Chemical Leasing Toolkit

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Task 7: Define measures to optimize chemical use and processes

In Task 7, the Chemical Leasing team will analyze the options for optimizing chemical use in the selected process(es).

Available benchmarks e.g. BREFs might be considered. For this task it is important to apply the sustainability criteria, which exclude the substitution of higher risk chemicals for chemicals currently used. There are three possible approaches: 

  • optimize consumption of the current chemical
  • substitute the chemical with a less hazardous/lower-risk alternative (“substitution”)
  • optimize and substitute

Ideas for optimization should be evaluated against expected advantages and disadvantages, yielding a list of “most promising” measures. A detailed cost benefit analysis of these measures should be undertaken that includes other savings from the optimization of chemical use. Such savings, for example from a reduction in the use of water, energy and materials and in the production of waste, can be quite significant.

The conveyor belt in a beverage company shown in Picture 1 and Table 4 provides an example. The Chemical Leasing team in this real-life case considered several possibilities to improve the lubrication process, which was using a lubricant dissolved in water.

  • Option 1:  replace the lubricant that is currently used with another lubricant that is equally hazardous/risky but more efficient and that requires less water in its application, leading to a significant reduction of water consumption (up to 50%) and of waste water in the production process. Another benefit of the new chemical is that it can also be used for cleaning the conveyor belt, which provides additional savings.
  • Option 2: replace the lubricant with a dry lubricant that does not need to be dissolved in water and that has no hazardous properties, according to the Safety Data Sheet. Because water is no longer used, no waste water will be generated and no chemicals for water treatment will be required.
  • Option 3: optimize the process by replacing nozzles, tubes and/or other parts if there is any leakage, and in this way reduce consumption of water and of the lubricant currently used.

In its analysis of the investments (costs) and benefits of the three options, the Chemical Leasing team concluded that the investments for option 2 would be much higher than the investments for option 1, but that the economic, environmental, and health and safety benefits would be considerably higher for option 2 (due to less chemical consumption, no water consumption, lower waste water treatment costs, better working conditions, etc.). The analysis showed that option 2 was the most sustainable and sound, and that the investments needed for shifting the lubrication process to the dry lubricant would be paid back in 2 to 3 years. Process optimization, option 3, was considered as well but the savings were less than with the first two options.

As result, the team decided on option 2, noting that option 3 could be done as a supplementary measure if the existing equipment was not changed (in fact, the line was regularly maintained and there was no leakage). The company had 80 nozzles at the target production line, the average consumption of water per nozzle was 5 litres/hour, and the line is in operation 3500 hours/year, so the yearly consumption of water was 1400 m³. This water was saved thanks to the change to a dry lubricant.