We want our products to be safe over their full life cycle and while being used as intended – from research, production, marketing and use by customers to disposal.
The business area in which H&R operates, the production of crude-oil-based specialty products, is a very particular one. We currently manufacture fossil fuel-based products that are used in a wide range of industries. This makes it all the more important for us to live up to our responsibility toward the environment and our neighbors, as well as our business partners and employees, and to manufacture products that are safe to use and are also as environmentally friendly as possible. The conservation of natural resources and the use of environmentally friendly and safe production processes that save energy are an absolute must. This is why, throughout the H&R Group, it is the joint responsibility of all employees to constantly search for opportunities to reduce the environmental impact of our processes, products and services, as well as the environmental impact within their own working environment. Therefore, wherever it is feasible and appropriate to do so, we design our production processes and processing facilities in accordance with the latest technology and in such a way as to conserve resources.
With our three-pillar strategy, we have taken the first step toward moving from primarily fossil-based raw materials toward more sus- tainable solutions. The first projects implemented, such as our hydrogen electrolysis system in Hamburg, are set to be followed by further innovation projects. By creating hydrocarbon compounds on the basis of green CO2 and green hydrogen, we are aiming for no less than the transformation of the chemicals industry and the conversion of our product portfolio to bio-based or synthetic products. Project names such as CO2NVERSION and NextGate describe our innovative character and, as winning projects in the 2019 “Living Labs for the Energy Transition” ideas competition, they have a real chance of receiving significant funding.
Our products are used in a vast range of industries and in almost all areas of day-to-day life, for example, in the food and packaging industries, but also in the cosmetics and pharmaceutical sectors. In the food industry, for example, cheese rinds are coated with paraffin to prevent the cheese from drying out. The packaging industry has various uses for paraffins, including coating the inside of Tetra Pak containers. Medical white oils are used in cosmetic products such as creams and ointments. Since our products also come into direct contact with people in the end products in which they are used, it is particularly important that they are harmless and non-hazardous to health over their entire life cycle. Scientific findings have shown that crude-oil-based raw materials have less allergenic potential than other natural products. What is more, our cosmetic products only use highly refined mineral oils and microcrystalline waxes that meet the purity requirements that apply to medication. As a result, and based on the scientific knowledge currently available, the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is of the view that mineral-oil-based cosmetic products do not pose any health-related risks to consumers. Having said this, our efforts to create bio-based and synthetic products pays tribute to the fact that our customer industries increasingly require these products of us, while expecting the same characteristics as they are used to from traditional petroleum-based products.
On the one hand, we guarantee the safety of our products by modeling all product development and testing processes in our laboratory data information management system (LIMS). On the other hand, we apply international standards such as Advanced Product Quality Planning (APQP) and standardized internal approval processes. If a product does not comply with the technical or statutory requirements, or is not consistent with the customer’s specifications, it is not approved.
Products are only delivered to the customer once every single requirement has been met. One example of viewing a product throughout its entire life cycle can be seen in the automotive sector, for example. The use of label-free plasticizers, such as in car interiors, requires low-fogging products that are characterized by the fact that they emit neither odors nor other fumes containing residues.
In recent years, we have also concentrated on developing products that meet the highest quality standards and, once incorporated into the end product, help to protect the environment. These products either offer an alternative to products containing environmental pollutants or, by virtue of their use, help to protect the environment. For example, the white oils produced in our refineries are used as components in pesticides to improve the yield of renewable raw materials. Products made of domestic timber varieties are weatherproofed using our paraffins. Their use renders intensive deforestation unnecessary. In the automotive industry, our innovative plastic products are increasingly being used to substitute metal parts. The resulting weight reduction helps to reduce vehicle fuel consumption even further. At the same time, the amount of energy used in their production is much lower than for comparable metal components.
Nevertheless, the production process at our production sites in Salzbergen and Hamburg generates residues. By using our propane deasphalting facilities, as part of a cost-effective and environmentally beneficial process we can convert these residues into crude-oilbased specialty products, such as paraffins and asphalt for use in the road-building industry. These are sold through our NordBit joint venture with the Hamburg-based company Mabanaft. In 2020, the residues from our refineries were increasingly being reused by other refinery operators as raw material known as cracker feed. This approach reflects our efforts to use our R&D work to reduce the percentage of by-products and/or products that are ultimately incinerated to the greatest extent possible.
We apply the standards set forth in the European Union’s Regulation on the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH). At a local level, we also joined the REACH Hamburg skills and support network back in 2014. The network supports regional economic players in complying with their duties and obligations under REACH and, at the same time, serves to establish structures that strengthen the REACH-related skills of all parties involved, promoting the efficient implementation of the regulation in the process.
For 2020, we are not aware of violations of legal provisions, requirements or labeling obligations. However, we cannot fully rule out the risks inherent in operating industrial plants (including risks arising from our refineries and our products). For example, in order to ensure that both the sites and their neighbors are protected, we operate our own plant fire brigades and/or are in close contact with the local emergency teams. Regular drills ensure smooth cooperation.
Niels H. Hansen has directed the fortunes of H&R GmbH & Co. KGaA since mid 2019 as the sole managing director.
Which projects will you be concentrating on in particular this year and next?
NHH We had to take a step back from some important projects in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. We will now turn our attention back to these. One project that is particularly important to us and that we will pursue in 2021 is the manufacture of green end products. We will be building a pilot facility for a power-to-liquid process at the Hamburg refinery that will allow us to produce green wax and e-fuels in a climate-neutral way using internally-produced hydrogen and biogenic carbon. We will also be pushing ahead with the real-world laboratories that enable us to test new green technology in practice, for example at the Salzbergen site.