Last updateFri, 27 Nov 2020 2pm

Climate Neutral Chemical Site

Lubricant specialist Zeller + Gmelin with energy management and compensation for a climate-neutral CO2 balance
The chemical company Zeller + Gmelin has achieved climate neutrality at its headquarters in Eislingen, Swabia. The basis for this was previously created in numerous energy saving projects. We spoke to Gülen Ak about the CO2 footprint, implementation and certification. The head of quality, environmental and energy management, sustainability and climate neutrality has been with the lubricant manufacturer for 24 years and has also been a DQS auditor for chemical companies and corporations for many years.

Ms. Ak, you have already done some homework on energy efficiency in the run-up to the climate neutrality balance, what kind of projects were they?

In April 2019 we started to introduce an energy management system according to ISO 50001:2018. This energy and environmental standard is used to continuously improve our energy performance. Further potential savings were also identified and implemented by the highly value-added and recognised KEFF check in accordance with the funding guideline "Regional Competence Centres Network Energy Efficiency (KEFF)" of the Baden-Württemberg Ministry for the Environment, Climate and Energy. After implementation of all relevant standard requirements, the DQS issued us a certificate according to ISO 50001 in November 2019.
The platform for our climate balance was the certified energy management. In the meantime, we had already stored a lot of data, energy indicators, production indicators, etc. there, in compliance with the law and with a view to constantly improving our energy performance and risk assessment. This was then implemented as part of an energy planning process.
Right at the outset, how are you doing on the balance sheet?
For a manufacturing company, we have achieved quite a good figure. Overall, we have calculated CO2 emissions of 4,763 tonnes for 2018 at the Eislingen site, which is 8.68 tonnes per employee. This puts us in a medium good range.
How important is the environmental idea to you?
In my 24 years at Zeller + Gmelin, I have implemented the environmental idea right from the start and then introduced the environmental management system according to ISO 14001 in 2007. So for thirteen years we have continuously defined and pursued environmental goals, always keeping an eye on energy. Until last year, the topic of energy was still covered by environmental management, but with the new ISO certification according to energy management criteria, we now have our own new standard for this, namely ISO 50001:2018. Most ISO standards are now based on the "High Level Structure", a uniform basic structure for management systems, and this makes implementation in an integrated management system much easier.
Wasn't all this then rather new territory for you?
Not at all. As an external DQS auditor for quality management, environment and energy and occupational safety, I have been very familiar with these topics for years. In this function, I carry out audits at large chemical companies, among others. So it was nothing new to me, of course, when we launched the topics of climate neutrality and energy management at our company. And it is also an advantage to know both sides, namely that of the auditor and that of the company to be certified, even though I am of course not allowed to take on both roles at the same time.
How did you then determine the CO2 footprint in concrete terms?
We proceeded in accordance with the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, which is the internationally recognised standard for determining the CO2 balance. The external institute of "Fokus Zukunft" supported us in this. We then entered all energy-relevant parameters in tabular form in a special database. This way, heat, fuel and electricity consumption were recorded, as well as upstream emissions, business trips, commuting, waste, waste water and much more, right down to consumables in production and in the offices. The recording is precisely regulated in so-called scopes, i.e. areas of application from 1-3.
Wasn't that quite time consuming?
As already mentioned, our big advantage was that we use an integrated management system and were able to determine a large part of the required data such as energy consumption, production figures, etc. at the push of a button. This enables us to map the issues of quality, the environment and energy in an integrated system, which means that we have a process that we can consider across the entire value chain, depending on its relevance.
What was your biggest challenge?
The business trips and the associated overnight stays were a real challenge. I was supported by my colleagues from the HR department. It was a Sisyphean task to determine all the data on all business trips in retrospect for 2018. It was important which means of transport was used, where was the overnight stay, etc., as this has to be taken into account differently in the energy balance. As a result of this research, we will in future install an integrated travel management system in order to receive the travel data at the push of a button. In terms of the energy balance, the trips have a marginal 7 percent. The low travel expenses result mainly from dealing with digital media. Many use digital media and video conferencing and save some business trips.
To what extent are you supported by your colleagues in your projects?
The entire workforce was informed extensively about the project via the intranet, as well as from the division managers. On my tours, I was asked again and again by a large number of colleagues that they found such a project really great. I also always received full support from the management. After a short time, I received inquiries from the foreign subsidiaries as to when I would implement energy management at your facility so that they can make a climate balance sheet.
The energy balance of the commuting is remarkable here. This is reflected only with 8 percent. Many of our around 500 employees at the Eislingen site live nearby and come by public transport, bike or even on foot. After all, that's 140 employees, i.e. a third of the workforce.
In order to promote sustainable ways to work and in the course of climate neutrality, we built a modern bicycle garage for 50 bikes on part of the parking spaces in 2019. This means that 10 percent of the workforce can securely park their bikes.
Can you name a few lighthouse projects?
A lighthouse project was certainly the modernization of our entire cooling water system in order to reduce fluctuations in the flow temperatures. At the same time, this has led to an increase in the recooling capacity for the cooling water, i.e. better use of the energy from the returning condensate and cooling water. This is a very sustainable aspect for us, as the system works very energy-efficiently with a high degree of efficiency. This also includes energetic optimization through the use of heat pumps in order to make better use of the residual heat, for example for heating domestic water.
In addition, we now use the waste heat to cool the raw materials or to air-condition the production halls with a much more pleasant air climate. I would also like to mention our modernized compressor system, which also makes a contribution to digitization and Industry 4.0 at Zeller + Gmelin.
Another important project was our “computer-controlled dosing system for UV binders” installed in 2017. At the time, that was an example of excellence within the framework of the “100 companies for resource efficiency” initiative. And last but not least, our route optimization within logistics. In 2017, for example, it was determined which routes the internal transport covers every day. Of the 135 mostly electric forklifts that make up over 80 percent of our vehicle fleet, 50 percent of the journeys have been reduced. Of course, this has a direct impact on the CO2 balance.
In the certificate of climate neutrality, compensations are listed, what does this mean?
In order to make the location climate-neutral despite the complex energy-saving projects, we have also acquired offsets. I had a say in which projects we want to use the compensation for. It was important to me that the projects are run by non-profit organizations with good standards and in countries in which we are very active with subsidiaries. We specifically support biomass and wind power projects in Turkey, India and China - and one thing is definitely certain, even if we have an even better carbon footprint for 2019, we will continue to support these projects. Incidentally, we had already supported such projects before we even tackled the issue of climate neutrality.
And what's next?
All locations are now certified according to quality management, even in China. The headquarters in Eislingen, England and France are also certified according to the environmental standard. But all other locations meet the Zeller + Gmelin environmental requirements.
We have a single system for all locations, which means that they all use identical processes, procedures, documents, forms, etc., and are monitored and certified according to the same specifications. Our common vision is reflected in our environmental and climate goals. These are then broken down to the individual locations and consistently implemented. In our CIPs, too, no distinction is made between “normal” suggestions for improvement and suggestions in the environmental and energy sectors; we want to push that even more.
We are currently building a new building for our laboratory under climate neutrality aspects. For example, passenger elevators are operated with photovoltaics and when going down, electricity is even generated and fed back. In the future, we are planning to use even more green electricity in order to sustainably reduce the climate balance. In addition, ongoing energy-saving projects, for example in production, will have a positive impact on the balance sheet. And finally, we could still realize potential savings using climate-neutral energy sources.


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