Circular Economy Projects
Identifying the social and environmental impacts creates the basis for developing social responsibility.
Our aim is to optimise the core function of the company, making it cleaner and more efficient, and to promote the development of circular economy and innovations on the entire operation area.
In 2020, we mapped out different techniques to capture CO2 from the flue gases of the plant. The study indicated that techniques based on absorption can best be applied to Westenergy’s plant. Different ways to utilise and store CO2 are also analysed in the project. The co-operation partner regarding technical-economic planning in the project is AFRY. The project will continue with analysing the different techniques more thoroughly, and the aim is to create the prerequisites for testing pilot equipment and later launch full-scale operation of the CCS/U equipment with our co-operation partners. The aim of the project is to make Westenergy’s energy production carbon-neutral by 2030.
The aim of the joint project launched in 2020 by Regional Council of Ostrobothnia, an organisation promoting economic growth and welfare in Ostrobothnia, and financed by the European Regional Development Fund, is to develop the biogas production and expansion of the distribution network in Ostrobothnia. The distribution network and logistics were mapped out last year in the project. Promoting the use of biogas is important to Westenergy so that logistics related to our operation can use climate friendly biogas in the future. The project includes different work packets of which one aims to find out whether biogas could be used as auxiliary fuel in Westenergy’s plant.
A CEE4WES project (Circular Economy Ecosystem for Waste-to-Energy Sector) financed by Business Finland and carried out by VEBIC, the innovation centre of the University of Vaasa, describes the waste-to-energy ecosystem and recognises different actors in it. A study on the views of the actors on research, development and innovation needs that are required to achieve the circular economy and recycling goals and to support the success possibilities of Finnish companies in the export market formed an important part of the project. The results of the project were also used in studies on the regulation instruments used in the waste-to-energy sector.
All the employees take part in developing occupational health and safety
On average, four safety observations in a week were reported in 2020.
Our aim is to create a safe and positive work environment where everyone enjoys working. We believe that openness and participation are key elements in developing occupational health and safety, and we have, therefore, aimed to create a safety culture where the employees are motivated to pay attention to safety at the workplace and work methods and to report any defects they observe, no matter how minor.
With the help of different tools, we have aimed to bring the safety culture into everyday work. Our active occupational health and safety committee takes care of updating the risk assessment and introduces places of improvement. Safety moments are a good way to inform the staff quickly, for instance, about new safety equipment or changes in work instructions, and in addition, internal audits and safety inspection rounds are used to improve safety. We were able to avoid occupational accidents for nearly five years but unfortunately, an accident took place during the annual service stop as one of the employees hurt his leg. Accidents and near-miss situations are analysed in a team, and we aim at analysing the causes that have led to such occasions and plan the corrective actions to avoid such occasions in the future.
In 2020, the corona pandemic changed the working life. To avoid physical contacts at the workplace, the office staff started working at home, and meetings and trainings were postponed or organised online. Face masks, hand sanitizers and safety distances became the new normal. Before the pandemic, a guided exercise routine was organised weekly for the staff at the gym of the plant, but all the other well-being events planned for the rest of the year were cancelled and the staff was encouraged to take care of their well-being and health with vouchers that could be used to buy different culture and sports services.
The importance of internal communication rose during the year, and open morning meetings and coffee breaks online became important for the staff and created a sense of solidarity and togetherness. The corona pandemic will continue to pose challenges also during the coming year, but we aim to find ways to support the health and well-being of the staff in this difficult situation.
Training and education of the staff is supported
Employees participated in 72 training days in 2020.
We support employees’ professional development by encouraging the staff to participate in education, training, and networking. The professional interests of the employees and those of the company are discussed annually in development discussions and form the basis of the personal training plan. In 2020, many of the trainings were carried out online which lowered the threshold to participate as taking part did not require travelling. In addition, webinars with various topics became common during the year and provided current information for the employees. In 2020, two members of the maintenance staff completed their vocational qualification degrees.
We are happy to offer students possibilities to gain work experience in the waste-to-energy sector. Last summer, we hired five people to substitute the operational staff, three people to the maintenance team and one student to the office. We also offered summer jobs for three younger students who took care of the green space and cleanliness of the plant area.
We also work with students outside the summer job season. Last year, we hired four students part-time to host visitor groups and to substitute the operational staff as a precaution for the possible staff shortage that could occur because of corona pandemic. Students have also written diploma work with various topics for Westenergy.
Environmental responsibility is at the heart of company operations
We aim to keep our energy production as clean and climate friendly as possible. Last year we were able to see the benefits of the flue gas scrubber, and we are very happy with the results. Because of the scrubber, the levels of Hydrochloric Acid, Sulphur Dioxide and Ammonia are now lower than ever before.
Efficient purification ensures that producing district heat with waste-to-energy is sustainable.
The diagrams below illustrate the levels of Ammonia, Hydrochloric Acid and Sulphur Dioxide in 2018 (before installing the flue gas scrubber), in 2020, and the emission limits outlined in the environmental permit. The diagrams indicate that the levels have lowered significantly and are very far from the limits.
The following diagrams show the results of the continuous measurements of other impurities in 2020.
The levels of TOC, HCl, SO2, NOx, CO and HF are measured continuously,
whereas the levels of Cadmium and Thallium, heavy metals, and dioxins and furans are measured twice a year.
|Emissions in 2020|
|TOC (Total Organic Carbon)||476 kg|
|HCl (Hydrochloric Acid)||168 kg|
|SO2 (Sulphur Dioxide)||1 264 kg|
|NOx (Nitrogen Oxides)||159 136 kg|
|CO (Carbon Monoxide)||9 639 kg|
|HF (Hydrogen Fluoride)||0 kg|
|NH3 (Ammonia)||105 kg|
|Hg (Mercury)||0,303 kg|
|Cd+TI (Cadmium and Thallium)||0,282 kg|
(Antimony, Arsenic, Lead, Chromium, Cobalt, Copper, Manganese, Nickel, Vanadium)
|Dioxins and Furans||0,0000012 kg|
|CO2||79 935 t|
In addition to monitoring air emissions, various other measurements are carried out during the year to ensure that we operate according to environmental regulations. The condensate that is formed in the flue gas scrubber, the surface and ground water of the area, and the water of waste storage drain-age ditches are analysed regularly. We participate in Vaasa’s air quality monitoring program, and the impacts of the air emissions of the plant are analysed with the help of a moss ball research. Additional-ly, the occurrence of an endangered species of a lichen found in the nearby nature reserve is moni-tored regularly by an external observer.
The residues of the plant are also processed efficiently. Boiler ash and flue gas treatment residue (APC) are processed in Fortum’s ash refinery in Pori in southwestern Finland. Salts are removed from the ash, and the remaining part of the ash is neutralised and then landfilled. The consistency of the ash as well as its utilisation possibilities are being studied so that also these materials could find their place in circular economy in the future.
Bottom slag utilisation is a great example of functional circular economy.
The bottom slag, that is, the ash of the plant is processed by Suomen Erityisjäte with an advanced ADR dry-separation method, and metals separated from the ash are recycled. The remaining mineral fraction that resembles aggregate is utilised in ground construction, usually in the dividing layers of roads and field areas. This artificial aggregate can also be used in the production of different concrete elements instead of sand. Bottom slag utilisation decreases environmental stress as it replaces the use and take of natural sand and gravel in infrastructure construction. Recycling metals is also significantly more sustainable than mining ore and refining metals.