Environmental protection at Hamburg
The largest Aurubis AG production site and the Group headquarters are located on the Elbe island Peute, only about four kilometers, as the crow flies, from Hamburg’s city hall. The site covers an area of 870,000 m².
Aurubis AG’s Hamburg site is one of the world’s state-of-the-art primary and secondary copper smelters. Approximately 400,000 t of pure copper is produced from copper ores, recycling materials such as scrap, and other various complex recyclable materials. As part of multi-metal recovery, other metals such as precious metals, nickel, lead, and zinc, as well as iron silicate products and sulfuric acid, are produced.
Metal production in the middle of a large city isn’t easy, but Aurubis has committed to managing environmentally sound copper and multi-metal production in this challenging setting. It requires efforts that go beyond legal stipulations. Protecting the environment and the health of our neighbors and employees is, for us, the foundation of a sustainable business using our wide range of experience and abilities. We have to and want to combine the city’s growth targets with the sustainable development of the Aurubis site in Hamburg. With innovative, high-performance technology, supported by the employees’ environmental awareness, we attain exemplary achievements in environmental protection and work on continuous improvement.
The Environmental Protection department at the Hamburg site is responsible for implementing and monitoring all applicable environmental requirements. These include the relevant laws, e.g., the German Federal Immission Control Act (BImSchG), the Recycling Management Law (KrWG), and the Water Control Act (WHG); stipulations in plant permits; Group requirements; and voluntary agreements regarding improvement measures, for instance within the scope of the UmweltPartnerschaft, a cooperation of more than 300 companies and the Hamburg environmental administration to foster environmental protection and mobility-induced air quality in Hamburg.
We operate an environmental management system as an instrument to monitor legally compliant operation and to support continuous improvement. This system is certified annually by TÜV pursuant to DIN ISO 14001 and EMAS. The environmental management system has been part of an overarching integrated management system (IMS) since 2017, which still includes the management systems for quality (DIN ISO 9001) and energy (DIN ISO 50001).
To ensure that facilities are operated pursuant to the relevant laws, extensive measurements are carried out in the scope of environmental monitoring in accordance with applicable technical standards. Due to the high measurement density, up to 10,000 individual analyses are carried out for air and 7,000 for water. Noise and vibration measurements are also taken. Automated measurement procedures play an important role in this process in order to further increase the data density in environmental monitoring, enabling the best possible precautions.
Routine inspections and audits take place in the production areas to ensure they are operated correctly. Understanding and awareness of environmental issues in everyday work are promoted in training sessions for about 1,000 employees annually. Modern digital learning methods increase learning efficiency. The management of the production divisions is kept up to date on new legal developments relating to the environment in separate informational events.
The prevention of fugitive dust emissions and water pollution control were identified as the most important environmental aspects at the Hamburg site. Other key topics include avoiding waste, raising the recycling rate, and supporting biodiversity and low-emission mobility. Improvement measures are derived and implemented based on the significance of these environmental aspects.
You can find detailed environmental information for the Hamburg site in the current Environmental Statement.
Environmental Protection - facts & figures
While considerable improvements were made by installing filters in the chimneys in the early 1990s, additional improvements are more difficult to achieve these days.
Since 2000, dust emissions at the site have been reduced, both specific (-43 g/t of copper output per year) and absolute (-23 t per year). The voluntary emission reduction agreements entered into with the city of Hamburg have always been fufilled.
Our plants already operate using the best available abatement techniques. But a low level of emissions remains, mainly influenced by fugitive emissions. In many cases, appropriate reduction systems are not proven or available on the market with the required efficiency. Despite these challenges, Aurubis plans to continue further reducing especially fugitive dust emissions in the future with tailor-made solutions, for example efficient and demand-controlled suctioning and filtering of building ventilation air at roof openings or utilizing newly developed filter media.
We will invest € 100 million in measures to further reduce emissions in the primary smelter at the Hamburg site.These measures include optimized source extraction, a newly installed procedure for processing intermediates, and the use of state-of-the-art suctioning and filter technology to trap residual dust emissions. After our plans are fully implemented, we will reduce fugitive emissions from the primary smelter by more than 70 %. All of this contributes to our sustainability strategy and makes the location fit for future in the long term.
Due to optimizations in the plant’s internal sewage treatment facility, metal emissions to water have decreased by more than 35 % per ton of copper output and by more than 30 % in absolute terms since 2000, taking into account the normal range of fluctuation. Additional improvements are planned, such as increasing dwell times and enhancing precipitation of the metals.
By using raw materials and energy sparingly, we are acting responsibly towards future generations. From a long-term perspective, the specific energy consumption at the Hamburg production site has been significantly reduced in recent decades, by 41 % compared to 1990.
The more measures that have been implemented in energy efficiency in the past, the more challenging a further optimization is. Moreover, because there are limits to reducing energy consumption and emissions, the improvements being achieved today within the plant boundaries are only marginal compared to previous years. This is despite the same or higher levels of investment, which were already high to begin with. For example, complex recycling raw materials with relatively low metal contents and complex ore concentrates require more energy to be processed. As a result, we focus not only on further increasing efficiency but also on solutions that save energy and thus prevent CO2 outside of our plant – such as the Industrial Heat project in Hamburg with a total reduction potential of up to 140,000 t CO2/a. Furthermore, we are increasingly considering measures to replace fossil fuels with alternatives, for example by commissioning the 10 MW power-to-steam plant. Assuming that 100 % of the power supply comes from renewable energies, this plant alone could cut about 4,000 t of CO2 annually. The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is taking a higher priority in investment descisions as well.
Environmental Protection Measures & Projects
Construction and operation of improvement measures in primary copper production, including extraction of remaining residual emissions at the existing ridge turret.
The measure can reduce fugitive emissions from primary copper production by 70 % when fully implemented. The project is in the first phase of implementation, with the second phase in the preparation stage.
Gradual completion 2020 - 2024
Improvement of NOx separation in the waste gas purification of hydrometallurgical precious metal extraction.
In addition to reducing the NOx load, the new purification concept is intended to further increase the proportion of wastewater produced for reuse and to reduce the volume of wastewater sub-streams requiring treatment.
Further decoupling of industrial and non-fossil fuel waste heat, up to an additional 38 MW from sulfuric acid production lines 2 and 3, and feeding it into the existing urban transmission grid.
This second stage of the Industrial Heat project started in 2018 can additionally save more than 100,000 t/a of CO2.
Prospective target: 2024
Large-scale trial on the use of hydrogen in anode production in copper production.
The aim is to obtain operating parameters for a possible future substitution of natural gas. The measure can save 6,000 t/a of CO2 in the future.
Commissioning target: 2021
Further reduction of the amount of wastewater in acid production.
In addition to the already implemented reduction of the cooling water demand through the decoupling of industrial heat, a further optimization of the cooling processes is planned. In the process, the discharge volume of the existing cooling towers is to be reduced by 500,000 m³/a, fulfilling the necessary conditioning requirement of the cooling circuits.
Prospective target: 2024
Saving potable water by using unused process water for the wet sweeping machines.
The measure will substitute up to 10,000 m³ of potable water per year.
Commissioning: after a test phase in 2020, year-round operation from 2021.
The aim of maintaining our green spaces is to keep them as close to nature as possible. The use of chemical pesticides such as herbicides or insecticides is deliberately avoided. Due to the limited areas available for near-natural use, the possibility of constructing vertical gardens or green roofs is taken into account in the construction plans.
To attract bird species that have special requirements for nesting sites – e.g., in high, exposed locations – we have successfully provided a nesting site for peregrine falcons on one of our smokestacks for several years. Aurubis is a member of the Hamburg initiative UnternehmensNatur, a network and idea platform.
Environmental Protection milestones at Hamburg site
Reduction of fugitive emissions in the primary copper production sector: Step-by-step implementation of measures to further reduce fugitive dust emissions from primary copper production. The project includes efficiency improvements in existing capture systems close to the source, aided by measures to optimize the hall circulation conditions. An additional part is the installation of new aggregates for the low-emission treatment of internal intermediate products. In addition, the gradual installation of a purely demand-driven collection and cleaning system for residual fugitive emissions at the roof is an important part of the innovative design. The roof suction is designed to be extended in steps. A high level of energy efficiency is achieved through the control concept, which is adapted to the actual demand at any given time. The overall measure is expected to reduce fugitive emissions from primary copper production by about 70 %, which would result in an exemplary, clean operation even on a global scale. The project started in 2020. Gradual implementation, first step to be completed in 2022 Investment: €100 million
Electrode steam boiler: The 10 MW electrode boiler generates steam from electricity, particularly at times of surplus electricity from renewable sources. This contributes to grid stabilization within the framework of secondary power control. During the operating phases of the electrode steam boiler, process steam conventionally generated with natural gas can be substituted. This results in an annual CO2 savings potential of 4,000 t/a.
Technical modifications to the contact plant’s acid coolers in line 1. Increase in the temperature level to enable the extraction of industrial heat and construction of an industrial heat pipeline extending to the plant boundary to supply the neighborhood HafenCity East with heat. Preventing the discharge of 12 million m³ of cooling water into the Elbe River annually. Investments of roughly € 22 million.
Replacement of old wet gas cleaning in the concentrate drying drum of the primary smelter RWO by a modern dry filter installation • Reduction in accident risk due to improved ergonomics • 75 % reduction in dust emissions • 85 % reduction in SO2 emissions
Installation of a 60,000 m³/h suctioning system on the secondary smelter’s e-furnace building. Filtering of exhaust air via existing filter.
Commissioning of a steam turbine to generate electricity. The previously unused pressure stage between 60 and 20 bar is made usable with the help of a superheater. This reduces about 5,000 t of CO2 per year.
Commissioning of a modern, steam-heated anode slime press including a sliding off-gas hood to collect all of the thermally induced emissions above the press.
Replacement of the old lead refinery. Approx. 50 % reduction in fugitive emissions due to improved processes with a ventilation concept. Construction costs of roughly € 20 million.
Construction of a storage hall including an enclosed, suctioned crusher for pollutant-laden bulk material in Plant North. Material is now transported via a fully closed system.
Construction of a new filter installation to continue reducing fugitive emissions in the converter area.
Commissioning of two washing towers to remove fluorides and other water-soluble components from the off-gas. The gas flows through the towers from below in a countercurrent to the washing water.
New off-gas collection system for anode furnace and casting machine reduces emissions in the area by more than 70 %. Investment of more than € 7 million.
Enclosure and suctioning of Peirce-Smith converter in the Plant North primary smelter to collect and treat SO2-bearing off-gases from charging processes within the converter hall (house-in-house concept).