Protecting the environment has always been of importance to Brenntag. As part of our business activities, we consume water, electricity and different types of fuel, while simultaneously producing waste, waste water and various air emissions.
Brenntag’s locations around the world implement a wide range of measures based on the local and regional parameters and legal requirements and depending on their specific areas of activity, all with the common aim of protecting resources and using them optimally around the world, and of minimizing the impact that our business activities have on the soil, water and air.
Climate and Environmental Protection: Best Practices from the Brenntag regions
Chemicals have to be properly packaged. Standard container formats have become established in the industry in order to ensure safe transportation and storage. In our industry, for example, we use metal or plastic barrels, portable canisters or intermediate bulk containers (IBCs) – large plastic or steel tanks with a metal frame.
The fact is that the majority of these containers are reusable. In cooperation with our suppliers and customers, we are making every effort to establish a circular economy so that we can keep using and reusing our packaging materials.
At Brenntag, we have established suitable processes for the handling of waste and also take-back and recycling systems for various types of packaging and containers. With our expertise and logistics infrastructure, we are able to reuse IBCs without having to clean them first – provided that they are always refilled with the same chemical (“product-dedicated container”).
For example, at our Zwijndrecht site in the Netherlands, we have set up a closed cycle with several control points for IBCs that are dedicated to only contain the same acids or alkalis. The result: these IBCs can be reused over a period of several years. Not only does this significantly reduce the amount of packaging material but also decreases the amount of cleaning required, thereby lowering water consumption and the volume of wastewater.
Furthermore, we use recycled packaging: In our EMEA region, we target to reach 28,500 “RECOBULK” IBCs made by Schütz to be put in circulation each year. Since summer 2018, we have introduced approximately 8,000 units in the market. They are characterised by a lower carbon footprint because they feature a reused, reconditioned steel cage. By using the target volume, Brenntag will save over 2,400 tonnes of CO2 per year compared to standard IBCs, which are equipped with a new steel cage.
Since September 2018, the 21-vehicle truck fleet at the Heilbronn and Frankfurt sites of the Brenntag Group Germany have been using the innovative, particularly environmentally friendly diesel known as “R33 BlueDiesel”. Its renewable fuel content is exceptionally high at up to 33%: 26% of the diesel is high-purity, renewable paraffin (e. g. from used cooking oil from the gastronomy) and 7% is bio diesel from used rapeseed oil, for instance. The use of these high-quality fuel components help to reduce CO2 emissions by at least 20% in comparison to conventional diesel fuels, taking into account the manufacturing phase (“well-to-wheel” method). In addition, the fuel can be used without having to convert the engines of diesel vehicles because it fulfils all of the criteria for diesel fuel standard EN 590.
By the end of 2018, around 80,000 litres of R33 BlueDiesel had been used to refuel Brenntag vehicles, reducing CO2 emissions by more than 50 tonnes in comparison to fossil-based diesel fuels. The use of R33 BlueDiesel at the German locations mentioned above is part of a test project in partnership with the manufacturer Shell Global Solutions, as well as Tecosol and Neste, which provide the fuels certified in accordance with European standards. This may be expanded to other Brenntag locations. Suppliers and customers may also be permitted to refuel their cars with R33 BlueDiesel in future.
At Brenntag’s Deerlijk site in Belgium,an energy efficiency project was introduced in stages between 2016 and 2018. Based on a review of the various consumers of energy at the site, a total of ten packages of measures were specified. These included optimizing the office building’s heating system, repairing leaks in the compressed air production system, replacing the oil heating system with an efficient electrical heating system comprised of heat pumps and solar thermal panels, and installing motion sensors and economical LED lighting in the warehouses.
By the end of 2018, the average quarterly energy consumption was almost 10% lower, which will reduce annual electricity consumption by up to 130 MWh.
A wind turbine was installed at the new North East site of Brenntag UK and Ireland which was completed at the end of 2018 and commenced operations at the start of 2019. The turbine has a maximum output of 6 kW and should be able to produce 13,000 kWh of electricity per year dependant on wind speed. Around 90% of the renewable electricity will be used by the location, with the remaining 10% fed into the national grid. This will cut the site’s CO2 emissions by around 5.6 tonnes per year compared to conventional electricity production. The turbine is not just an investment in sustainable energy production. It will also be appreciated by those customers and suppliers that give regard to environmental awareness and sustainability programmes when choosing their business partners.
In addition to the wind turbine, other measures were implemented at the North East site that will increase energy efficiency and therefore reduce energy consumption, these including motion sensors and energy-saving LED lighting. The roof of the warehouse was constructed in such a way that allows more natural light to pass through of the surface than conventional warehouse roofs.
In July 2018, Brenntag Honduras was commended by the Puerto Cortés municipality for its exemplary implementation of local environmental regulations. More than 80 companies in the municipality underwent an environmental assessment and site inspections.These included an examination of the condition of facilities, warehouse conditions, the hygiene situation, waste management, emergency measures and safety equipment, and employee training. Brenntag Honduras was one of four companies to be 100% compliant with all of the requirements.
At the start of 2019, the new Filago site in Italy commenced operations. Brenntag invested extensively in environmental protection for the development. Since the location had previously been used for industrial purposes, a comprehensive soil and groundwater inspection was first conducted. The low level of contamination identified as part of this was subsequently remedied.
We removed all the existing underground installations and replaced them with a contemporary, new design. As a result, there are two completely separate waste water systems for rain water and industrial waste water. All of the areas where operations occur have been made water tight and fitted with new retention systems. The retention basins have been built to withstand earthquakes, as have the shelfsystems. The same applies to existing buildings on the premises which remain in use and have therefore been enhanced accordingly.
The tank facilities are monitored during operationsby a multi-stage control system. For example, the storage tanks are fitted with fill level displays for continuous and redundant measurement. These have integrated automatic shutdown functions to prevent inadvertent overfilling. All these measures are in place to prevent product releases or to intercept them immediately on site.
However, if an uncontrolled release does occur, it is fed into an emergency storage basin via the waste water system. The exhaust air from the tank facilities and filling lines is extracted and fed through suitable purification facilities (scrubbers) to ensure that the air meets the required quality standards when it is released.
Energy efficiency was also taken into consideration when the new site was fitted out: all of the interior and exterior lighting is LED-based. Compared to similar neon tube technology, energy consumption is 50% less, and annual CO2 emissionsare at least 42 tonnes lower.
In summer 2018, Brenntag Hungária in Budapest installed solar cells with a peak output of 13.5 kW (dependant on solar radiation). It produced around 5,200 kWh of electricity in 2018, reducing CO2 emissions by approximately 1.7 tonnes.
The Esteio site of Brenntag Brazil was given the city’s “Ecological Seal Award” in July 2018 for its waste separation and recycling programme, which it implemented together with the local municipality.
To begin with, Brenntag HSE managers trained the employees on how to separate waste correctly, and a corresponding disposal system was put in place at the site. The waste collected and separated is sent to a local recycling cooperative which works to increase environmental awareness among the population and generates funding for social projects by reusing the waste.
In 2017, the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, site of Brenntag Specialties in the USA was awarded an Energy Star environmental certificate from the USA’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This successful certification is mainly attributable to the completion of two comprehensive efficiency measures which have been gradually implemented at the site’s warehouse since 2013: first of all, energy-saving fluorescent lighting with motion sensor activation was introduced. Subsequently, in 2016 a modern boiler system for the site’s heated areas and storage tanks was installed which considerably reduced energy consumption thanks to its high level of efficiency. These measures have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by almost 28% on 2012 levels and resulted in an improve ment in the company’s Energy Star rating from 66 to 83 points in July 2017. An on-site audit performed by an independent auditor finally confirmed that the site had qualified for this certificate.
After an energy audit at its Trezzano site at the end of 2015, Brenntag Italy began to implement various measures with the goal of reducing energy consumption and improving its energy management. In 2016, the compressors systems used were optimized. As a result of various measures, energy consumption was reduced by 15% compared to the previous year. In 2017, the focus was on investments in the vehicle fleet: five diesel trucks were replaced with new hybrid vehicles, delivering fuel savings of around 10%. Its fleet of electric forklift trucks now includes a total of 14 vehicles with energy recovery systems. Energy consumption has thus been reduced by 7% on average. In 2018, internal and external lighting will be assessed for potential savings.
In order to clean the instruments in its development laboratory in Buenos Aires, Brenntag Argentina consumes around 1,000 litres of water per month. Previously, this involved the use of drinking water, which was collected after the cleaning operations and then disposed of as industrial waste water. The site has now installed a simple, cost-effective system in order to make this cleaning water reusable.
In a first step, it is collected in a special tank and mechanically filtered using paper. It is then chemically treated so that the remaining dirt particles flocculate and the pH value of the treated water reaches the legally required level. 90% of the water purified and processed in this way is used for cleaning operations at the site. The positive effects: The volume of industrial waste water is reduced by around eleven tonnes annually, less drinking water is consumed and the laboratory’s operating costs are cut.
In order to raise awareness of the importance of careful use of natural resources and to achieve a lasting change in behavior, Brenntag Colombia launched an internal communication campaign in 2017. With the slogan “I can contribute”, employees were asked to develop creative ideas, either on their own or in groups, on how to reduce consumption of water, electricity, paper and other materials in their daily working environment. Anyone interested was able to present their idea in a short video and thus motivate others to join in. An annual comparison of consumption levels and the related expenditure directly demonstrates the success of this campaign. Among other savings, the implemented ideas helped to reduce total water consumption in 2017 at all five of Brenntag’s Colombia sites by around 9,800 m3 on the previous year.
At two of Brenntag’s sites in China, a transport model is used which operates like a “shuttle bus”. For each site, a route has been identified (45 and 100 kilometers in length) which makes it possible to serve most of the customers who receive daily deliveries through a single trip, without the need to return to the site. At the two sites together, this routing has delivered fuel savings of around 72,000 liters per year.
By reconfiguring the tank and pipe system for caustic and bleach material at the Houston-Greens Bayou site in Texas, Brenntag Southwest in the USA has been able to reduce the impact of process flush water, cut disposal costs and recycle chemicals. Caustic and bleach material are handled and stored at the site. The tanks and pipelines have to be flushed regularly as part of this. This cleaning water, which contains around 14% Sodium Hydroxideand 4% Bleach deposits, was previously collected separately and sent directly to a third-party company for disposal. This resulted in around 16 truck loads per year, or roughly 330 tonnes.
This process flush water is now filtered and the bleach particles in it are collected. These are then piped to a Brenntag owned facility located on the site, where they are converted into a lower grade industrial bleach. Around 50% of the bleach flushed out and subsequently collected can thus be recycled into a lucrative product for suitable applications.
Brenntag El Salvador has implemented an exemplary recycling project that benefits not just the environment but also the local neighbourhood at the site in San Salvador: Non-hazardous chemicals and products are regularly delivered to Brenntag in what are known as flexibags. This packaging consists of metal bars, cardboard and various fabric and plastic covers, much of which does not come into contact with the products delivered.
In line with the 3R principle (“reduction, reuse, recycling”) as part of the CASA programme operated by Brenntag Latin America, our employees use the plastic covers to protect wooden pallets, the metal rods to fortify the warehouse racks and the cardboard as dividers. They donate the large fabric covers to various establishments in the neighbourhood: A school uses them to make sun protection shields for the students, while a church community uses them to make tarpaulins for their vans. As a result, roughly one tonne of material is recycled, which is a recycling rate of 67%.
In order to reduce fuel consumption of its fleet, Brenntag Mid-South in the USA analyzed the idle times of the engines. Thanks to the telematics systems installed and the analysis system connected to them, typical idle times can be attributed to certain operations and situations. For example, a tanker uses the auxiliary drive system to create air pressure for unloading the material.
The analysis made it possible to identify drivers and situations whereby the expected idle times were exceeded. Discussions were conducted with the respective employees in order to identify the causes of the discrepancies and, if necessary, to bring about a change in their driving behaviour through coaching. The measure helped to improve the efficiency of the entire fleet of Brenntag Mid-South, which consists of 331 vehicles, by 0.8 kilometres per gallon of fuel (3.8 litres). This represents a fuel consumption reduction of around 8,880 gallons (around 33,600 litres) per year.
At Brenntag in Austria, all internal transport between the two sites Traun and Wiener Neustadt was switched from road to rail in 2016. Around 520 truck trips per year are replaced on the 220-kilometre route. This will reduce the annual fuel consumption of Brenntag Austria by around 32,000 litres and its CO2 emissions by approximately 85 tonnes.
At Brenntag GmbH’s Duisburg site, Germany, the soil in the warehouse is protected through multiple layers, thus preventing contamination of the subsoil and the ground water (see graph). Double-walled tanks for acids and alkalis are also fitted with a collection tray.
A separate closed circuit has been installed for the water used in the site’s process engineering, in its extinguishing systems and for cleaning purposes. Industrial water is captured and then cleaned and treated in several phases before being fed into the public sewer systems just as in normal household water. Water quality is continuously monitored and documented.
A large number of measures in and around our plant engineering systems ensure air pollution control and exhaust air purification. For example, gas leakages during the process of transfer from the road tanker to the storage tank are prevented by means of a special gas displacement procedure; when drums and cans are filled, the company’s sub-surface method prevents splashes and reduces emissions; exhaust air emitted during transfer processes is purified in air washers.
A photovoltaic system that generates approximately 150 megawatt-hours of electricity per annum was installed on the roof of the Brenntag location in Mouscron, Belgium, in April 2014. More than 70% of this electricity is used for the local production processes, accounting for a good 20% of the location’s entire energy requirements on average. The surplus solar electricity, which is primarily generated at the weekend and in the summer, is fed into the public grid. Brenntag only has to cover the costs of maintaining the solar system, which was installed by an external service provider and is financed by means of third-party green energy certificates.
The warehouses at many locations in the Brenntag Latin America region have been designed to enable natural lighting. Many office buildings also receive natural light by means of so-called “solar tubes”. In Honduras, solar panels on the roof of the plant are used to heat water for production of Brenntag’s AGROFEED fertilizer; in Brazil, solar cells power street lighting on the company’s site.
Brenntag Italy produces approximately 40,000 cubic meters of demineralized water per annum in a very resource efficient way by using industrial water. For this purpose, rainwater collected and processed at the locations and production waste water are cleaned by means of reverse osmosis in modern waste water treatment plants. The demineralized water produced in this way is then used in other processes and procedures such as in chemical dilution.
The Brenntag location in Wiener Neustadt, Austria, runs a highly efficient exhaust air purification system which ensures that the vapors produced when solvents are processed are not released into the environment and that only purified exhaust air is released.
The air is purified by means of catalytic oxidation. The exhaust air containing solvents is sucked away directly from various installations and workplaces at the plant and is fed into the purification system. Here it is preheated by a heat exchanger, before being brought up to operating temperature by a gas burner. A combustion process then occurs in the catalytic converter in which the solvents are oxidized to become harmless carbon dioxide. The purified exhaust air can be released directly via a chimney, as it falls within the relevant statutory clean gas values.
The advantage of catalytic oxidation is its comparatively low energy requirements, as the chemical reaction can occur at relatively low temperatures of approximately 300 degrees Celsius. In addition, this system involves the purified, hot exhaust air then being used to preheat the as yet unpurified air in the heat exchanger.
In a first phase, actual water use was monitored in the office and warehouse buildings of Brenntag’s location in Costa Rica. Any identified leaks or uncontrolled use was eliminated. In a second step in 2014, various measures were implemented to enable the use of collected rainwater. During the rainy season, up to 6,000 liters of water are captured in containers on top of the roof of the company’s main warehouse. Via a system of tubes, this water is fed to the location’s various buildings and used here for a number of different purposes.
In addition, water-conserving sanitary installations have been installed. Green spaces are no longer irrigated from above. This is now handled by means of a system of pipes which are directly linked up with the plants’ roots. Overall, these measures have had a considerable impact: water consumption has been reduced by more than half over a period of three years.