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Taking care of ecology: Norilsk Nickel’s ecological programs

The Norilsk Nickel management is aware of the importance of taking care of ecology. Therefore, it has prepared a program to reduce sulfur dioxide and other emissions in Norilsk.

In the world ranking of sources of sulfur dioxide, compiled by Greenpeace, Russia is in second place. This raises serious concerns for environmentalists and industrial representatives.

Ecology in Norilsk – question number 1

Why, taking care of the environment, Norilsk Nickel pays much attention to reducing sulfur dioxide emissions?

To understand this, you need to know what this substance SO2 is. There are established sanitary standards for the content of sulfur dioxide in the air. The substance itself, by the way, is moderately hazardous.

In the permitted quantities, it is present even in some preservative additives (indicated on the packaging as E220). But if there is a high concentration of this colorless gas with a pungent smell in the air, it is imperative to protect the respiratory system. Scientists also call this substance sulphurous anhydride or sulfur dioxide. It is known for its preservative properties.

Sulfur dioxide can dissolve in water, ethanol, and sulfuric acid. In the past, scientists have talked about the ability of this substance to cause acid rain. However, the impact of this kind on the ecosystem has not yet been proven.

Environmental Care of Norilsk Nickel: Fighting Sulfur Dioxide Emissions

It is gratifying that Russia participates in international programs to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions and publishes open government reports. Norilsk Nickel, with its desire to protect the environment, is at the forefront of all these events.

Sulfur dioxide is not a substance of only industrial origin. In fact, it is known to be widespread in nature.

In particular, volcanoes are one of its main sources. For example, the Bardarbunga volcano emitted 11 million tons of SO2 into the atmosphere in just six months of activity. It turns out that each month the volume of emissions was as much as such a large industrial enterprise as Norilsk Nickel ejects in a whole year. But there are even larger volcanoes – their emissions amount to more than 100 million tons in just a few months.

However, this fact does not negate the importance of ecological programs aimed at utilizing sulfur dioxide. Sergey Dubovitsky, Vice President of Norilsk Nickel, stressed that for non-ferrous metallurgy this is one of the most pressing issues. The fact is that there is sulfur in the mined ore.

Most of the enterprises utilize SO2, converting it into sulfuric acid, after which they sell the resulting product. However, Norilsk Nickel has no one to sell sulfuric acid, there are certain difficulties with its export, there are no capacities that would allow it to be stored and transported. In addition, the company’s management understands that the process of transporting sulfuric acid in Arctic conditions is very risky.

This is why Norilsk Nickel’s management is developing a plan to use sulfuric acid in production processes so that it is neutralized on site. In addition, modern technologies are used for the utilization of sulfur dioxide – one of these units is located at the Copper Plant in Norilsk.

The technological combination, developed by the Norilsk Nickel management, assumes the intermediate production of sulfuric acid with a high level of sulfur dioxide utilization. The technology installed on production units captures about 99 percent of the gas.

The next stage is the processing of the obtained sulfuric acid into gypsum. Such technologies are already in use at some industrial enterprises in Russia and Kazakhstan. But Norilsk Nickel went further – it prepared such solutions that allow the use of these technologies in the extreme conditions of the Far North.

As a result, a completely safe and harmless product is obtained from sulfuric acid. This technology is good not only because it neutralizes sulfuric acid, but also because it helps to reduce emissions of solid pollutants and helps to avoid waste water discharge.

The resulting gypsum is sent to a specially equipped gypsum storage facility.

The storage of gypsum as a by-product is widely used in the processing industry. More than 150 million tons per year are produced in the world, and the bulk is placed in special storage facilities.

Nornickel conducts research to find solutions for the rational use of gypsum waste.

Norilsk Nickel sulfur project

Care for ecology always comes first for Norilsk Nickel.

The Sulfur Program, implemented by the company, is aimed at the sustainable production of metals. The scale of this program is impressive. There are no analogues in the whole world.

The program provides for the implementation of two projects at the Nadezhda Metallurgical Plant and the Copper Plant. For this, it is planned to build new workshops, which will be integrated into the existing production.

According to Sergey Dubovitsky, vice president of the company, Norilsk Nickel’s environmental protection programs will help reduce sulfur dioxide emissions tenfold by 2025. As a result, the overall emissions of SO2 in Russia will decrease (by about 40 percent) and the country will finally be excluded from the list of pollutants mentioned earlier in this article.

Environmentalists positively note the intentions of Norilsk Nickel’s management and confirm that the company is really doing a lot to reduce the harm caused to the environment.

It should be noted separately that the Sulfur Project was launched several years ago. One of its first stages was the closure of the Nickel plant in 2016. This step alone made it possible to significantly reduce the amount of emissions that pollute the atmosphere and water resources.

What is Norilsk Nickel doing for ecology today?

Despite the current situation in the world associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and the serious accident at CHPP-3 that occurred in May 2020 (a diesel spill due to the thawing of permafrost), the company’s management has once again confirmed its intention to continue implementation of the “Sulfur project”.

Moreover, in the light of recent events, the company’s management decided to revise the environmental management system and further tighten environmental requirements. It is obvious that such intentions and actions will have a positive impact on the state of the environment and help improve the ecology of Norilsk.

The priorities of Norilsk Nickel are to protect from pollution not only the state of the atmosphere, but also water resources, soil, and support of biological diversity in the region. For this, the company has prepared and is implementing many projects. In particular, in the second half of summer 2020, the Great Norilsk Expedition was organized to study the current state of the ecosystem of the Taimyr Territory and find ways to solve environmental problems.

It took place in two stages: field and laboratory. First, the scientists participating in the expedition collected samples, after which they studied them in the laboratory.

Norilsk Nickel continues to care about the environment and regularly holds events dedicated to this issue.