Corporate Responsibility

Getting the most out of energy

By Marcel Galjee, Energy Director at Nouryon

Marcel Galjee, Energy Director at Nouryon, explains how the company is implementing an energy strategy to manage costs and limit t

Marcel Galjee, Energy Director at Nouryon, explains how the company is implementing an energy strategy to manage costs and limit the risk in fluctuating energy supplies, while at the same time reducing its emissions and growing the business.
Energy is typically a very large expenditure for a chemical company. Cost-effective solutions are those which can withstand the test of time and, in an energy environment where prices are influenced by market dynamics and policy makers, what is cheap today may turn out to be a risky bet tomorrow.
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At Nouryon, salt, chlor-alkali, chlorine derivatives and pulp bleaching chemicals production activities all consume large amounts of energy. To produce high-purity salt for example, steam is used to remove water from brine. And for making chlorine, you need large amounts of electricity for the electrolysis reaction.
As the company depends on electricity and steam, it implementing a strategy to manage costs and limit the risk in fluctuating energy supplies, while at the same time reducing its emissions and growing the business. Key to that is increasing the usage of renewable electricity; currently, almost half of the company’s energy consumption is sourced from renewable sources, far more than most similarly energy-intensive companies.
Over the past 10 years, Nouryon has significantly reduced the use of natural gas at its operations by using more steam from waste and biomass. In 2019, it increased the use of bio-steam at its salt operations at the Chemical Park Delfzijl and at its Hengelo site, both located in the Netherlands. The additonal steam supply has replaced the use of natural gas, making the production at the sites more sustainable and reducing CO2 emissions. In Delfzijl the company now emits 300,000 tons less CO2 per year than in 2013, while in Hengelo the steam supply saves up to 80 million cubic meters of natural gas per year.
At Delfzijl the latest increase in bio-steam supply is produced by waste processing company EEW Energy from Waste, which has been supplying bio-steam to the chemical park since 2010. In 2017, the use of sustainably-produced steam was first increased when energy provider Eneco commissioned its converted combined heat and power (CHP) plant at Delfzijl, which provides both electricity and steam from renewable biomass. At Hengelo the bio-steam is supplied by Twence, also a waste processing company, and is based on the bio-content of the waste as well waste wood.
Nouryon also set up a unique green energy purchasing consortium with DSM, Google and Philips, all of which consume a substantial amount of power in the Netherlands.
By working together the consortium negotiated and signed two long-term power purchase agreements that enabled the construction of two wind farm projects – Bouwdokken and Krammer. These wind farms came online in 2018 and 2019 respectively, and have a total capacity of over 140 MW, which is enough to power approximately 140,000 households.
The Rocky Mountain Institute’s (RMI) Business Renewables Center, a leading independent authority on sustainability, says the consortium is among the earliest examples of aggregated corporate demand successfully participating in clean energy markets worldwide. Nouryon is using the green energy chiefly to produce chlorine, caustic soda and ‘green’ hydrogen at its site in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
Meanwhile, the company is also targeting energy optimization as part of its efforts under Industry 4.0, the name given to the trend of increased usage of automation and data usage in the manufacturing industry such as advanced analytics, artificial intelligence, robotics and the Internet of Things (IoT). In 2018 Nouryon implemented its ‘e-flex technology’ at its Rotterdam. The new technology, which wass developed in-house by employees from the site and the company’s energy and digital technology teams, allows automatic adjustment of chlorine production in line with electricity supply fluctuations. For example, production may be ramped uip when there is a temporary oversupply on the grid, or limited at moments of energy scarcity (lack of wind of solar power). 
While ‘e-flex’ provides Nouryon significant savings in energy costs, the flexibility – both in chemical production and electricity generation – will also help Transmission System Operators (TSO) to balance the grid. Today, we experience an increasing shift towards renewable energy globally, but nature is unpredictable. Only balancing with the generation-side of electricity is not enough any more, also the demand-side might might need to managed in accordance with energy supply fluctuations.
How does the e-flex technology work?
  • Step 1: Large variation occurs in electricity generation from renewable energy sources such as wind and sun affecting the pricing on the short term electricity markets. To help balance the grid, energy providers want to reduce or increase the power consumption if needed.
  • Step 2: The planner at the factory decides how much flexibility can be used for e-flexing purposes.
  • Step 3: If an e-flex opportunity occurs and there is planned flexibility available, the plant will reduce or increase energy consumption through ramping down/up demand by automated steering on an individual cell level.
  • Step 4: When the e-flex opportunity is over the plant returns to normal production.