In a bid to focus on sustainability, Umicore is cutting carbon emissions at its site at Markham in Ontario, Canada, by replacing the use of gas to biogas. The plant serves Umicore’s Jewellery and Industrial Metals business unit, refining gold, silver, platinum, palladium and other precious metals for jewellery, dentistry, chemical and industrial sectors.
The plant recently achieved a considerable reduction in its GHG emissions by replacing natural gas with biogas for its heating needs. As most of the plant’s furnaces are already electric, and with around three quarters of Ontario’s electricity generation coming from renewable and nuclear energy sources, the plant’s use of natural gas for heating was one of the main contributors to its carbon footprint.
Umicore Markham’s natural gas usage has now been replaced by biogas. This avoids the emission of 500 tonnes of CO2 per year, cutting Umicore Markham’s Scope 1 CO2 emissions by 90%.
The direct replacement of fossil fuel in this way aligns with Umicore’s approach to reduce its Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions.
As Gert Van Hoof, Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) and Recycling Manager in Umicore’s ESG team in Brussels, explains: Energy-rich biogas is sourced from organic materials as they decompose, for example in wastewater treatment and landfill installations, releasing methane into the atmosphere. By capturing the methane, which is 25 times more of a potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, the process avoids GHG emissions. After it is captured, the biogas is cleaned and injected into the gas grid. Burning biogas does not add any net ‘new’ CO2 to the atmosphere, because the carbon in the gas originates naturally from the organic materials it is sourced from. The biogas supplied by Bullfrog Power is not piped exclusively to Umicore’s plant – instead Umicore matches the plant’s annual gas usage with the quantity of biogas Bullfrog produces and injects into the gas grid. In this way, the plant’s gas usage can continue exactly as before, ensuring a seamless transition and no special technical requirements.”
Gert says the transition to biogas was ‘’the perfect fit’’ for Markham’s specific size and requirements. However, he adds that the still-limited scale at which biogas can be sourced means it isn’t achievable for all Umicore’s facilities. ‘’This facility is located close to where biogas is produced and is just the right size for the volume that can be provided. So, it’s an ideal solution for this site. We are taking a proactive stance towards replacing fossil fuels with green energy solution, such as biogas, wherever feasible in terms of scale and location.’’
As well as replacing carbon emissions, Paul is looking forward to avoiding more emissions at the plant by focusing on energy efficiency, for example by replacing windows with high-insulation alternatives, investing in better insulation and switching to lower-energy lighting.