Special Edition: Alternatives to carbon heavy processes

Ardagh highlights greener processes as crucial for sustainable growth

By Rory Harrington

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Carbon dioxide

In recent years there has been an ongoing war of words between industry players from different packaging formats over which has the lightest carbon footprint.

However, a general consensus appears to have been reached that energy hotspots occur at different lifecycle stages in all packaging materials – be it at the manufacturing stage for materials such as glass and metal or CO2 release during disposal, for plastics.

Reduction targets

Mindful of both environmental and economic gains, Ardagh Group is employing a raft of innovative methods designed to reduce energy use by 16 per cent and carbon dioxide emissions by 20 per cent across its glass manufacturing sites by 2017 compared to 2007.

As part of our special edition on alternatives to carbon heavy processes, the Ireland-based company told FoodProductionDaily.com about its multi-faceted plan to reach its eco-targets – involving waste heat recovery schemes, carbon dioxide capture technology and an industry-leading batch pre-heating process on its raw materials.

The company said its strategy is informed by a dual approach of being fully committed to reducing its environmental footprint, while ensuring that such advances are economically viable.

“We want to be sustainable in terms of the energy use and carbon dioxide reduction but we also want to be economically sustainable,”​ said Steffen Seehausen, environment and sustainability manager for the company. “We always try to link the two things.”

Waste heat recovery

An excellent example of this thinking can be seen in a scheme in Sweden, where the company is using waste heat from its plant in Limmared to heat hundreds of homes in the surrounding town.

‘This is a partnership project – with Ardagh providing the heat exchanger and locals the pipeline so that energy that would be lost through our chimney now provides heats for 600 properties,”​ said Seehausen. “Residents get heating capacity while Ardagh makes a small revenue from the scheme. It’s a win-win situation.”

A similar project is also up and running at its Germersheim site in Germany. The variation between construction and conditions at individual sites means that it is not possible to roll out the scheme across all its operations, said the company.

“Heat recovery projects need to be designed for individual sites. While the company can have a general policy that it is desirable, you must also take local conditions into account,”​ explained the sustainability manager.

Batch pre-heating

Ardagh has also developed a sophisticated process to pre-heat its glass raw material – batch and cullet – to between 200–300°C before it goes into the furnace to yield energy savings reaching 15 per cent.

Previously, batch was introduced cold and Seehausen said the company had identified this part of the process where potential energy saving were among the greatest.

Given the age of most glass plants, the equipment is retrofitted so that waste heat from furnace flue gases is recycled. The system, which each cost around €2m, has so far been introduced in five plants, with a further three earmarked over the next two years.

While the return on investment (ROI) is relatively lengthy at around five years, Seehausen said such energy economies were key and adding more systems remained a part of the company’s long-term strategy.

Ardagh’s work on this has been included in the European Union best available technology – known as a BREF document.

CO2 capture

The company is also heavily involved in investigating ways to capture waste CO2 for use as a raw material in other processes or fields. It has teamed up with the Dutch research body TNO to design equipment to extract the gas from its flues and improve its quality so that it can be used in a host of other applications.

Seehausen said he was unable to discuss specific partnerships as the technology was still under development but said one possible application could be as feedstocks for non-oil-based plastics.

The environmental manager said its targets on energy and CO2 reduction were “crucial”​ to the company to ensure both growth in sustainability and sustainable growth.

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