The Prospect for Zero-emissions from Gas Pipelines

In 2021, at the UN Climate Conference in Glasgow, the United Kingdom, 100 nations agreed to reduce emissions of the greenhouse gas methane by 30 percent by 2030. The United States and the European Union were especially important parties to the agreement. The new mechanical seal “CobaDGS” from the Freudenberg Business Group EagleBurgmann shows how the 30-percent goal can be achieved. The seal eliminates the emission of methane gas from pipeline compressors used in the transportation of natural gas. According to one calculation, if Freudenberg were to exclusively provide CobaDGS for pipeline compressors instead of conventional seals, the switch would eliminate a volume of methane that is as damaging to the climate as about 10 million tons of CO2. We are achieving these annual reductions gradually, and we will first reach the target fully in 2040.

During stoppages, the seals used in methane compressors are also susceptible to harmful contamination, which is why operators generally release the enclosed natural gas into the environment. The auxiliary compressor “RoTech Booster” from EagleBurgmann protects seals from contamination during stoppages, making it unnecessary to continue draining off the greenhouse gas. A full 650 units are in use worldwide, eliminating the equivalent of about 2 million tons of CO2 annually. By 2040, the amount of savings per year could reduce the greenhouse effect by the equivalent of about 10 million tons of CO2.

Less Energy, More Climate Protection

Determining the potential for energy efficiency and reducing facilities’ CO2 emissions – these are the objectives that “Be energy efficient,” or Bee, is pursuing. During the year under review, Bee’s energy-efficiency experts have developed a flexible approach to consultation to meet the individual needs of each facility: The Bee Basic Analysis of four to six locations collectively identifies early potential for reductions and measures that can be executed quickly, with little investment. For the Bee Advanced Analysis, a team of Bee specialists travels to one site and examines its production processes and supporting systems. This results in facility-specific proposals such as the use of variable speed compressors, an efficient compressed air-drying system or systematic shutdown management. With Bee Assist, energy-efficiency experts guide the facilities as they expand production and optimize their energy supplies and provide quick help with decision-making. The Bee Academy – a comprehensive online training program on the fundamentals of energy management and energy efficiency – rounds out the offerings. The approach is catching on: About 25 facilities have already completed the basic or advanced program. The potential for energy savings averages 25 percent. Extrapolated to the Freudenberg Group’s total energy consumption, this represents enormous potential for CO2 reduction and cost savings – a win-win for both the climate and the balance sheet.

Solar on the Roof – Emissions Down

Leaving the roof of a new production building empty and unutilized in Nisku, Canada? That was out of the question for Freudenberg Oil & Gas Technologies. Instead, about 640 solar panels found their way onto the roof. With the help of high-performance photovoltaic systems, the site has been able to cover about 12 percent of its energy use on its own since early 2021. This is reducing CO2 emissions by 157 tons per year, which corresponds to the energy consumption of 23 single-family homes. This has made Freudenberg Oil & Gas Technologies in Nisku one of the first production facilities in the province of Alberta to directly integrate solar into its daily operations. In all, the roof surfaces of the new buildings are expected to reduce the site’s annual electricity and natural gas consumption by about 30 percent.

Short paths for sustainable raw materials

Freudenberg Sealing Technologies produces more than a billion sealing rings annually at its Oberwihl plant in Germany, with a steadily improving climate balance sheet. In 2019, the plant was designated as a model site for the Group-wide initiative “Be energy efficient.” The conversion of the Oberwihl heating system stands out among the numerous measures that the plant has taken to improve its energy efficiency. The system is being converted to use woodchips; a renewable material abundantly available in the Black Forest. It is also a waste product that the wood industry wants to market. The installation of a second wood-burning boiler, including an automatic filling system, has made good progress. It is scheduled to begin operation in 2023. The installation of a cogeneration unit is being examined as well; it would cut the use of fossil-based heating oil by more than 95 percent. The wood heating system in Oberwihl is publicly funded, which accelerates amortization. The bottom line: Investments in climate protection pay off when relatively long time frames are taken into account. Additional assistance comes from the unbiased views of independent energy experts who are very knowledgeable about funding mechanisms in different regions.

Everything Points to Green

According to the latest study from its National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM), the United States generates more plastic waste than any other country. At the same time, its major consumer goods companies are increasingly promising to promote sustainability. Freudenberg Home Cleaning Solutions is the first and only company in its market segment to sign the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Global Commitment Plastic Pact, which focuses on the reduction of plastic packaging. The company has three clear goals to achieve by 2025: raise the recycling capacity for plastic packaging to 100 percent, use at least 25 percent recycled material in its plastic packaging, and reduce the proportion of new plastic in packaging by more than 20 percent. Even today, durable products account for more than 90 percent of the Freudenberg Home and Cleaning Solutions portfolio. In turn, it offers customers sustainable products that stay out of the waste stream for some time. To avoid plastic waste, the company is steadily cutting back on packaging and is turning to cardboard and recyclable mono-materials as films.

Green Electricity from PPAs: A Look at Costs and Climate

Green electricity, that is, electricity from renewable sources such as wind, solar and waterpower, has a double payoff: On one hand, for the climate: Gases harmful to the climate are not released when it is generated, in contrast to electricity from coal-fired power plants. For another, it can pay off financially – when it is obtained through power purchase agreements, or PPAs, and the price of electricity is set in advance over the regular contractual period. Freudenberg already covers five percent of its global energy needs with green electricity from PPAs, and the percentage is rising. Martin Skrobisch, who heads the “Purchase Green Energy” project, puts the cost savings at 40 million euros. “Purchase Green Energy” is part of the overarching “Sustainability drives Climate Action” project. Still, the demand for green electricity greatly exceeds the supply, Skrobisch says, especially in Europe and America and increasingly in other parts of the world.  Fast action is needed when an interesting project presents itself. The latest example is the PPA covering the supply of solar electricity from Tramm-Göthen, where Germany's largest photovoltaic park to date was built during the year under review. On an area equivalent to 347 football fields, 420,000 solar modules generate about 172 megawatts of electricity annually. The financing of this megaproject was facilitated by a purchase contract for all of its green electricity over a period of ten years. The agreement was concluded by Freudenberg and automaker Volkswagen on one hand and the electricity provider RWE on the other. PPAs are crucial to the decarbonization of industry and the expansion of renewable energy – not to mention the attainment of Freudenberg’s climate goals.

Sustainable Technology with 1,000 Possibilities

The Freudenberg Group’s Evolon is a sustainable textile fabric with a unique production process and more than 20 applications, with more on the way. Evolon is made at the Colmar site in France, home to about 60 employees of the Freudenberg Performance Materials Business Group. The product is sold in Europe, Asia, North and South America, and South Africa, among other countries worldwide. Its special characteristic: Not just the technology, but the product itself is becoming more and more sustainable. It consists of endless threads – so-called microfilaments – made of polyester and polyamide that are separated, intermingled and re-constituted under high-pressure water jets. This produces a textile with a dense, compact fiber structure without the use of a binding agent or solvent. Since 2003, Freudenberg has been using its own processing system, which re-uses water multiple times and cuts down on its overall consumption during manufacturing.

The development of Evolon with recyclate from used PET bottles is another milestone on the road to greater sustainability. In the early 1990s, the Freudenberg Group was one of the first companies in Europe to recycle used PET bottles. Today, Freudenberg recycles about 7 million PET bottles into polyester nonwovens, making it one of the world’s largest recyclers in the field. By recycling PET bottles, Freudenberg is using waste as a raw material, reducing the amount of incineration and alleviating the pressure on landfills. At the same time, the substitution of recycled polyester for primary materials has led to the conservation of natural resources.

One square meter of the textile contains about 6,000 kilometers of microfilament, which is produced in just a few minutes – much faster than the time frame for conventional textiles. With Evolon New Generation from Freudenberg Performance Materials, the textile fabric is even more durable. This has led to new applications, such as its use in bed linens and packaging, along with applications in the automotive and electronics industries.  Evolon’s technology and the Freudenberg facility in Colmar have been awarded several certificates recognizing their environmentally friendly processes. The validation in part came from the OEKO-TEX Institute and the MADE-IN-GREEN label, which certify sustainable processes, safe working conditions and the absence of harmful substances.