Creating Chemistry with H20
By Anthony Clymo 11 February, 2014
BASF's Anthony Clymo tells us why it is important to set goals & strategies in water savings & emissions
While agriculture is the biggest user of water worldwide, industry accounted for a substantial portion: approximately 19% of total global water abstraction. With hundreds of production sites around the world, BASF, the world’s leading chemical company, accounts for 0.29% of that amount. In addition, the chemical industry has traditionally been responsible for large scale emissions to water.
This creates an excellent opportunity for BASF to have a positive impact by engaging in sustainable water management – and it starts with a clearly defined strategy and goals.
Setting Goals & Strategy
BASF has set long-term global goals for the responsible water use along the entire value chain. The company aims to reduce emissions to water of organic substances & nitrogen by 80% and of heavy metals by 60% by 2020, compared to a 2002 baseline. Additionally BASF set a goal, by 2020 to reduce the use of drinking water in production processes by half compared with 2010, and establish sustainable water management at all sites in areas of water stress.
“Having a clearly defined strategy of why, what and how to tackle the water issues is essential to achieving targets.”
Having a clearly defined strategy of why, what and how to tackle the water issues is essential to achieving targets. However, as many as 60% of the world’s largest companies do not yet demonstrate a long-term strategy to deal with water scarcity, according to KPMG’s Sustainable Insight 2012.
For this reason, BASF set out a Group directive with globally applicable standards, and introduced sustainable water management at its production sites in water stress areas, which are regions where water is a scare resource and where more than 60% of the available water is abstracted by humans.
As of the end of 2012, a total of around 22% of BASF’s production sites were located in water stress areas, and around 6.9% of the total water supply was abstracted from these areas. Thus, being able to identify and have an effective water strategy in place is essential. China has been recognized as a water stress area in terms of water quality and availability. Therefore, BASF now follows global programs to introduce a more sustainable water management system at production sites in Greater China. In 2011, the company began a review of water protection concepts at its Greater China production sites. In 2012, several of its sites already conducted wastewater risk assessments. This project will be expanded to all production sites in Greater China by 2015.
BASF in China
The greatest impact on water conservation can be realized locally at the production sites. BASF reduces and recycles water as much as possible in order to withdraw less from supply sources at its sites in China, as it does at other sites around the world. In 2012, a wastewater reuse project was launched at the integrated production site BASF-YPC Co. Ltd., a 50-50 joint venture between BASF and China Petroleum & Chemical Co. where more than 3 million tons of chemicals are produced annually. With the launch of water reuse projects in 2011 at two sites in Shanghai, a significant quantity of wastewater and rain water has been reused in 2012.
BASF uses water in the manufacture of products, for cooling and cleaning, and as a means of transportation, which are all associated with high demand for water and energy. Throughout the year in 2012, for example, BASF sites in Greater China have also taken a number of measures to save water or improve waste water management:
- BASF site in Shanghai is using waste industrial soda as part of the raw materials for its waste water treatment plant.
- One site in Qingdao optimized its process of waste water pre-treatment and replaced some raw materials in 2012, which resulted in reduction of sludge by 27,000 kg per year.
“By 2015, the company will review its water protection concepts at all production sites and invest around €4 million in improving wastewater analytics at its Ludwigshafen site in Germany. ”
The company’s commitment to tackling water issues has strengthened over time. By 2015, the company will review its water protection concepts at all production sites and invest around €4 million in improving wastewater analytics at its Ludwigshafen site in Germany. In order to continue improving the processes and identify further potential for environmental protection, especially in water use, an active network of experts around the world has been established.
BASF also cooperates with local stakeholders to develop action plans. Under the “Our Waters” Initiative, BASF was among the six first companies to commit themselves to a series of actions to improve water management. The initiative is driven by the China Entrepreneurs’ Club in cooperation with the World Wide Fund for Nature and The Nature Conservancy.
Benefits of a water strategy
All these efforts, linking between water issues and the company’s long-term viability, have helped the company make progress towards its ambitious water sustainability goals. In 2012, emissions of nitrogen and organic substances to water from BASF productions sites worldwide have been reduced by 88% and 76%, respectively, compared to 2002.
“BASF’s efforts in tackling water issues are not limited to those within BASF … the company extends it to its supply chain by analyzing water risks and offering innovative solutions to close the water supply gap.”
Many of the water challenges can be addressed with appropriate water-related solutions. BASF’s efforts in tackling water issues are not limited to those within BASF. Instead, the company extends it to its supply chain by analyzing water risks and offering innovative solutions to close the water supply gap. With chemistry, BASF offers its customers a broad portfolio of solutions that help them to purify water, use it more efficiently and reduce pollution in areas where water is scarce. For example, the company started up a new wholly-owned plant to produce chemicals for water treatment at its site in Nanjing, China, in 2012 in view of the rising demand for sustainable solutions to improve water and waste water management in China.
While global collaborative efforts are required to be able to effectively address water issues, a global corporation can also make significant contributions. Pursuing these strategies not only support local goals and regulatory compliance, but can help level the playing field for a more sustainable chemical industry overall.
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