Patrick Whiteway is the editor of Nickel, the magazine devoted to nickel and its applications.
Primary nickel production is energy intensive but, put in perspective, it accounts for less than one-tenth of one percent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. That makes us a small part of the problem.
By comparison, nickel is used in a multitude of innovative applications that are reducing greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.
As a sponsor of Climate Action, a joint project launched by Sustainable Development International in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme, the Nickel Institute is engaged in constructive dialogue with both government and the private sector. The goal is to find ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions even further.
The Institute’s president, Stephen Barnett, recently spoke on camera with a reporter for Climate Action and outlined how the nickel industry is contributing to a more sustainable society. He later reinforced the message in a keynote speech at the China Nickel 2008 conference in Shanghai.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has proposed several ways that society can reduce GHG emissions over the next 20 years.
Five of those proposals are:
• Replace coal-fired plants with gas-fired plants;
• Double the fuel efficiency of cars;
• Double the production of electricity from nuclear plants globally;
• Drive more cars that use 100% ethanol fuel; and
• Implement carbon capture and sequestration technologies.
All these actions will require the use of nickel-containing materials: superalloys in gas turbines; nickel metal hydride batteries in hybrid cars; corrosion-resistant nickel-containing alloys in nuclear power plants and nuclear waste containment systems; corrosion-resistant stainless steels in ethanol production plants and delivery systems; and corrosion-resistant alloys in carbon sequestration systems.
In the June 2008 issue of Nickel Magazine, you’ll read about other, less obvious ways that nickel is being used to safeguard the environment. A nickel-containing stainless steel roof, for example, has helped reduce the energy needs of a large convention centre in Pittsburgh, U.S.A.
Not only does the roof help keep heat in during the winter and out in the summer; it reduces the building’s life-cycle costs by extending its lifespan. The superior energy efficiency of such roofing materials is prompting calls to amend the rules used to certify buildings under the rating system known as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).
Nickel-containing materials are used in the critical components of biogas projects throughout India. These projects capture biogas to generate electricity, thereby utilizing a waste greenhouse gas and reducing demand in a developing part of the world for coal-fired plants (one of the IPCC’s long-term goals, as stated above).
The above examples point to one thing: nickel is a big part of the solution to many of today’s environmental problems.