated since 2008. Since 2011 we have also participated in the CDP Supply Chain Project and the Forest Disclosure. The results and detailed responses can be accessed through www.cdproject.net.

Emissions

All Ahlstrom plants work with local, regional, and federal authorities to regulate and monitor emissions. Agreed-upon limits are monitored and amended to maintain compliance and protect the communities and moreover the world we call home.

Air

Absolute emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and sulfur dioxide (SO2) continued on a downward five-year trend. In 2015, direct CO2 emissions (Scope 1) totaled 315,968 tons, slightly up from 311,459 tons in 2014. The increase is mainly due to the restatement of emissions at the Osnabrück plant in Germany. COintensity rose to 765 kg per gross ton from 761 kg per gross ton in the comparison period. Co2 emissions including energy purchases (Scope 1-2) fell from the previous year as show in the chart below. Gross production rate increased in 2015 to 412,959 tons from 411,928 tons in the previous year.

In 2015, nitrogen oxides emissions were 230 tons, down from 236 tons in the comparison period. This represents a reduction of more than 60% since 2011. Sulfur dioxide emissions in 2015 were 65 tons, down from 67 tons in 2014. This constitutes a near 50% reduction compared to 2011.

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