The International Magnesium Association (IMA) announced in 2010 the establishment of a new award to recognize companies that are playing an active role in reducing the magnesium industry's carbon footprint and that exemplify the industry's commitment to environmental responsibility. The IMA International Environmental Responsibility Award is presented each year at the IMA Annual World Magnesium Conference.
The award(s) are presented based on the achieved and documented reduction of carbon dioxide equivalents within the calendar year preceding the Annual World Conference. It is intended to include all aspects of the magnesium industry from primary production through to end-user industries. Judging will be conducted by an international panel of experts.
The 2014 Environmental Responsibility Award was presented to RIMA Industrial SA, Primary Magnesium Production Process. After presenting the paper "RIMA's Process: Green Magnesium From a Fully Integrated Plant" during 2011 IMA Annual Conference in Prague, German carmaker AUDI AG and RIMA Industrial decided to make a complete Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of RIMA's primary magnesium process. PE International, a German consultancy for sustainability, conducted a comprehensive LCA that evaluated the environmental impact of the RIMA magnesium process, addressing not only the production process itself, but also the cultivation of eucalyptus, as well as the production of charcoal from wood used during magnesium production. The study provides a cradle -to-grave inventory for magnesium ingot production at RIMA. All resources consumed and all emissions that occur during material extraction, production of electricity and fuel, as well as the production of auxiliary materials are considered in addition to all on-site resource consumption and emissions at RIMA. Secondary data concerning upstream processes, such as national power grid mixes or the extraction of raw materials, comes from PE International's 2011 GaBi database.
Although lightweight materials help to reduce fuel consumption and emissions during a vehicle's service life, primary production of lightweight materials typically entails a negative environmental impact. Despite recent improvements, the CO2eq emissions for the production of primary magnesium are generally higher than during production of other structural metals. The IMA Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of Magnesium in Vehicle Construction Study concluded that the weighted result for greenhouse gas emissions of the Pidgeon process is presently 25.8 Kg CO2eq /Kg Mg. For magnesium production from Electrolysis, the same IMA's study estimated the greenhouse gas emissions in an average of 17.8 Kg CO2eq /Kg Mg.
The RIMA Process Study showed that RIMA's plant greenhouse gas emissions are only 10.1 Kg CO2eq/Kg Mg due to massive usage of charcoal and renewable sources of electric power. In addition, RIMA has replaced SF6 for a mixture SO2 + N2 in its magnesium production lines since 2008. The study concluded that the carbon footprint of RIMA's entire primary magnesium process is better than the worldwide average of aluminum plants and in a range of 39% to 57% of the carbon footprint of other primary magnesium producers.
RIMA noted that their magnesium plant is unique among all other primary magnesium producers in terms of Global Warming Potential (GWP) for the following reasons:
- Relatively low consumption of energy in the critical stage of the reduction reaction to produce magnesium ( 7600 Kwh/MT)
- Low emissions from the reduction furnaces
- Usage of environmentally friendly and renewable resources such as charcoal and hydroelectric power
By taking data from the company's LCA study, AUDI AG , RIMA and PE International presented the paper "Factors Influencing CO2-Emmissions in Cars of Tomorrow: Requirements for Lightweight Materials with Spotlight on Magnesium" at the 2013 IMA Annual Conference. The presentation showed that a complete life cycle of a car component made with RIMA's magnesium can beat an equivalent component made of primary aluminum and even compete with components made entirely from secondary aluminum, taking 200,000 Km as a life basis for a vehicle. Therefore, in spite of producing less than 3 percent of the world's total magnesium output, RIMA's magnesium plant may be taken as a model for the whole magnesium industry, especially in relation to the intensive usage of environmentally friendly and renewable resources, suggested the company.