Interview: FRED makes climate-damaging processes in the company visible
3/7/2024 Sustainability & CO2 neutrality Interview

Interview: FRED makes climate-damaging processes in the company visible

FRED is the name of the web-based calculation tool that foundries can use to calculate their carbon footprint and develop their own decarbonization strategy. The Federal Association of the German Foundry Industry helped develop it and is promoting its use and dissemination. We spoke to Elke Radtke, BDG environmental and occupational safety officer, about the topic.

Elke Radtke Elke Radtke, BDG environmental and occupational safety officer, is the contact person at the BDG for FRED and a staunch promoter of the tool.
Foundries are increasingly having to answer the question of the CO2 footprint of the cast part they supply, especially in the automotive industry. Those who are unable to provide this information may no longer be considered as suppliers. The BDG wants companies in the casting industry to be able to make reliable statements. It has therefore driven forward the development of a tool that enables companies to determine the carbon footprint of their products with relatively simple means - foundry-specific and in accordance with recognized international standards. 

With the Footprint Reduction Tool, FRED for short, foundries can not only calculate their CO2 footprint, but also reduce it. We asked Elke Radtke, contact person at the BDG for FRED and a staunch promoter of the tool, what experiences have been made with it so far and where the foundry industry currently stands on its path to climate neutrality.
Ms. Radtke, what are the biggest misconceptions that foundries have about their own carbon footprint? Which factors are usually overestimated and which are underestimated?

Elke Radtke: That's a good question, because there really are these misconceptions about the effectiveness of climate protection measures in companies. The classic example: a foundry operates electric melting units and believes that switching these furnaces to green electricity will get them off the hook in terms of climate protection. In principle, such a switch offers great leverage for reducing indirect CO2 emissions. However, natural gas is also used in almost all foundries, for example for ladle preheating or core drying. In some cases, these are not insignificant quantities that have an impact on the climate. Ultimately, these can be avoided through electrification, for example - provided that the electricity used also comes from renewable sources.

Another underestimated factor - especially for non-ferrous metal foundries - is the origin of the metallic material. If, for example, primary aluminum is cast, its contribution to the company's overall footprint can be many times higher than that of its own energy consumption. The primary material simply brings a large CO2 backpack from its costly extraction into the company. The only solution to reduce these climate-damaging emissions is to use secondary materials. The problem here is that the world market does not yet have enough of it. Aluminum is a relatively new metal. A recycling system is only slowly becoming established here, as much of it is simply still in use or being used in some other way.

The Carbon Footprint Calculator FRED on the laptop.
Can such misjudgments be detected when using FRED?

Radtke: Yes, absolutely. We recently had such an example, involving a magnesium die-casting foundry. Here, too, the high proportion of primary material had a negative impact on the entire CO2 balance.

In any case, FRED makes visible those processes in a foundry that contribute to the footprint of the company or a specific cast product either through high energy consumption – perhaps even through fossil fuels – or through the use of CO2-intensive raw and auxiliary materials.
How far has the industry in Germany come in terms of environmental protection? Are we only at the beginning of the road to CO2 neutrality?

Radtke: No, the industry has long since set out on this path. For over ten years, for example, we have been offering a comprehensive collection of best practice examples for reducing energy consumption in our online database "Energy-efficient foundry operation 2.0". Foundries can draw inspiration and ideas from here to derive their own measures.

We have also carried out a lighthouse project with the German Energy Agency (dena) on CO2 reduction in the industry. The most visible result is the guide "Systematically increasing energy efficiency and reducing CO2 emissions in the foundry industry". An absolutely worthwhile reference work for all energy and sustainability managers in foundries.

Last year, we as an association completed a very comprehensive project, one of the aims of which was to identify suitable technological solutions for foundries to achieve the climate targets. Although this "InnoGuss" project only related to the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia, around a quarter of German casting production is concentrated here. This allows us to scale up the results of InnoGuss to the entire industry in Germany. The project ran for more than two years, so we gathered a lot of figures, data and facts about the foundries. 

Incidentally, there are hardly any two companies that are directly comparable. Foundries are extremely diverse in terms of the processes, materials, energies, production depths, production volumes, etc. they use. We have therefore defined six types of foundry, so-called model foundries, and determined the conditions under which they can become climate-neutral.

Unsurprisingly, the electrification of thermal processes is the ideal route to decarbonization. Especially as many electricity-powered systems are already available or state of the art here. The situation is different for the other three technology paths considered in the project: hydrogen, biogenic fuels and CCU, i.e. the capture and use of CO2. In many cases, research and development is still required to bring these solutions to technological maturity and applicability in foundries.

The results of the InnoGuss project will be incorporated into a roadmap for climate neutrality for the entire industry in the course of this year. On the one hand, this paper will provide orientation and a guideline for our companies to become climate neutral. The roadmap will clearly signal to our external stakeholders, such as politicians, investors and customers, that we have a plan for achieving our climate targets.

FRED – The Carbon Footprint Calculator

grey background

FRED calculates the exact carbon footprint of products and companies. Based on data from real industrial operations. Certified according to ISO 14067 and the Greenhouse Gas Protocol. FRED is currently available for forging suppliers.

With FRED, the BDG now offers easy access to an analysis tool. Are you satisfied with the level of participation and commitment on the part of the companies so far?

Radtke: Honestly? I think there is still room for improvement. However, you have to think your way into an environment that, on the face of it, has nothing to do with day-to-day casting production. I understand that there is hardly any time or leisure for this in many of our medium-sized companies. On the other hand, dealing with FRED offers enormous potential for optimizing your own processes. Systematic, structured potential. 

That is why we are currently using all possible opportunities and media channels to publicize the functionality and benefits of FRED in the industry. For this reason, we also gave a presentation on FRED at EUROGUSS.

The more companies that use FRED, the better we can succeed in establishing the tool among our customers as the CO2 balancing tool for the supplier industry. Because eleven other associations are on this path with us. A "clean dozen" in other words...

What feedback have you received? Have you already received letters of thanks from companies that have been able to leverage savings potential with FRED?

Radtke: We are pleased to see that the number of licenses purchased is steadily increasing and that the fortnightly live demos are increasingly well attended. In fact, one foundry was able to satisfy a well-known customer's urgent request for a product-related footprint for the cast product supplied with the help of the demo version on an ad-hoc basis and was very happy about it.

At the moment, this is probably the main reason why many companies are looking into FRED. The potential savings are virtually incidental. When we talk again this time next year, I will certainly be able to tell you more success stories.

Thank you very much for the interview!

Further information on FRED, the opportunity to register for a live demonstration etc. can be found here:
Message icons on a smartphone.
grey background

The EUROGUSS 365 newsletter

Don't miss our best content and news around the die casting industry. Sign up for the newsletter now for free.



Editors EUROGUSS 365