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GREEN CHEMISTRY

 
Green chemistry is at the heart of our company. We use bio-based materials to supply our customers with the most environmentally-friendly and safe products, which combine high performance with ready biodegradability.
 
Our key technology is the chemistry of molecules derived from vegetable oils and animal fats. We use state-of-the-art facilities to both develop and produce our wide range of oleochemical products. Ambitious investment programs are in place at each of our factories, which enable us to develop our own innovative production technologies.
 

RESPONSIBLE SOURCING

Almost all of the raw materials we use in our production processes are bio-based, originating from both vegetable oils and animal fats. 
 
The most important renewable raw materials Oleon uses are animal fats, rapeseed oil, palm oil, glycerine and to a less extent sunflower oil, castor oil and coconut oil. For palm oil use, Oleon has been a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) since 2007 and supports the organizations rules and guidance. We provide our customers with options for buying both RSPO Mass Balance and RSPO Segregated certified palm oil based products.
 
Oleon plays an important role in the transition to a circular economy as we add value to by-products of many different production processes. For example, we split fatty acids from tallow (animal fat) coming from the production of meat and are also one of the world’s largest glycerine refiners, a by-product of the biodiesel industry.
 

INNOVATIVE SOLUTIONS

Innovation based on molecular engineering is the key to our current and future position as the leading oleochemical company in Europe. In recent years, Oleon’s R&D department has developed a wide range of environmentally-friendly oleochemicals, including a range of technically high-performance lubricating oils, non-VOC solvents and a range of biosourced polyols for polyurethanes sealants and roofing.
 
Our current R&D strategy is focused on developing partnerships with customers. Rather than just selling standardized products, we use our dedicated sales organization, flexible manufacturing capabilities and extensive R&D resources to offer products and services which are tailor-made to specific customer requirements. An illustrative case study on the development of bio-based roof cladding is presented on the next page.
 
Oleon is also introducing life cycle analysis of our products according to the “cradle to gate”principle. Together with ACDV (Association Chimie du Végétal – French Association of Bio-based Chemistry) in France, we are currently cooperating on the development of a life cycle analysis guide for chemicals based on vegetable sources. Our future aim is to include eco-conception in our innovation strategy: developing new products that have an even lower impact on our environment and add value to the applications of our customers.
 
 

 

PRESERVE THE PLANET

 
We depend on the living world for almost all our raw materials. This makes the preservation of our planet particularly relevant for Oleon. Nevertheless, our production processes are also dependent on non-renewable natural resources. By following the Responsible Care Policy, a world-wide commitment by chemical industry to continually improve its Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) performance, we strive to make our impact as small as possible.
 

Energy & Climate

Our production processes require thermal energy for generating optimal process conditions. Steam is our primary energy carrier, which we mainly generate on-site with gas-fired steam boilers. We also have significant cooling capacity and compressors at our production sites, which are important consumers of our purchased electricity. Oleon mainly uses electricity from the national grid. Our production unit in Emmerich also generates electricity using a gas fired co-generation unit.
 
The figure below gives an overview of total energy consumption for the past 3 years, allocated to total annual production volume. Our total energy consumption performance improved by 27%, from 1,50 MWh / tonne produced in 2012 to 1,09 MWh / tonne produced in 2013. This significant performance increase is the result of our increase in production volume, the deployment of various energy efficiency investments and the implementation of our energy management system according to the ISO 50001 standard. A typical energy efficiency investment in our installation is optimization
of heating/cooling of our in- and outgoing product streams through heat exchangers.
 

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Our total CO2-emissions, allocated to production volume, show a similar trend. Both our direct emissions, resulting from the combustion of fossil fuels in our own installations, and indirect emissions from purchased electricity, show an improvement compared to last year. This performance increase of 18% is directly related to our total energy consumption performance, with the lower relative consumption of natural gas as the main cause.
 
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WASTE MANAGEMENT

At Oleon, we mainly produce biodegradable non-hazardous waste streams. We first investigate the possibilities for internal recuperation for every type of residual material. When this is not possible, recycling companies are contracted to give our waste materials a high-grade final destination. This way of working resulted in a recycling rate of 92% for our total waste production in 2013. 80% of this recycling rate is use for energy valorization, from which biogas production through fermentation is one of the most important. In the graph below, the division of our waste streams towards valorization destinations is presented.
 
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The opportunities for valorization of waste are strongly region-specific. At our European production sites, a valorization rate of close to 100% has been achieved. However, no valorization options are available yet at our site in Malaysia due to the absence of certified waste recycling companies. As a result, a small fraction of our waste (8%) has to be removed to a landfill.
 

WATER CONSUMPTION & TREATMENT

We recognize that access to potable water is a growing worldwide concern. We take care to efficiently use this resource and minimize the impact of our waste water on the environment. The figure below gives an overview of the different water sources used at Oleon production sites.
 
 
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Surface water is mainly used for cooling in our production processes. After use, this water is discharged directly back to the same water source. With the exception of some vapour losses, the net water extraction can be considered negligible. When designing new plants and in renovation projects, preference is given to closed-loop cooling circuits to further reduce water consumption.
 
The figure below gives an overview of our water consumption of the past 3 years, allocated to our total annual production volume. We improved our water consumption from 15,60 m3 / tonne produced in 20128 to 10,19 m3 / tonne produced, a decrease of water consumption by 35%. The main reasons for this improvement is the increased production volume, which results in a more efficient use of water, and several process improvements leading to the installations
consuming less water.
 
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Water used directly in our production processes is treated on-site or through a municipal wastewater treatment plant. The efficiency of our wastewater treatment plants is continuously monitored and optimized when necessary.
 
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WORK TOGETHER

 
Our employees are our most important assets. We strive to provide a safe, healthy and motivating working environment in which everyone’s skills and competences are respected and valued. We offer opportunities to learn new skills or further develop competences, creating sustainable employment for both new graduates as well as senior employees.
 

WE HAVE IDENTIFIED 3 THEMES IN OUR HUMAN RESOURCE (HR) POLICY:

          1. SAFETY CULTURE

          2. SUSTAINABLE EMPLOYMENT

          3. SUSTAINABLE RECRUITMENT

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SAFETY CULTURE

Health and safety are top priorities at Oleon. Our objective is straightforward: to strive TOGETHER towards ZERO accidents.

We believe a safe working environment for both our own personnel as well as our on-site contractors is one of the foundations of a sustainable company. Improving safety culture is a continuous process, in which both the employee and the management share responsibilities. 
 
The figure below gives an overview of our two accident frequency indicators of the past 3 years, expressed per million hours worked.
 
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FG 1 (Frequency grade 1) is the lost time accidents (LTA) related to one million of hours worked. FG 2 (Frequency grade 2) is the lost time accidents (LTA) and accidents without lost time but with medical treatment, also related to one million of hours worked.
 
In the past year, we focussed on training sessions to improve our safety culture and increased our safety standards. We also implemented Management Safety Visits (MSVs) into our safety policy during 2013, in which managers visit operational employees at the workplace. In 2013, 68 MSVs took place. The main objective of these visits is to make both the management and employee more aware of the effect their behaviour has on safety. By further developing our efforts towards more safety awareness by all our employees, we are convinced of further reducing our accident frequency indicators.
 

SUSTAINABLE EMPLOYMENT

We are proud of our strong and stable company culture. Our working conditions, secondary benefits, training opportunities and focus on personal attention are valued highly by our employees. This is reflected in the consistently high results of our Engagement Survey, our high retention percentage (47% of our employees have been employed at Oleon for more than 10 years) and the award we have recently received for being one of the most attractive companies to work for in Belgium (Randstad Award). Our workforce composition, age and seniority distribution for 2013 are displayed in the table and figures below.
 
 
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Our ambition is to provide sustainable employment for all our employees. We have therefore incorporated this theme into our Lean improvement program and are currently focusing on competence-based training programs to increase the job mobility of our employees. During 2013 every employee received an average of 22,4 hours of training. Another important aspect is the employability of senior employees. Together we try to find job roles or tasks which best fit experience and personal preferences; an example of this is rearranging work schedules to reduce night shifts for our senior employees. Finally, we try to stimulate a healthy lifestyle for our employees through sport and recreation activities.
 

SUSTAINABLE RECRUITMENT

As a leading green chemistry company, Oleon paves the road toward a sustainable bio-based economy. This is an important asset to attract job seekers and new employees.

We realize our future success and evolution depends, in large part, on our ability to recruit and retain talented people. Building partnerships with schools and universities is already common practice within Oleon; we also have a steady presence of full- and part-time trainees and PhD students working at all our production sites and research & development centres. In this way, we create a win-win situation: Oleon is guaranteed the availability of future employees, while educational and research institutions benefit from our expertise in green chemistry.

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