Waste & Circular Economy

  • 68%
    of total waste were either re-used, recycled or used further

  • 26%
    of the water consumed is recycled and reused

  • > 1 mil. tons
    of oil waste have been re-refined from 2015

Environment, Energy
& Climate Change

Minimizing Waste & Increased Application
of Circular Economy Practices

Why is it material ?

In March 2020, the European Commission adopted the new Circular Economy Action Plan, one of the main building blocks of the European Green Deal for Europe’s sustainable development. The EU’s transition to a circular economy will reduce resources’ consumption footprint and will progressively lead to a sustainable economic system and innovative jobs.

For the HELPE Group, the sustainable and optimal use of materials and natural resources throughout their life cycle is an important business opportunity and reflects our commitment to environmental protection.

Petroleum products – by-products that are characterized as waste (self produced or by third parties) at a certain stage of their life cycle, constitute a major opportunity for us when reused as raw materials in our production facilities or recovered for use as a fuel according to our business approach towards a circular economy.

Constantly reducing the amount of waste for final disposal contributes significantly not only to minimizing impact on the environment and human health, but also toward substantially reducing our operating costs.

Our approach

We adopt and implement circular economy principles in the design and implementation of our investment strategy through best practices and technologies across our product lifecycle, such as:

  • reuse of water with the aim of reducing fresh water consumption and wastewater production.
  • reduction of solid waste for landfill through investments in modern waste treatment plants and through synergies for further use by third parties, such as energy use of refinery oily waste by third parties or other waste as additives in their products.
  • developing synergies to use waste to recover energy and/or raw materials from the Group’s numerous activities, such as the re-refining of oily waste produced in its Fuel Marketing company’s facilities.

By applying Best Available Techniques to the production process and operating innovative waste treatment and recovery processes, we continue to recover significant amounts of oily waste for use as raw material at our refineries, while steadily reducing the percentage of material considered as waste and therefore not of further use.

Our ambition

Our priority is to continuously increase the utilization rate of materials and natural resources throughout their life cycle by recycling and re-using them in our production process, as well as by developing broader synergies for their use.

Our goal is to significantly reduce waste to final disposal-landfill (up to 15% by 2030).

Performance – quantitative data

Water is a necessary raw material in our facilities’ production process. To ensure sustainable water management, we aim to reduce the amount of water we use in our activities, to reuse and recycle it as much as possible, and to dispose it responsibly, after treating it at our premises, in order to minimize the impact. Water saving initiatives are constantly being implemented in all business activities and the water consumed is recycled and reused by 26% in 2020 in production facilities (see following diagram).

Water Consumption & Recycling – Reuse (2015-2020)

More specifically, we monitor water use throughout the company identifying opportunities to reduce consumption and invest in water saving processes to make our production facilities as well as our cleaning processes as efficient as possible.

The issues evaluated directly concern the water used (quality measurements, use of various types of water (e.g. seawater for cooling, treatment technologies, etc.)), but also broader management parameters (availability, quality). This approach enables us to identify in which areas of our facilities it is necessary to focus regarding proper water management and which actions are a priority in addressing any impacts.

The main sources of water withdrawal in 2020 are from the public utility network (82%) and the sea (15%). The water resource management system includes monitoring and reporting of water withdrawal, water quality and discharge in all facilities and subsidiaries in order to continuously improve efficiency of natural resource use.

Regarding wastewater and solid waste management, the overall effort to reduce waste production and maximize recycling continued in 2020 for all waste streams that it was feasible. For the remaining waste streams, the best possible on-site waste management practice was applied with regard to the environment and human health.

Advanced waste treatment facilities, such as the 3-stage wastewater treatment units in the Group’s refineries, ensure the continuous improvement of our performance. In accordance with the past six year trend, improvement of the majority of waste and wastewater indices continued in 2020 throughout all the Group’s activities.

Specifically for wastewater, in 2020 there was a slight decrease in total wastewater production from all installations in comparison to the previous year, while total water consumption decreased by 6.6% with the recycling and reuse rate remaining at the high levels of previous years.

Wastewater per Group facility (2015-2020)

Regarding solid waste, 2020 presented an overall increase in the total treated quantity in relation to the previous year. Note that the largest percentage of solid waste quantities result from cleaning tanks, and therefore these quantities vary from year to year depending primarily on programed tank maintenance and secondly on solid waste treatment unit’s availability (either within or outside the facility). Specifically in 2020, the largest increase was due to the overall management of used catalysts as waste in the refineries, regardless if a significant percentage is recovered and returned to the refinery for reuse, and to a smaller extent to activities at Aspropyrgos refinery where a scheduled general maintenance shutdown took place.

Solid Waste performance data (2015-2020)

The increase in waste quantities was accompanied by an increase in the quantity and percentage of waste used, as in the diagrams below which presents management – disposal methods of the produced solid waste in 2020. As evidenced, over 27,000 tons of waste – approximately 68% of total waste – were either re-used, recycled or used further through recovery process.

Group Solid Waste by means of disposal

Total reused, recycled, recovered solid waste (tn)

Management of Urban Solids Waste

In addition to the industrial solid waste typical for the sector, efforts continue in order to recycle as many waste streams as possible, such as paper, plastic, small or industrial-sized batteries, fluorescent lamps, electronic equipment, aluminum, etc., with active employee participation in all the Group’s facilities and offices. In 2020 for a second year the integrated urban solid waste management system continued in the Aspropyrgos Industrial Complex where separation takes place at source of all streams -metal, plastic, batteries, paper, food residues and common waste.

It is the first time that an urban solid waste management system of this size is implemented in the country and especially in an industrial setting. The program seeks to achieve European and national recycling targets through the adoption of innovative and user friendly urban solid waste management systems that contribute in promoting circular economy principles. The ultimate goal is to promote AIC as a successful model, an integrated system of almost zero urban solid waste production that can be extended to all the Group’s facilities and adopted in large organizations.

Additionally, in order to support recycling battery waste on a national level, since 2018 EKO S.A. receives used batteries from passenger vehicles and trucks in selected petrol stations of its network (with the EKO and BP trademarks) across Greece giving customers – consumers the opportunity to directly contribute to the recycling of this hazardous waste. The initiative to collect used vehicle batteries at EKO’s selected service stations is called “Green Spots” and is based on a mutually beneficial synergy – according to circular economy principles- with Sunlight Recycling’s environmental management and recycling system incentive named “Green Mission”. For more information on the list of selected “Green Spot” service stations participating in the collection of used batteries visit: www.greenmission.gr/green-spots.

Recovered Raw Materials

Especially for the Group’s refining activity, the percentage of oil waste recovered and returned to the production process as a raw material for re-refining is also monitored. These quantities of waste come from both the production process and third parties. The table below shows the recovered quantities and percentages (of total throughput) from the three Group refineries, while it is worth noting that from 2015, over 1 million tons of oil waste have been re-refined.

Recovered Raw Materials – 2020

Facility Percentage Recovered Quantity (tonnes)
Aspropyrgos Refinery 1.95% 144,320
Elefsina Refinery 1.35% 84,745
Thessaloniki Refinery 0.98% 40,513

In addition to quantitative waste data and in the context of implementing Directive 2010/75/EU (IED) and Best Available Techniques – BAT (Reference Document for the Refining of Mineral Oil and Gas – Decision 2014/738/EU) for the refining sector, the Group refineries have completed the relevant investments in the logistical infrastructure required to measure and monitor the new Hydrocarbon Oil Index (HOI), which was assessed as being representative for the refinery industry and included in the referenced report on Best Available Techniques.

The HOI index was included in the new environmental permits from the end of 2019 for Aspropyrgos refinery and end of 2020 for Elefsina refinery and measurements for 2020 are at much lower levels than Best Available Techniques’ limit value. The overall evaluation based on the HOI index is expected to be complete after the new Environmental Operating Permit conditions have been issued for the Thessaloniki refinery (estimated within 2021).

Next steps

  • Further performance improvement with regard to the monitored quantitative and qualitative indicators as well as compliance with the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED) and the new limits according to the Conclusions of Best Available Techniques for Petroleum Refining (REF BAT Conclusions Decision).
  • Investigation of alternative technologies to use waste as raw materials with the aim of substituting fossil fuels.
Previous Chapter Environment, Energy & Climate Change Air Quality
Next Chapter Society