Sustainable offering for customers

Our contribution towards overcoming the world’s environmental challenges is made through our products and services, which enable our customers to run environmentally sound, profitable and socially acceptable businesses.

Outotec’s customers are increasingly looking for safe solutions to produce more with less. Our solutions utilize primary resources efficiently, and minimize ecological impacts by reducing energy and water consumption, and producing less waste to landfill and emissions – while also cutting operating costs. We additionally offer solutions for processing secondary resources and turning side streams into saleable products. Our ecological handprint – which we define as our positive overall impact in terms of sustainability – is considerably bigger than the ecological footprint of our own operations and our suppliers’ operations. 

A plant’s sustainability can be significantly enhanced through life-cycle services and technological improvements. Based on site-specific performance assessments, Outotec identifies areas for improvement and offers solutions that will optimize plant performance and return on investment. Equipment upgrades, plant modernization projects, and our long-term operation and maintenance services all ensure that plants will run smoothly, safely, and efficiently, with minimum environmental impact at all times.

Our long-term targets relate closely to our handprint – we aim to offer more sustainable technologies and services to our customers, resulting in less harmful impacts on the environment. We measure our efforts to mitigate the impacts of our products and services by our R&D work and the proportion of recognized Environmental Goods and Services (EGS) in our order intake (G4-EN27). Our reporting related to our offering covers Outotec’s premises and employees as well as our products and services at customers’ operations.

We also used four additional indicators of our own to measure our achievements in 2016:

  1. The share of Environmental Goods and Services (OECD criteria) in our order intake, where we have reached our target (over 90%) for several consecutive years.
  2. 20% reduction in CO2 emissions achieved through the use of Outotec’s metals-related technologies compared to industry averages. These technologies include: our ferrochrome process; copper flash smelting; alumina calcination; ceramic filters; the co-generation of electricity in the ferrochrome process; and as of 2016 also coated titania anodes; and TankCell 300 flotation cells. Emission reductions are directly proportional to energy savings. In 2016, the emissions avoided by the metallurgical industry through the use of seven Outotec technologies amounted to 5.9 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent (2015: 5.5 million) (G4-EN19). This equals 27% reduction.
  3. Implementation and commercialization of our water recycling concepts. In 2016, we piloted our first electrochemical water treatment and recycling solution.
  4. Reductions in the use of fossil fuels resulting from Outotec waste-to-energy plants, with targets of 60 MWe and steam boilers that equal 60 MWth. The plants ordered in 2015 were under design and construction in 2016, but not yet in operation.  

Reduction of energy consumption (G4-EN6) 

In 2016, Outotec partnered with Thermo-System GmbH, whose low-energy drying method will be used with our waste-to-energy and sludge incineration technologies in Outotec’s thermal processing solutions. 

Municipal energy and sewage treatment companies will benefit from Outotec’s thermal processing solutions, because instead of composting the sludge, they can recover valuable nutrients and sell the resulting materials to fertilizer producers. Low-energy drying technology is typically used to pre-dry the sewage sludge or wet peat before incineration, using waste heat from district heating as an energy source. Part of the pre-dried sludge will be mixed with the incineration ashes to produce valuable raw material rich in phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium for the fertilizer industry.

In 2016, Outotec also continued building seven new waste-to-energy plants in the United Kingdom and Canada, based on bubbling fluidized bed combustion technology. This method is a proven solution for turning waste into energy and disposing of solid or liquid by-products. To ensure that strict emission limit values set by municipal and federal governments are met, we can apply a combination of gas cleaning measures adjusted according to the fuel designated in the overall process design.

Enhancing our offering

R&D plays a central role in reducing the environmental impacts of our customers’ operations. In technology development, Outotec particularly focuses on increasing resource efficiency – aiming to reduce energy and water consumption, emissions, effluents and waste.

Our R&D activity describes the extent of mitigation of environmental impacts of our product and services (G4-EN27). Some 66% of our R&D expenditure was related to initiatives targeting improved metals recovery, energy saving, waste minimization, emission reduction and/or safety improvement.

Efforts to mitigate the environmental impacts of our products and services 2016 2015 2014
R&D expenditure, EUR million 55.2 61.2 56.9*
R&D expenditure, % of sales 5.2 5.1 4.1*
Number of new patent applications filed 57 93 62
New national or regional patents granted 630 531 370
Number of patent families 786 824 749
Proportion of EGS in order intake, % 90 90 90

*) restated figure

Outotec is a core partner in the European Institute of Innovation and Technology’s (EIT) Raw materials Knowledge and Innovation Community. This platform aims to make raw materials into a major strength for Europe by boosting competitiveness and the attractiveness of the raw materials sector. Outotec participates in 20 related projects, aiming to create new business by upscaling technologies, while also generating new educational programs and strengthening Europe’s infrastructural network. Outotec also participates in the technical secretariat of the EU’s Operational Environmental Footprint Sectoral Rules (OEFSR), piloting for copper.

Outotec took over the Presidency of the European Sustainable Phosphorus Platform (ESPP) in December.

Read more about our representation in industry associations and commitment to external initiatives.

Progress on product development

In 2016, Outotec successfully delivered a new type of mine backfill system together with operational, maintenance and management services to OZ Minerals for their Prominent Hill copper-gold mine in South Australia.  

We also introduced a cost-effective modular product for water treatment – the Outotec® EWT-40. This Electrochemical Water Treatment process is highly automated, and able to handle contaminated wastewater and effluents even in remote mining and metallurgical operations.

Our recently published Outotec Flotation Modernization Guidebook reveals how Outotec’s services can improve grade and recovery, enhance process stabilization and process control, boost capacity, reduce maintenance costs, increase availability, cut energy consumption, extend wear life, and enhance safety.

Partnerships and networks with universities and research institutes also form an important part of Outotec’s product development. In 2016, such cooperation focused on developing a minimum impact concentrator concept, aiming to minimize harmful local environmental impacts. Special attention was paid to isolating process waters from adjacent water systems, thus closing industrial water cycles.

Another focus area for our R&D work has been the development of monitoring, controlling and optimization capabilities for complex industrial processes, together with digital platform development, through several programs run in collaboration with various research partners. 

Our policies:

  • Outotec Technology Policy
  • Outotec Intellectual Property Rights Policy