In the pandemic year 2020/21, environmental expenditures also declined in keeping with the Group-wide trend toward lower investments; they fell from EUR 35.0 million to EUR 15.3 million. Over the past ten years, cumulative investments in environmentally relevant facilities were EUR 382 million.
Despite the decline in the investment volume, a number of important environmental mitigation projects were carried out at sites in Austria and abroad. They focused on emissions reductions and energy efficiency (including the use of exhaust heat and the expansion of captive production of renewable energy) as well as on the continued pursuit of the decarbonization research and development projects described in the “Climate Action” chapter.
The Steel Division focused chiefly on measures aimed at continually boosting resource efficiency. These action steps permanently lower the use of fossil fuels, the need for electrical energy as well as the need for water to cool facilities.
The work on the legacy pollution clean-up project on the areal of the former coking plant in Linz, Austria, continued during the reporting period. Additional investments concerned new charging stations for expanding in-house e-mobility.
The High Performance Metals Division focused on investments related to energy efficiency. Over and above the comprehensive implementation of certified energy management systems pursuant to ISO 50001 in all production companies, in the business year 2020/21 this division accomplished the following: It optimized its combustion technology; installed new, efficient lighting systems; and carried out various improvements of existent system controls as well as numerous process innovations in production. Cumulatively, these measures generate long-term savings of 85,000 GWh or about EUR 2.4 million.
The division also prioritizes issues associated with the circular economy. Strategic projects are in the process of being implemented to boost resource efficiency and secure supplies of key raw materials. This includes the recovery of alloying elements from production by-products; the creation of closed-loop material cycles (CLMC) with customers; the development of alternative (secondary) sources of raw materials; and the substitution of primary raw materials through secondary raw materials.
The investments of the Metal Engineering Division primarily funded comprehensive measures to lower energy consumption and/or enhance the plants’ captive energy generation. For example, the conversion of a power generation unit in Donawitz to modified sliding pressure operation was completed at the end of the business year 2020/21; this reduces the need to procure third-party electricity by some 6,000 MWh per year. More than 9,000 MWh of additional energy sourced via the plants’ captive generation capacities are obtained annually via cumulative individual measures in the power plant. The optimized converter gas facility, which was brought online at the beginning of the business year 2021/22, now makes it possible to increase the division’s captive production of electricity in its power plant by some 5,700 MWh a year.
Steps to achieve significant energy savings and/or CO2 reductions were also implemented in connection with the sintering plant and other steelmaking facilities. This also applies to other operations such as the manufacture of rails and wire.
Yet other activities focused on optimizing cooling water and waste heat cycles.
The Metal Forming Division increasingly relies on induction instead of gas burners to heat and/or heat-treat strip steel and steel parts. The electrical energy required to this end is generated carbon neutrally in captive hydropower plants and photovoltaics installations. In calendar year 2020, the division’s Böhlerwerk facility in Austria achieved a new all-time high regarding the volume of captive electricity generated: Eighty-seven percent of the required electrical energy are already being supplied by the company’s own hydropower plants. Energy efficiency measures also helped to cut energy use by some 500 MWh. Of this amount, electricity accounted for 260 MWh and natural gas for 20,500 m3. In turn, this helped to avoid about 40 tons of carbon dioxide emissions.