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Environment

A picture of nature and the key message: We are committed to protecting the environment, respecting our neighbours, avoiding harm and contributing to the global reduction of CO2 emissions.

Responsible use of natural resources and consistent contribution to improving the ecological situation of the region form the main focus of our business strategy.

The group has developed a systematic, comprehensive approach to environmental issues that adheres to national and European standards and requirements. State-of-the-art technology, close cooperation between all of the group’s enterprises, a professional team and large-scale investments contribute to significant advances.

We supply shale oil products and energy responsibly: our goal is to reduce the impact on the environment and to support the transition to a low carbon economy.

  • 100 100 %
    waste rock reuse – approx. two million tons annually
  • 56 56
    million euros towards improving air quality
  • 80 80 %
    hydrogen sulphide concentration in urban air reduced by over 80% (over 10 years)

Our main task in the field of environmental protection is to effectively manage the environmental impact of the group’s production operations to ensure the preservation of the environment for the benefit of present and future generations.

For more information about our projects and recent priorities, please read our Sustainable Development and Social Responsibility Report.

The Precautionary Principle

We assess the potential environmental and human consequences of all new projects, including ways in which they could affect communities and the quality of life. This allows us to develop ways to contribute to local communities and the environment and to minimise potential impacts.

 

Our Activities

VKG strives to reduce the environmental impact of production activities by implementing a number of special projects.

A Longer Value Chain

We believe in adding value responsibly, i.e. that the potential of natural resources should be maximally utilised. This improves the efficiency of the use and refinement of the resource and motivates us to persistently search for ways to extend the value chain. From the environmental perspective, this means less environmental impact and more social and economic benefits per unit of processed oil shale.

Responsible Mining

At the Ojamaa mine, the ground was broken in 2009, although the mining permit had been granted five years earlier. We began monitoring and researching the area well before opening the mine: we have been monitoring surface waters since 2004 and groundwater since 2005. Since 2007, the number of wood grouse living in the area has been monitored, and since 2015, we have been monitoring the state of the Muraka bog.

100% Waste Rock to Be Recovered

We recover the full volume of waste rock extracted with the oil shale. In 2017, for example, nearly two million tons of waste rock was utilised as packing material that we produce and market as a certified product. Waste rock is also successfully used in road construction and landscaping.

Refining Phenolic Water into Unique and Valuable Fine Chemicals

A side product of producing shale oil through the Kiviter technology is phenolic water. VKG is the only Estonian enterprise to extract fine chemicals with a purity level better than 99% from phenolic water. Oil shale chemicals are very widely utilised: for example, they are used in L’Oréal, Wella and Schwarzkopf hair dyes, Samsung TV and phone screens, high-resistance Goodyear, Pirelli and Bridgestone tires, and Lexus and Toyota car parts.

Environmentally Friendly Conveyor Solutions

To improve the efficiency of the logistic chain of the production process, we have developed and deployed several innovative conveyor systems.

  • The Ojamaa Conveyor

    A remarkable project is the closed-system oil shale belt conveyor built by VKG Kaevandused in 2010–2012 between the Ojamaa mine and the Kohtla-Järve industrial zone. The 12.5-km overland conveyor carries the raw material from the mine to the Petroter and Kiviter shale oil plants. The conveyor is unique in its silent functioning and its design features special tunnels along its whole length to facilitate the movement of forest animals.

  • Ash Removal and Semi-Coke Conveyors

    From spring 2018 onwards, all solid waste, both semi-coke and ash have been moved from Viru Keemia Grupp’s shale oil plants and factories to a storage site by eco-friendly pipe conveyors. The conveyors significantly reduce the environmental impact compared to road transport and promote a cleaner production area, as well as greater economic efficiency.

Innovative waste storage solutions

Waste generation is an inevitable side effect of producing shale oil. Since no effective solution permitting the full recovery of oil shale ash and semi-coke has been found to date, storage is inevitable. VKG makes significant efforts to minimise the environmental impact of waste management. In 2016, we deployed an innovative storage technology to prevent the leakage of pollution from the main landfill site into the environment. Ash is dampened and thickened to form a watertight, “cemented” layer. The semi-coke is utilised in the outer wall of the landfill to protect the cemented ash against external conditions. We landscape the slopes to prevent erosion.


Threefold Reduction in Sulphur Dioxide Emissions

Flue gas de-sulphurisation is an EU-wide priority. A prerequisite for the sustainable development of the Viru Keemia Grupp is compliance with EU and Estonian legislation and the current and future requirements arising from the Best Available Techniques framework documents.

Reduction of Particulate Pollutant Emissions

VKG has implemented filtering systems to reduce particulate emissions, catching emissions before their release into the atmosphere. The Petroter production technology features multi-cyclones and electric filters that jointly capture 99% of the particulate pollution. The Põhja thermal power station relies on bag filters, whose efficiency is also 99%.

The Legacy of Residual Pollution

Upon the privatisation of RAS Kiviter in 1997, VKG took over certain formerly state-managed areas, including some of the landfill sites and the production area. Since environmental regulations before that time had been lax or non-existent, the impact of past pollution remains with us to this day.

Continuous Ambient Air Monitoring

Two monitoring stations measure the ambient air quality in Kohtla-Järve: the VKG monitoring station and the national monitoring station on Kalevi Street.

Responsible Care

The Responsible Care initiative was founded in Canada in 1984. It was inspired by enterprises’ desire to work together to continuously improve product and technological process health and safety, and environmental standards.

Today, the Responsible Care initiative has members in over 65 countries around the world. The initiative offers businesses an opportunity to seek innovative means to reach a goal of the World Sustainable Development Summit: to “achieve the environmentally sound management of chemicals in order to minimize their adverse impacts on human health and the environment” by 2020.

With the Responsible Care initiative, the International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA) promotes the implementation of the Strategic Approach to International Chemical Management (SAICM). The chemical producers joining the initiative commit to adhering to the principles of safe chemical handling and excellence in chemicals worldwide. This commitment helps to boost public confidence in the industry’s dedication to the safe handling of chemicals throughout their life-cycles, while ensuring that chemistry continues to improve the environment and raise the living standard and quality of life for everybody.

The Estonian Chemical Industry Association joined the Responsible Care initiative in August 2002. The Viru Keemia Grupp was among the first six Estonian signatories.

Viru Keemia Grupp Environmental Day

The VKG Environmental Day is an annual discussion day bringing together our partners, researchers, public officials and environmentalists. The day is dedicated to actual environmental topics and forecasting the future.

Watch the presentations: