Locations / Sites

Environmental Management

Goals 2021

  • Develop a third-party Operation Clean Sweep (OCS) audit and certification scheme
  • Prepare Borealis for the publication of the European Best Available Technique Reference document on the common Waste Gas management and treatment systems in the Chemical sector (WGC BREF)
  • Optimise handling of environmental compliance obligations
  • Improve environmental awareness and cooperation within the Group

Key Achievements 2021

  • Proactively contributed, as a member of the Plastics Europe OCS taskforce to the development of a third-party OCS audit and certification scheme and was the first manufacturer to pilot the scheme, at two locations.
  • Developed a template to fulfill Best Available Technique number 2 (BAT 2) and used it to build a full inventory for each of the Group’s polyolefins plants.
  • Developed and tested a new environmental compliance tool and handed it over to locations, along with user training.
  • Dedicated sessions on environmental topics included in location leader forums and environmental networking sessions established, with representatives from all locations.


The most relevant environmental impacts Borealis creates are those from emissions that contribute to climate change, acidification and eutrophication, and the effect on air quality and human health.

Borealis’ emissions to air result from its production processes and from combustion for energy generation. In addition to carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide, these emissions comprise:

  • nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, created by the burners in steam boilers, thermal oxidisers, flares and furnaces;
  • volatile organic compounds (VOC), which are fugitive emissions of hydrocarbons, occurring due to high pressure and temperature;
  • dust and ammonia (NH3) emissions, from production and handling solid material in fertilizer plants.

Flaring is a necessary safety measure used in the Group’s hydrocarbon and polyolefin plants, in which excess gases which cannot be recovered or recycled are safely burned. However, it also causes a small proportion of the Group’s CO2 emissions, as well as NOx emissions, inefficient use of the Group’s resources, nuisance to Borealis’ neighbours and legal implications.

Borealis requires water for its operations. Industrial water has less strict purity standards than drinking water and is used in production processes such as cooling, steam generation and product handling. Lower quantities of water are needed for drinking, cleaning, sanitary uses and firefighting. The Group looks to minimise its water use by recycling water in its production process. It also looks to improve the quality of the water it discharges and to comply with its legal obligations through filtration, neutralisation and biological wastewater treatment.

The most common types of waste produced in Borealis’ operations include the non-recyclable polymers included in the polymer waste input to our recycling plants, as well as excavated soil, wastewater treatment sludge, solvents, mixed industrial waste and inert construction material. Borealis aims to minimise the production of waste where possible, but its main objective is to treat waste as a resource and to better handle end-of-life products by making them circular.

The loss of plastic pellets and particles could lead to marine litter, while emissions of NOx, dust and VOC could affect the air quality of the Group’s neighbours. If such failures occurred, they could result in fines, loss of business, reputational damage, loss of permits and enforcement action by the relevant authorities, all of which could affect the Group’s financial performance.

Managing Environmental Impacts

Borealis’ approach to environmental management encompasses managing its emissions to air, its use of water and discharge of wastewater, its production and use of secondary resources in the form of waste and its overall environmental compliance.

Borealis is committed to implementing the principles of Responsible Care®, the chemical industry’s voluntary commitment to continuous improvements in health, safety and environmental (HSE) performance, as well as the Product Stewardship standard of Fertilizers Europe. Borealis will also use CEFIC’s new self-assessment web tool annually, to help it continually improve its approach to Responsible Care. The tool has numerous features, including benchmarking performance against peers and cross-referencing performance against the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and other standards.

At least every three years, the Group performs a detailed and systematic environmental risk and opportunity assessment for every plant, in all locations. The assessments are also performed if there have been major changes, near misses, incidents or accidents, or if potential improvements have been identified. The risk assessments are based on an evaluation of the legal framework and possible upcoming changes, any deviations from permit limits and stakeholder input.

Based on these assessments, Borealis defines and documents HSE objectives and targets for each location. Clear responsibilities and timelines are agreed and reviewed at Group HSE level twice a year. The consolidated outcomes, including HSE performance, are reported to the Executive Board.

Reducing CO2 emissions and energy consumption are the main drivers of Borealis’ performance improvement and have the biggest impact on the environment. The Group’s latest materiality assessment also confirmed that the circular economy is a key driver, including a strong focus on packaging waste management.

Nevertheless, emissions to air of NOx, NH3, dust and VOC, as well as water, waste and effluents, also play a significant role in high-quality HSE management. As a consequence, they are included in the Group’s HSE management processes and are monitored as part of the environmental objective of each location. All Borealis production locations are part of an ISO 14001-compliant environmental management system.

Borealis uses an integrated environmental data management system and reporting software. This ensures control of data flows from varied sources, in multiple formats and on different schedules, as well as the traceability and transparency required for reporting and auditing.

Borealis is committed to complying with all relevant environmental laws, regulations, standards and other legal requirements, such as operational permits. This ensures that the Group can continue to operate and is protected from fines, reputational damage and the costs of impact mitigation. The Group reviews all cases of non-compliance and takes action to prevent them from reoccurring. In 2021, no significant fines or non-monetary sanctions for non-compliance with environmental laws were imposed on Borealis.

Activities 2021

Implementing a New Tool for Managing Environmental Compliance

To further improve and streamline the Group’s environmental management, a new tool was developed and rolled out in 2021, along with employee training. In addition to ensuring that Borealis meets its environmental compliance obligations, which are contained in legislation, permits, voluntary agreements and standards, the new tool enables Borealis to manage other compliance obligations, such as workplace safety, transportation of dangerous goods and chemicals safety.

Holding the Group’s First Environment Day

World Environment Day is an annual environmental awareness day, organised by the United Nations each year in June. In 2021, Borealis celebrated its first Environment Day for the Fertilizers, Melamine and Technical Nitrogen Products business group. The aim was to raise awareness of the environment and related issues, ranging from pollution to global warming and from sustainable food production to the protection of wildlife.

Enhancing Water Management

In 2020, Borealis carried out a very detailed water inventory, which served as the basis for a risk assessment in 2021 and fostered the Group’s understanding of its water usage, water emissions and water-related risks at each site and across the Group as a whole. As a consequence, Borealis developed a water management template in 2021, which will be rolled out to the sites over the next three years, depending on priority.

Preparing for Publication of WGC BREF

Borealis’ preparations for WGC BREF during 2021 included building a full inventory for each polyolefin plant in accordance with BAT 2. Work will intensify in 2022, both before and after the expected publication of the WGC BREF, including a gap assessment of plants versus best available technique, and defining study needs and the investment budget. The revision of the BREF LVIC “Large Volume Inorganic Chemicals” will start in 2022, defining the new mandatory emission limits for fertilizer plants.

Improving Environmental Awareness and Cooperation within the Group

During the year, dedicated sessions on environmental topics were included in location leader forums and environmental networking sessions have been established, with representatives from all locations.

Key environmental challenges and projects are reviewed in detail with location leaders to align resources and approach. The networking sessions improve collaboration and cross-learning between the locations on key environmental topics.

Working with Partners to Reduce Pollution

The Group’s location at Grand Quevilly, France, is one of 14 industrial operations that jointly created a new association, UPSIDE, in 2021. This association is designed to communicate better with elected officials and residents, and to pool financial resources to purchase anti-pollution systems.

Performance 2021

Emissions to Air

With all emissions, the Group follows its legal requirements and the stipulations in its permits. In addition, Borealis has established its own requirements for measuring and following up on key pollutants. Deviations from the norm are reported within the Borealis incident management system and then investigated and addressed through corrective actions. The approach taken depends on the magnitude of the emissions’ impact and their criticality.

Actions are prioritised using the principles following the Group’s Risk Management Policy, in line with Borealis’ sustainability management approach. High-risk issues and proposals with significant potential for improvement are regularly discussed and addressed to the Borealis Executive Board.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) Emissions
Borealis’ goal is to reduce its VOC emissions by detecting and repairing leaks quickly. In 2021, Borealis’ VOC emissions were 3,260 tonnes, compared to 2,942 tonnes in 2020. With the Stenungsund cracker being out of operation for 7 months in 2020 we have an increase in 2021 as it was running the full year.

Flaring losses in 2021 were 38.5 kilotonnes, compared to 42.5 kilotonnes in 2020. The effort to reduce upsets and implement flaring improvements continued, but severe upsets led to significant emergency flaring during shutdowns, due to a lack of recycling capacity.

In 2020, the Stenungsund cracker was out of operation for seven months and there was a major turnaround of the plant in Porvoo which led to in increased flaring.

Every year, the Group defines its targets for flaring. Turnarounds, regular maintenance of the plant’s assets and other internal and external factors influence the achievement of these targets. In particular, flaring increases in years with higher numbers of turnarounds. These regular maintenance programmes inevitably lead to more flaring, as plants or lines must be shut down, emptied and ramped up again.

At 15,950 tonnes, non-emergency flaring losses for 2021 were lower than in 2020 (17,589 tonnes) and below target (16,192 tonnes), which means that the improvement projects have delivered as planned.

Flaring Performance 2017–2021

Dust Emissions
Dust reduction and prevention is a focus for all Borealis operations and for improvement projects. In the Group’s fertilizer locations, which are the main contributor, these emissions are continuously measured. Borealis’ polyolefin production plants monitor dust emissions using spot samples, which is why only dust emissions from the fertilizer production sites are reported below.

In 2021, the total dust emissions from the fertilizer production units totalled 511 tonnes compared to 342 tonnes in 2020. Several production units have encountered problems in measuring dust emissions.

Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) Emissions
Borealis measures most of its NOx emissions, with the remainder being calculated using a standardised emission factor. Absolute NOx emissions in 2021 were 2,589 tonnes, compared to 2,842 tonnes in 2020.

Ammonia (NH3) Emissions
Ammonia emissions are a consequence of either failures during the ammonia production process or leaks during storage or transportation. These emissions amounted to 435 tonnes in 2021, compared to 686 tonnes in 2020. The decrease in emissions is due to lower production.

Sulfur Oxide (SOx) Emissions
Borealis does not produce SOx emissions, as it only uses gaseous fuels (natural gas and hydrocarbons) where no sulphur is present.


Borealis needs water to operate its plants and sites. Cooling is the largest use of water. Other uses include cleaning, feeding boilers and sanitary purposes.

Borealis’ environmental experts in each operation continuously monitor water consumption as part of the Group’s environmental monitoring programme, as well as to comply with the permit limits set by the respective local authorities.

In addition to ensuring legal compliance, Borealis uses tools such as the WWF (Worldwide Fund for Nature) water risk filter to assess areas of concern, such as baseline water stress or interactions with neighbours and other stakeholders. This helps the Group to steer and prioritise improvement projects.

Water availability and scarcity varies by location. A detailed water review carried out in 2020 and 2021 showed that water stress is a non-critical issue for Borealis, except in four locations with water-stressed basins. As a consequence, water consumption for these sites is already subject to stringent permit requirements. Borealis has also prioritised these locations to be the first to implement the Group’s newly developed water management principles as of 2022.

In addition to setting minimum requirements for measurement and reporting, the principles require the locations to define, evaluate and report water withdrawal reduction measures, such as rainwater collection and usage, water saving, substitution, recycling and closed loop systems.

Water Withdrawal
Borealis’ water withdrawal was 735 million m3 in 2021, compared to 755 million m3 in 2020. The 3% decrease in consumption is part of the normal fluctuations due to the varying intensity of maintenance activities and weather conditions. For example, if the rivers, lakes and the sea is getting very warm due to heat waves, then we need much more water to keep our production levels during summer period. The majority of the water Borealis uses in its operations is withdrawn from surface water, for example, from water bodies such as rivers and oceans. The remainder is extracted from groundwater, wastewater from another organisation, municipal water supplies or other water utilities. In some locations, rainwater is also collected and used.

Borealis water withdrawal via source 2021

Water Discharge
The volume and nature of the wastewater Borealis generates depend on the type of production at its locations. Borealis therefore installs water treatment techniques that are appropriate for each plant’s production process. These techniques can include filtration, neutralisation, osmosis, gravimetric and biological water treatment.

All Borealis plants are connected to wastewater treatment installations, consisting of internal treatment units, external plants or both. Water is then discharged primarily into a surface water body such as the sea or river. This is also likely to be the water body the water was originally withdrawn from, thereby limiting the environmental impact as much as possible.

In Grandpuits, France, Borealis has no surface water body close by and no permit to discharge into one. Discharges are therefore made into a special salted groundwater aquifer instead.

Each of the Group’s operations carefully monitors wastewater flows and contaminants, to ensure that all parameters are within permitted levels, and reports this regularly to the relevant authorities.

Recycling and Reusing Water
To increase water-use efficiency, Borealis seeks, whenever possible, to recover its process water or to reuse wastewater. For example, in some operations cooling towers use recycled water or rainwater. This is not possible in all locations, as it depends on permit stipulations and on the water body.

As noted above, Borealis prioritises reductions in energy consumption and CO2 emissions. As water consumption and energy use are linked, due to the energy recovery from cooling water, the Group may on some occasions decide to increase its water withdrawal in order to recover more energy.

During maintenance operations, the cleaning of equipment generates water containing nutrients. These used to be partly recycled, with the excess sent to a waste treatment plant. In 2021, the Grandpuits plant implemented actions to enable the valorisation of this waste stream as liquid fertilizer with low nutrient content. A dedicated storage tank and a quality control plan were implemented. This helps the plant to recover 3,000 tonnes of waste every year.


Borealis generates waste during production and during short regular shutdowns and plant turnarounds. Turnarounds are regularly scheduled events, during which a plant is temporarily taken out of operation to ensure asset integrity and process safety by carrying out important maintenance works and inspections.

Borealis monitors waste production and implements control measures in all its operations, based on the requirements of regulations and ISO 14001 standards. The Group has waste management plans for each location, which are coordinated by local environmental experts. All locations follow the “4R” rules: reduce, reuse, recycle and recover.

Borealis’ aim is to avoid producing waste. The Group has therefore implemented integrated manufacturing processes which recover as much co-product as possible.

Waste treatment in 20211)

1) Environmental data might be subject to minor adjustments due to ongoing audits and missing third-party data at the time this report was finalised.

For example, the CO2 emitted by the ammonia production site in Linz, Austria, is used in the production of urea at the same site. In the fertilizer production process, condensate from steam contains co-products which are reinjected into the process to minimise loss of resources. If a co-product cannot be reused and therefore becomes waste, the Group’s preference is to recycle it, taking into account relevant regulations and environmental considerations. The Group only employs accredited contractors for handling its waste streams. By-products of polymer production, such as non-prime material or material from cleaning activities, are used to the extent possible in the Group’s recycling plants.

Following the integration of the recycling companies Borealis acquired in Germany and Austria, the total amount of waste and its composition has changed significantly.

Hazardous waste treatment in 2021 1)

1) Environmental data might be subject to minor adjustments due to ongoing audits and missing third-party data at the time this report was finalised.

Non-hazardous waste treatment in 2021 1)

1) Environmental data might be subject to minor adjustments due to ongoing audits and missing third-party data at the time this report was finalised.

Non-recyclable waste has become one of the largest proportions of total waste for the Group and a main driver of the significant drop in the overall recycling percentage. Currently, this stream is used as secondary fuel in steel or cement production, but considerable research effort is going into finding a recycling solution for this stream as well.

Waste treatment comparison between 2020 and 2021 for all total waste, all treatments and the ratio of hazardous and non-hazardous waste 1)

1) Environmental data might be subject to minor adjustments due to ongoing audits and missing third-party data at the time this report was finalised.

In 2021, the Group’s total waste volume was 102 kilotonnes, compared to 98 kilotonnes in 2020. Approximately 30% of Borealis’ waste volume was recycled, 30% was recovered and 40% was disposed of, with 4% going to landfill and 36% receiving a different treatment.

Pellet Spills

Preventing spillage of plastic pellets is a core responsibility for the industry. Pellets released unintentionally during production, transportation, conversion and recycling can end up in nature, rivers and oceans. Borealis is fully committed to zero pellet loss. Achieving this is a challenging journey and requires continuous leadership, effort, targeted and effective work practices and investment.

Borealis’ commitment to Zero Pellet Loss encompasses:

  • Leading by example: Operation Clean Sweep® (OCS) is an international programme initiated by the Society of the Plastics Industry and the American Chemistry Council and rolled out in Europe by Plastics Europe. Borealis was among the first signatories of the Plastics Europe OCS pledge and the Group is also a signatory of the “Zero Pellet Loss” pact in Austria, which is the equivalent to OCS. In addition, together with Total, Borealis has pioneered and developed the world’s first OCS audit scheme. Most recently, the Group has supported the development of an OCS certification scheme.
  • R&D investments: Borealis continuously invests in research and development, in its work processes and in separation technology, applicable to both pellets and powder.
  • Value chain: Borealis engages with the value chain, including customers, distributors, warehouses and logistic providers, and works with governmental bodies and universities to increase the Group’s knowledge and further improve best available technologies.
  • Operational excellence: the Group’s actions include ongoing analysis, awareness campaigns and training for employees and contractors, reinforcing work practices and behaviours, putting in place effective pellet retention measures, such as sieves and pellet separators, as well as effective skimmer ponds and filtration units based on the best available technology.

In parallel to the Group’s continuous efforts to improve its own performance, Borealis has proactively contributed to Plastics Europe’s OCS task force to:

  • develop detailed and auditable requirements that every OCS signatory must comply with;
  • develop a joint EU-wide approach for auditing and certification against the OCS requirements; and
  • update a self-assessment tool, combining the lessons learned as well as the new mandatory requirements.

As part of the Group’s contribution to the development of a European OCS certification standard, Borealis was the first primary plastic producer to pilot an external certification audit at two of its sites in Belgium, Antwerp and Kallo.

This pilot certification audit confirmed that the joint group of Plastics Europe (including a Borealis representative) and European Plastics Converters (EuPC) has been successful in developing a standard that can be used for OCS certification. It also showed that Borealis’ internal preparations, such as internal audits, regular follow-up of the audit actions, and development and implementation of a Group-wide internal OCS instruction, have led to a high level of compliance with the soon-to-be-released OCS standard, which should enable a full certification of Borealis’ locations in 2022.

The European Commission has also begun an initiative to address unintentional releases of microplastics. The current focus of the planned regulatory instruments is on tyres, synthetic textiles and pellets. The primary impact on pellets will be the cost and administrative requirements for labelling, reporting and certification.

Key environmental performance indicators 2017–2021 1)

1) Environmental data might be subject to minor adjustments due to ongoing audits and missing third-party data at the time this report was finalised. // 2) Severe upsets led to significant emergency flaring during shutdowns; in addition, there was a lack of recycling capacity. // 3) Value has been recalculated in retrospect due to ongoing audits and missing third-party data at the time the last report was finalised. // 4) The main reason for the increase is the integration of the plastics recycling company mtm plastics GmbH into the monthly group reporting.


EU Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) CO2 emissions: All greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) as per the European ETS expressed in CO2 equivalents (since 2009 this indicator has replaced the reporting of direct carbon dioxide emissions).

Nitrous Oxide (N2O) emissions: Emissions of N2O (also known as laughing gas) are generated by the production of nitric acid in the fertilizer plants. N2O is a GHG with a global warming potential (GWP) 310 times higher than CO2.

Flaring losses: All streams sent to the flare, except streams that assure a constant flame (e.g. fuel gases to pilot burners, fuel gas purges to flare lines for safety reasons, steam, nitrogen).

Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) emissions: Emission of all organic compounds (from C1 to Cn) with a vapour pressure of 0.01 kilopascal (kPa) or more at either room temperature or at actual temperature when processed. The quantification is based on measurements and estimates. Total volatile organic carbon, expressed as C, includes methane.

Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) emissions: Emissions of all nitrogen oxides from all relevant sources, including flares. The emissions are quantified as NOx. When NOx measurements are not carried out, emission factors correlated to the fuel type and heating value are used.

Dust: Emission of dust from the production of fertilizers.

NH3 (Ammonia): Emissions of NH3 from fertilizer plants, loading stations and water treatment of fertilizer locations.

Energy consumption: Consumption of all energy vectors (i.e. fuels, electricity and steam). Electricity and steam are converted into primary energy with standard conversion factors of 40% (electricity) and 90% (steam).

Water consumption: Total amount of fresh water withdrawn from surface or groundwater sources for any type of usage (e.g. cooling, steam generation, cleaning, sanitation).

Waste generation: Generation of all waste at company locations during normal operation as well as during special projects. Any substance or object that is to be discarded is included in the definition of waste. Exceptions are atmospheric emissions, liquid effluents and by products with commercial value.


The Group’s priorities for 2022 are in line with those of previous years, with a focus on enhancing valorisation of side streams and researching industrial symbiosis. The purpose is to minimise the production of waste, consume fewer resources and better handle the end-of-life of Borealis’ products.

For example, one area of progress is a collaboration between producers and distributors of fertilizers in France, to work on the design of packaging to facilitate its recycling, while not degrading their resistance and permeability for safety and quality.

In 2022, Borealis will continue its preparations for the WGC BREF, as discussed under Activities 2021 above.

A major focus area will be to put the water management templates into use, as well as to finalise the work of the OCS certification standard and achieve full certification of all Borealis sites.

Combined Annual Report 2021 (PDF)

English and German Version available

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This online report contains only highlights and excerpts from Borealis’ Combined Annual Report 2021. Only the entire report is legally binding and it must be read in full to gain a comprehensive understanding of Borealis’ performance and activities in 2021. A copy of the Combined Annual Report 2021 can be downloaded here.