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Working with sustainability in the insulation industry

Panel: 2. Sustainable production towards a circular economy

Soeren Nyborg Rasmussen, ROCKWOOL Technical Insulation, Denmark


Insulation in general and specifically stone wool insulation have a truly significant potential on reducing emission of Green House Gasses, thereby playing an important role in our attempts to curb the drastic changes in our climate that we are experiencing. However, industrial processes such as the production of stone wool through the melting stone and recycled material requires large amounts of energy.

Also other resources like water are used in the process. What about waste and where it goes?

ROCKWOOL was one of the first companies to embrace the 17 UN SDGs and has operationalised these into several tangible targets linked to our production footprint: reducing CO2 intensity, reducing waste generation, expanding the circularity offering, improving water efficiency among others.

The company already has a lot of experience working with circularity – using waste products from own processes and other industries to produce new insulation materials. But also here ambitious goals will drive the development and processes much further, as ultimately ROCKWOOL will expand its circularity offering to more and more markets taking back old ROCKWOOL insulation and process this into new materials.

This paper will elaborate on the above and give examples on concrete actions and developments such as:

1) Introducing new melting technology in Norway

Stone wool production is energy intensive, and with the energy traditionally coming from coke, coal and natural gas also a significant emitter of CO2. With new technology the stones can be melted in electrically powered furnaces – this leads to direct CO2 reductions of 80 %, but also additional benefits such as reduction of waste and better possibilities for rework of old/used stonewool. Electrically powered furnaces are relevant where low-carbon power is available, like e.g. in Norway.

2) Taking own medicine, making energy inspections of factories and upgrading the insulation.

There are big potentials for energy saving in the industry – via improved insulation. This is an opportunity for both cost and CO2 saving that is often ignored during the construction and maintenance of equipment in the industry – even on factories manufacturing insulation! Via simple energy audits that identifies and measures heat loss, it is possible to track areas/surfaces where upgrades can be made to the benefit for the owner and the environment.

3) Recycling of old/used stone wool - expansion of circularity offering

Insulation take up a lot of volume and the waste traditionally go to landfill. Now there is an alternative to land fill; stone wool can be recycled, whether it is cut-off waste from an installation or the old used insulation from a storage tank. In more an more countries ROCKWOOL is upgrading its recycling facilities and making agreements with local waste management companies to facilitate the logistics in returning the old insulation.

All of the above initiatives/investments, with the aim of reducing the environmental and climate footprint of the stone wool production.

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Download this presentation as pdf: 2-017-20_Nyborg_Rasmussen_pre.pdf