U.S. Metalcasting Industry is Committed to Greater Energy Efficiency and Environmental Sustainability
Green initiatives are a hot topic. From the new administration’s plans for alternative energy to Hollywood touting the environmental practices of studios and production companies, everyone, it seems, is looking for a “green” angle.
Now as much as I love the metalcasting industry, we’re far removed from the glitz and glamour of celebrities promoting environmental activism. And that’s probably the reason our focus on environmental issues often goes unnoticed. The American Foundry Society and the metalcasting industry are committed to greater energy efficiency and environmental sustainability in an economically responsible manner.
The metalcasting industry is an integral part of the global energy-production chain. In addition to traditional uses for castings in oil and gas production, castings are essential to renewable-energy sources and more energy-efficient vehicles that demand high-strength, lightweight parts.
We’re at the forefront developing components for renewable energy, including wind-turbine hubs, bedplates, and gearbox housings, along with other complex cast parts that support this rapidly growing industry. Castings for other renewable-energy sources range from pumping equipment and turbines for biopower to generators, pumps, and condensers for solar-energy systems.
The U.S. metalcasting industry also is a leader in energy-efficient processes, reducing energy consumption 45% in the last eight years. For more than a decade we’ve partnered with the U. S. DOE on research such as the Energy-Saving Melting and Revert Reduction Technology project, which reduces energy consumption through improved melting efficiency, innovative casting processes, and better instrumentation and controls. These efforts are a sharp contrast to the metalcasting industries in many developing countries, which use antiquated, labor-intensive methods that are significantly less energy efficient and produce more greenhouse-gas emissions.
The U. S. metalcasting industry has a long history of environmental responsibility. Metalcasters have been recycling scrap into new products for thousands of years, capitalizing on the fact that metals are among a select number of materials that can be recycled indefinitely without losing their inherent properties. Today, American metalcasters recycle millions of tons of discarded scrap metal annually into a wide range of new products. In fact, approximately 75% of all materials are recycled.
These efforts not only reduce waste, but contribute to energy efficiency. It requires 95% less energy to make castings out of recycled metals by reducing the energy demands for mining and refining.
Another growing trend is the recycling of metalcasting sand. Much of the 100 million tons of metalcasting sand used annually is typically reused through many production cycles. However, some six to 10 million tons are discarded annually and much is recycled into products including asphalt, concrete, and Portland Cement as well as topsoil, mulch, and compost.
Our industry looks forward to working with the government and other stakeholders in developing a balanced approach to energy efficiency and reducing carbon emissions. We encourage an approach that mitigates environmental impact while protecting and maintaining the U.S. economy, manufacturing, competitiveness, and innovation.
A white paper on environmental accomplishments, “U.S. Metalcasting Industry Provides Environmental and Safety Improvements,” is available at www.afsinc.org/whitepapers.
Edited by Kenneth Korane