News Article

Managing Products From Cradle To Grave

Alex Robertson, Safety, Health and Environment Officer at DuPont EKC Technology, describes how to protect the environment from the dangerous chemicals used in semiconductor production

Protecting the environment from the dangerous chemicals used in semiconductor production is a concern for people, governments and for the industry itself. DuPont EKC Technology's facility in Scotland provides chemical cleaning solutions and has taken up the challenge. Alex Robertson, Safety, Health and Environment Officer at DuPont EKC Technology, describes his company's approach.

Nasty chemicals cannot just be flushed down the drain these days. National governments and international organisations such as the European Union have created new legislation to protect the environment, citizens and workers from contact with dangerous substances.

The DuPont EKC facility site in East Kilbride has been committed to best environmental practice since moving to the area in 1984. The site's most recent owner is DuPont, headquartered in California. The US company purchased EKC's previous parent company ChemFirst in November 2002 and the unit is now part of the DuPont Electronic Technologies business unit.

EKC introduced a formalised Environmental Management System (EMS) in 1996 to conform to the principals of the British Standard BS 7750. Early the following year, the site registration changed to the international ISO 14001 standard. Recognising the business benefits of supplier environmental responsibility, EKC produced its first verified environmental statement under the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) Regulation (EU Regulation 761/2001). EKC became the 27th company in the UK and the smallest site in Scotland to verify and register in the EMAS scheme. These standards strengthen EKC's commitment to protect the environment.

This commitment provided the platform for the site to present a strong application to the Vision in Business for the Environment of Scotland (VIBES) award committee - the highlight of EKC's recent environment compliance success (Figure 1). A diverse panel of judges from both the private and public business sectors assessed several key areas of EKC's practice. These areas included the EMS, employee participation and the business benefits that affect promotion of best practices relating to significant financial savings for the site.

To demonstrate environmental awareness, specific projects were presented to the judges to communicate EKC's commitment to the environment.

Firstly, EKC has been driving a 'cradle to grave' product stewardship approach in recognition of the impact of the use and disposal of petroleum-based chemicals that predominately feature within the sector. This system primarily analyses the impact of the product from raw material to finished product disposal detailing environmental impacts at each stage of a product's lifecycle. This has led to a programme of minimisation in the use and waste of petroleum-based chemicals within the production processes and a move towards the development and use of aqueous blends where possible.

To help achieve this objective EKC has instigated a proprietary Advanced Aqueous Chemistry (AAC) programme with the key goal of developing new cleaning formulations that significantly reduce a product's 'environmental foot print' and associated hazards. AAC is designed to develop products with the following characteristics:

* High water content (80%Wt+)
* No volatile organic components
* No toxic solvents
* No carcinogenic/reproductive concern chemicals
* Reduced environmental footprint - readily biodegradable, will not bio-accumulate
* Reduced process temperature requirements - 30-45¡C, reduced risk to operator and lower cost of ownership to customer
* Reduced customer process time, increased throughput, overall better productivity to customer
* High selectivity and low sensitivity to customer products
* Compatible with customers existing equipment - no capital expenditure to customer

Key tasks were employed to further squeeze out petroleum-based chemicals from production processes. These tasks included targeting the reduction of raw material waste from production that have been associated with improvements in Quality Control (QC) and Quality Assurance (QA) practices, and improved equipment maintenance.

Within QC, a typical example has been the reduction of analytical process waste by incorporating an in-line analysis capability. Where QC practices require a product sample - historically these have been deemed contaminated after analysis - improvements in QA, together with stringent traceability of recaptured samples, has shown that the material could be reused within product specification. Additionally, a drive within the maintenance programme away from preventative methods to condition and reliability based techniques has improved product efficiencies, with less process downtime and associated wastes.

A second example of the site's environmental impact improvement and management presented to the judges was EKC's energy efficiency programme. During 1999, the site saw energy use increase due to expansion of manufacturing and office capacity by more than 100%. Production output increased steadily by more than 300% over this period. Energy consumption has been converted to a measurable factor where the ratio of energy (kJ) to produce 1kg of product is monitored.

This measure has shown a concentrated reduction from an average 7000 kJ/kg per product to an average of 3000 kJ/kg (Figure 2).

Hardware installed to assist in achieving this reduction included:

* Installation of a variable speed drive air compressor (50% greater energy efficiency from previous device)
* Sodium and high efficiency lighting (50% more efficient, 50% more life span than fluorescent)
* Passive motion sensors on lights have been installed in low occupancy areas
* Controlled environment air conditioning
* Warehouse heating management and rapid control warehouse door (efficient heat capture in the warehouse)

Overall, an improvement in employee education and awareness on energy efficiency has also been a key contributor within our programme (office equipment shutdown after use, timer switches on non-essential equipment, purchasing policy of energy efficient rated amenity appliances, etc.). The site is also committed to the use of green energy - where it subscribes to 10% of total site electricity from a renewable source.

Through the EMS there is better understanding of the energy consumed on site and the impact fossil fuel generated electricity has for CO2 emissions. EKC aims to expand its energy efficiency programme this year to complete our feasibility study on a wind powered generator electricity source for the site. A further report will focus on the actual CO2 emission that may be attributed to all areas of the business, including a feasibility study on carbon sequestration.

DuPont EKC Technology's commitment to the environment has been fundamental in receiving the VIBES award. This award joins a growing list of recognition in this area for the company:

* The Lanarkshire Business Awards - Environmental Category Award 2003
* Scottish Power Energy Efficiency Award 2004 - recognising specific efforts to minimise energy consumption and maximise production output by use of 'greener alternative' resources and process equipment
* DuPont Sustainable Growth and Development Award 2004 - recognising efforts to develop products that have little or no impact on the environment

Fig.1: DuPont EKC Technology received the Scottish National and Regional, Vision in Business for the Environment of Scotland (VIBES) award for 2003 (left to right: Liz Bogie, chair VIBES steering group; Paul Murphy, customer services manager, DuPont EKC; Sean Tait, facilities engineer, DuPont EKC; Linsey Mcgillivray, VIBES co-ordinator).

Fig.2: Time series for the ratio of Joules of energy used to kilograms of product.

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