Cliffs Natural Resources, a mining and natural resource company, reports that the company’s emissions, energy consumption and water use all increased in 2008, according to its latest sustainability report.
The Cleveland-based company, which is an energy- and water-intensive business, says the report aims to establish baselines within several key sustainability areas including environmental stewardship and sustainable development. Cliffs is in the process of implementing several integrated databases in its Environmental Information Management System (EIMS) that include tracking and reporting of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, carbon reduction projects, air emissions, water effluents, waste generation and disposal, spills, notices of violation, corrective action plans from audits and maintenance of pollution control equipment.
Cliffs’ GHG emissions inventory captures a broad range of emissions sources, such as iron ore furnaces and kilns, coal thermal driers, diesel mining equipment and a wholly-owned power plant. The company’s emissions have increased over time, which reflects the increases in its production, according to the report.
Cliffs’ total GHG emissions increased to 7.96 million metric tons in 2008 from 6.84 million metric tons in 2007. More than 99 percent of the company’s total 2008 emissions were produced through Cliffs’ North American Iron Ore business segment, which burns natural gas or coal in the process of producing blast furnace pellets, according to the report. Total air emissions increased to 1,557 metric tons in 2008 from 1,334 metric tons in 2007.
The most significant emissions at Cliffs’ facilities contributing to regional haze are nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide from process emissions and fugitive dust. The company said it is actively looking for ways to reduce these emissions.
As an example, the Green Production Project at United Taconite, a partnership between Cliffs and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), resulted in several upgrades at the facility, including a retrofit to allow burning of lower-emitting fuels and the addition of new emission control equipment. Estimated environmental improvements include: for each ton of iron pellets produced, there could be a 14 percent reduction in mercury emissions, 30 percent reduction in GHG emissions and 37 percent reduction in emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter, according to the report.
As a voluntary participant on the Chicago Climate Exchange, Cliffs’ coal facilities have captured over 3.5 million cubic feet of coal mine methane from 2003 to 2006. The company said with extremely efficient surface-drilled multilateral wells, up to 90 percent of coal mine methane can be recovered and sold. In 2008, Cliffs recovered 394,000 metric tons of CO2e, up from 227,000 metric tons in 2007.
The company’s energy use also climbed in 2008. Direct energy consumption from coal, natural gas, oil, coke and propane was 44.7 million gigajoules, a 2 percent increase compared to 2006, and indirect energy use was 18.3 million gigajoules, a 12 percent increase since 2006.
Water use also rose in 2008. Total municipal and groundwater withdrawals rose to 3.2 million cubic meters in 2008, up from 1.8 million cubic meters in 2007. The company estimates that its taconite operations reuse or recycle approximately 97 percent of the water withdrawn with typically only excess precipitation water being discharged, according to the report.