How to manufacture while emitting less
Solvay continues to actively reduce its climate impact
From resorting to green energy to improving our manufacturing processes, our business units are hard at work exploring every avenue to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Meeting the ambitious targets we’ve set for ourselves is no small feat, but we’re taking it very seriously.
As our CEO Ilham Kadri herself puts it, “We were one of the very first companies to decouple topline growth from emissions increase.” Before, during and after the Covid-19 crisis, Solvay has been firmly committed to durably reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, regardless of the growth of our activities. What’s more, we’ve increased (for the third time!) our emissions reduction target with our One Planet sustainability plan, unveiled early 2020: -26% by 2030 (compared to 2018). In concrete terms, this means reducing emissions by 5 million tons per year in order to meet the target while offsetting organic growth.
Along with big ambitions in terms of water preservation, biodiversity protection and promoting the circular economy for example, this is all part of our renewed commitment to conducting business in a way that doesn’t unsustainably drain our planet’s resources.
Solvay One Planet will create a new dynamic within the company, with all our business units actively looking to develop green energy projects so that Solvay’s overall targets can be reached.
Green energy from all sources
Currently, Solvay’s total yearly emissions of greenhouse gases are roughly 12 million tons of CO2 equivalent. Two-thirds of those are due to energy (mostly burning fossil fuels to power our plants), and one-third to processes (emissions of gas that occur when we manufacture products). This simple proportion alone is enough to understand that energy transition projects are a key lever to pull in order to reach the Group’s climate ambitions - in addition to the strong improvements (already made and in progress) for significantly reducing emissions from manufacturing processes.
This is why so many green energy projects have been developed in recent years or are in the works right now: solar panels on building rooftops, switching boilers to biomass instead of coal, purchasing green power from local producers and even partnering to create new renewable energy production sites… According to the yearly gauge established by Solvay’s Energy Transition Head Alain Michel, in 2019 the combination of completed and engaged green energy projects adds up to a reduction of emissions of 440,000 tons of CO2 equivalent.
“And there are of course many more to come,” he says. “Solvay One Planet will create a new dynamic within the company, with all our business units actively looking to develop green energy projects so that Solvay’s overall targets can be reached.”
A symbolic example of one of these projects is what will become Solvay’s very first wind turbines in Changshu, near Shanghai. Two large turbines, each with a capacity of 2.5MW, will directly power our local Specialty Polymers plant. The construction is awaiting full clearance by Chinese authorities to begin. Asia in general is where Solvay has the most renewable energy projects going, “because of the sheer diversity of solutions we are able to implement there,” explains Alain.
The capture of process emissions is underway
Regarding the last third of our Group’s emissions due to manufacturing processes, action is being taken as well.
In Spinetta, Italy, where the production of polymers causes emissions of carbon tetrafluoride (a powerful greenhouse gas also known as tetrafluoromethane, or CF4), various process innovations have enabled to implement a cleaner technology, reducing emissions by 0.5 million tons of CO2 equivalent per year. Process emissions require case-by-case solutions, and teams are at work to further improvements in Spinetta and find state-of-the-art clean technologies applicable to our other major process emissions before 2025.
So watch this (ever cleaner) space...