Lead industry contribution to a sustainable future is key theme at record-breaking ILA conference
Delegates to the 18th International Lead Conference (Pb2013), in Prague, heard how lead and its products are making a significant contribution to a sustainable modern society.
Over the two days (20-21 June) of the conference The Future of Lead: Meeting the Challenges and Seizing the Opportunities run by the International Lead Association (ILA), a record number of delegates heard speakers highlight the importance of the lead industry economically and socially and the continuous improvement made by companies to reduce worker exposures and minimise environmental emissions.
Opening the first session, Geert Krekel, Managing Director of ILA member Campine, said: “The lead industry’s current image is outdated and undeserved. It already has a good story to tell in terms of its positive contribution to society – it just needs to start telling it more proactively and confidently.
“It is an industry that is focused on the responsible management of a material that delivers huge benefits in its existing applications and has significant potential to contribute further to a sustainable society.”
Some of the key messages delegates heard were:
– More than 95% of lead-acid batteries are now recycled
– There is an increasing global demand for energy storage solutions with lead-based batteries at the forefront
– 75% of new vehicles in Europe are equipped with Start-Stop systems using advanced lead-based batteries
– Advanced lead-acid and UltraBatteries are reducing CO2 emissions and play an important role in renewable energy storage for the wind and solar energy industries
– Architectural lead sheet is ‘the new eco building material’
– Regulatory challenges are significant, but companies continue to find innovative solutions to improve health, safety and environmental performance.
Presentations by analysts Helen Matthews (Wood MacKenzie,) and Huw Roberts (CHR Metals) highlighted significant and sustained growth in the global lead industry over many years, driven largely by increasing demands for energy storage solutions – a trend which is forecast to continue into the future.
Michel Baumgartner, of EUROBAT, explained how in Europe the lead-acid battery continued to be the dominant chemistry. However he highlighted that fuel economy and CO2 reduction targets will play a big role in future technologies adopted by car manufacturers.
Today more than 75% of new vehicles placed onto the European market are equipped with Start-Stop systems using advanced lead-based batteries. “We can therefore not speak anymore of new markets and technologies, but of a very advanced mass market already,” added Mr Baumgartner.
Dr David Wilson, President of the Advanced Lead-Acid Battery Consortium (ALABC), spoke of the important work of the ALABC in supporting the development of these advanced batteries and of the impressive performance expected from the next generation of batteries.
It was a message emphasised by Kevin Smith, of the East Penn Manufacturing Company, who demonstrated how the benefits of advanced lead-acid and UltraBatteries extend beyond CO2 emissions saving in vehicles and played an important role in renewable energy storage for the wind and solar power industries.
Delegates also heard from several speakers on a range of practical actions being taken by the lead industry to continuously improve the management of lead in respect of health and the environment. This ranged from a presentation on the independent environment and health research sponsored by the lead industry through the International Lead Zinc Research Organization (presented by Dr Craig Boreiko of ILZRO) to innovative waste management technology solutions reported on by Mark Stevenson of Ecobat Technologies Asia.
Community engagement was recognised to be an important activity for the lead industry and Richard Deane, of Teck, explained how the Canadian lead producer had partnered with the local community in Trail, British Columbia, to lower the blood lead levels of children and tackle wider social health issues as well.
Lead’s environmental credentials were a recurring theme throughout the event, and ILA’s Dr Alistair Davidson, demonstrated the major contribution made by recycling, reporting that more than 95% of lead-acid batteries were now recycled, helping to make lead the most recycled major commodity with a recycling rate of 75% for the lead industry as a whole.
The environmental benefits of another product, architectural lead sheet, were also highlighted by Doug Weston, CEO of the UK Lead Sheet Association, who concluded that lead should be considered as the ‘new eco building material’ based upon its low carbon footprint and lower lifecycle costs compared to other products.
Against this positive backdrop the lead industry also recognised the increasing regulatory pressures it faced globally. Dr Steve Binks, ILA Regulatory Affairs Director, said that the industry would be able to meet these challenges so long as it continued its existing efforts to go beyond regulatory requirements by adopting a culture of continuous improvement in EHS controls.
Co-operation with organisations such as the Blacksmiths Institute, who presented on legacy pollution challenges in developing countries, will be important in rebuilding trust in the lead industry and the work undertaken by the International Lead Management Center described by Brian Wilson was a tangible demonstration of this commitment.
Summing up ILA Managing Director Dr Andy Bush said “The success of Pb2013 confirmed the event’s place as the leading forum for the lead industry and its users around the world to discuss the future for lead. This year’s event clearly demonstrated that while the lead industry will undoubtedly face many challenges in the coming years, it is committed to demonstrating its value to society and indeed further enhancing this through a variety of continuous improvement initiatives.”
Notes to editors
About the ILA
The International Lead Association is a membership body that supports companies involved in the mining, smelting, refining and recycling of lead. The ILA represents the producers of about 3 million tonnes of lead and almost two thirds of lead production in the western world.
With offices in the UK and USA the ILA provides a range of technical, scientific and communications support and is focused on all aspects of the industry’s safe production, use and recycling of lead and helps funds bodies such as the International Lead Management Center and the International Lead Zinc Research Organization.
ILA also supports the Advanced Lead-Acid Battery Consortium, which manages the research, development and promotion of lead-based batteries for markets such as hybrid electric vehicles, start-stop automotive systems and grid-scale energy storage applications. Visit www.ila-lead.org