Chlor-alkali Industry Review 2017/2018 - new digital version

In December 2017, the deadline for the phase-out of mercury technology under the Best Available Techniques (BAT) chlor-alkali conclusions as part of the EU’s Industrial Emissions Directive passed.

Consequently, the share of mercury technology in chlor-alkali manufacture shows a steep decline in 2017 (see graph). However, the phase-out did not fully complete in 2017 due to some technical challenges that extended into 2018.

2017 was the year for the phase-out of mercury technology. Despite this, Euro Chlor considers it vital to continue monitoring and reducing mercury emissions at those production sites that used mercury-based technology.

The absolute level of mercury emission declined to approximately 1.2 tonnes in 2017, a reduction of around 130 kg compared to 2016. This is mainly due to the closure of several mercury installations in 2016.

Specific mercury emissions increased from 0.63 g Hg/tonne to 0.68 g Hg/tonne in 2017.

Energy consumption in 2017 was at 92.5% versus the 2011 reference.

The decrease of 0.7% (93.2% to 92.5%) from the 2016 level is due mainly to the mercury to membrane technology conversion. This year, energy consumption is expected to drop further thanks to the phase-out of mercury technology.

Discover more on the role of energy in our industry via our new Energy webpages.

The use of hydrogen has decreased since 2014. In 2017, the utilization rate of hydrogen was 84.8%, which represents a decline of 2.7% compared to the previous year.

Although hydrogen is suggested to be an important chemical for the low carbon economy, there is still an ongoing decline in its utilization rate from the chlor-alkali electrolysis plants. Further increasing hydrogen use (where different options are available) is often complicated in practice due to economic constraints.

The amount of chlorine transported from production sites increased in absolute numbers compared to 2016.

However, it remained more or less stable at a low percentage of the total production. In 2017, 3.7% of the total chlorine production was transported by rail or road.

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Health Issues: looking beyond Mercury

 

Even though Euro Chlor’s Health Working Group still collects data on mercury in urine from plants that are decommissioning, several new non-mercury topics have gradually found their way into discussions.

Electromagnetic fields formed an interesting topic, and are discussed separately in this review. Caustic soda remains on the radar, as incidents involving severe burns still occur. Through the specially-developed self-assessment questionnaires, the Health Working Group persists in raising awareness for the seemingly harmless, but actually ‘caustic’, white powder or water-like solution. In addition, the group is investing time on the topics of stress and burnout. Whilst not chlor-alkali industry-specific, these topics are growing in importance. Stress and burnout may also be linked to other issues, like overall loss of concentration, as well as carelessness and tiredness, which may contribute to the larger number of incidents that Euro Chlor has noted in its sustainability questionnaire.

Chlor-Alkali Partnership mercury reporting

The World Chlorine Council continues to gather mercury emission data from its members (including Euro Chlor) and reports it annually to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Chlor-Alkali Partnership.

The number of mercury plants is decreasing as expected and will further reduce in the coming year due to mercury technology no longer being allowed in Europe by the end of 2017. In 2017, there were 30 mercury plants operational with a joint production capacity of 2.64 million tonnes of chlorine per year.

The absolute mercury emission increased in 2017 from 4.4 tonnes to 4.5 tonnes. In 2017, the emission per tonne of chlorine capacity increased from 1.44 g/tonne Cl2 to 1.69 g/tonne Cl2.

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VinylPlus® well on track to reach its objectives

VinylPlus continues to enhance the accomplishments of its predecessor Vinyl 2010, in order to make PVC even more sustainable. Three years away from its 2020 milestone, progress is continuing on all five Sustainability Challenges, derived from The Natural Step (TNS) System Conditions for a Sustainable Society.

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Recycling

VinylPlus brings a significant contribution to circular economy activities, which represents a key objective of current EU policy. VinylPlus’ strong emphasis on external monitoring, transparent reporting and entire value chain involvement is fully in line with the EU approach.

In 2017, VinylPlus increased the volume of recycled PVC to nearly 640,000 tonnes, avoiding emissions of more than 1.2 million tonnes of CO2. A cumulative total of 4.2 million tonnes of PVC has been recycled since 2000, thanks to VinylPlus efforts. Legacy additives remain a concern, and ill-designed restrictions could jeopardise these impressive achievements. VinylPlus remains confident though that the studies it has undertaken in support of PVC recycling/recycled product safety will convince EU authorities to adopt balanced solutions, ensuring maximum safety with increased recycling potential.

VinylPlus also made significant progress in its commitment for the sustainable use of additives by completing the development of the Additives Sustainability Footprint (ASF), a methodology combining quantitative life cycle inventory data with criteria based on the TNS principles. All of this has been carried out in constant dialogue with all stakeholders as demonstrated again by the diverse audience of the annual VinylPlus Sustainability Forum.

In 2017, VinylPlus increased the volume of recycled PVC to nearly 640,000 tonnes, avoiding emissions of more than 1.2 million tonnes of CO2

Sustainability

This year’s VinylPlus Sustainability Forum featured the theme of ‘Meeting Societal Needs’ and explored how the vinyl sector and its products can help to meet the wide-ranging challenges of providing essential services for a growing global population in areas such as healthcare, housing and related infrastructure.

The event attracted more than 140 stakeholders from 30 countries, representing the European Commission, European Parliament, the United Nations, consumer organisations, academia, specifiers, designers, architects, recyclers and the PVC value chain.

Another major achievement in 2017 was the implementation of the VinylPlus® Product Label for the window profile sector. The sustainability labelling scheme was developed in cooperation with Building Research Establishment (BRE) Global and TNS, with support from EPPA (the European PVC Window Profile and Related Building Products Association). The Product Label focuses on PVC applications for the building and construction sector and aims to help specifiers, consumers and procurement decision makers to identify sustainable PVC products and solutions.

The recent signature of a Social Charter with trade unions embodies VinylPlus’ objective to build a partnership focusing on health and safety and environmental standards with specific support to recycling facilities, information and training of the workforce, as well as sharing best practices between industry sectors and EU countries.

Website

Visit VinylPlus.eu to keep up to date on all our activities

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Progress report

Visit VinylPlus.eu to keep up to date on all our activities

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