Environmental Assessment of silicon production in europe: Current situation and future scenarios
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Silicon is an increasingly important element in our society with a wide range of applications. Future prospects indicate a continuous increase in silicon demand, after decades of growth. Simultaneously, the whole ferroalloy industry has been a subject to changes over the last years, where the increased demand in general has been handled by emerging markets due to economical incentives. This, in turn, has forced the European silicon industry to face larger portions of low-cost imports, leaving the industry very sensitive. The fact that silicon production is an energy demanding and carbon intensive process, has encouraged the need of a thorough review of the environmental repercussions the present and future silicon industry place on the environment. This accounts both for the increased demand and possible shifts in market share. In this report, the total greenhouse gas emissions associated with the present and future European silicon production and consumption has been studied. Additionally, global emission rates for the whole silicon industry have been found in order to see European emissions in perspective. The tool chosen to answer these questions was Environmental input output analysis. The building of a multiregional input output (MRIO) table was also undertaken to be able to include inter-regional trade flows and ease the implementation of such a large scope. Sector disaggregation and the building of an external foreground system were done to further adjust the MRIO table for the analysis of the silicon commodity. In addition to the analysis of the present emissions levels, four scenarios where undertaken. This included three market share scenarios, and one technology improvement (energy recycling) scenario. Base year for the study was 2006, while future prospects were analyzed up to year 2030. Europe in general, while France and Norway especially, was found to have good environmental performance compared to the rest of the world on average. Global greenhouse gas emissions initiated from silicon production in 2006 was found to be about 20 megaton, but Europe represented 12% of the emissions only. This was despite that Europe accounted for 23% of the total silicon produced worldwide. Globally, electricity generation presented the largest share of emissions initiated from the silicon production, while in Europe, the direct emissions accounted for the dominating part. Towards 2030, with the prospected increase in silicon demand, the emissions were found to be around the triple of what was seen in 2006. Still, variations were seen in the scenarios. Generally, where Europe inherited a relative large portion of the market share, the emissions were lower due to the relief of production in countries presenting lower environmental performance. Largest relative improvement was seen if the best market share scenario was implemented together with technology improvements. Then, in the best scenario and global implementation of energy recycling, annual reductions in greenhouse gas emissions was seen to be about 17%. Even if some uncertainties were related to the result, these should not fully distort the trend and magnitudes of the emissions found to be initiated by the present and future European and global silicon production.