Water is a limited resource in most parts of the world. We may tend to think that the situation is more or less the opposite in geographical areas like Norway and the Amazon region in Brazil. The reality, however, is that it is not that easy. Hence, even a company that has based its existence on water for almost 110 years, needs to be systematically more focused on water quality and water supply.
“Water is an important resource also where we have a lot of it. It is in our own interest and there is also increasing demands from the world around us,” says Giuliana Larice of Hydro’s Corporate HSE team.
“In many ways, the acquisition of the bauxite and alumina operations in Brazil was a game changer. With the integration of the Brazilian operations, Hydro now needs to have a much more holistic approach to its environmental strategy,” says Bernt Malme, head of the Corporate Environment department.
On top of their combined agenda are issues like biodiversity and reforestation, waste – how we can minimize it – and, not least, water. Hydro has set environmental targets in all of these areas.
Larice, who has a background from Kenya, Italy, Switzerland and the UK, says that the European Union’s increased focus on resource efficiency has changed the industry’s water- and waste-related challenges.
“We are operating within a new regulatory framework which is more demanding for all companies,” Larice says. “With regards to water, we are now seeing an increased focus on both water quality and water quantity – particularly water reuse.”
Hydro uses a lot of water throughout the value chain. The company has based its operations on hydroelectric power supply since the beginning, almost 110 years ago. Today, Hydro’s ambition for “greener” aluminium production makes renewable energy a necessity.
In Pará, Brazil, we use water in various cleaning processes and for transportation of bauxite in the 244-kilometer-long pipeline from Hydro Paragominas to the Hydro Alunorte alumina refinery in Barcarena. Although the water in the pipeline is reused by Alunorte, we still need to be mindful of the amount used, as water resources in the mining area are not unlimited, despite being in the middle of a rainforest region.
In other parts of the value chain, not least in Primary Metal and Rolled Products, we use water for cooling the metal and equipment throughout the production processes and also for wet scrubbing, which greatly reduces the amount of pollutants that Hydro releases into the air.
“It is not enough that we, within Hydro, are confident that our operations are largely located outside of water-stressed areas. We still have to ensure that our use of water worldwide is not wasteful and that we do not significantly impact its quality, as water is our future. It is demanding, because water is part of everything,” Larice says.