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LCA for glass and carbon fibre profiles from Fiberline

Here at Fiberline, we feel it is important to take responsibility and do the right thing for the environment. We do our utmost to use our resources efficiently and to protect the environment as best we can. At the same time, we also give our customers the option to create sustainable growth by using us as a part of their value chain.

Here on our website you can take a look at the environmental impact of our products over their entire life-cycle: from raw materials and production through to use, maintenance and recycling/disposal.

  • Raw materials – Raw material production is the most energy-intensive part of our carbon footprint and consists of glass and/or carbon fibre profiles as well as resins.
  • Production – Our modern energy-plus factory and energy-efficient production process make our products a sustainable alternative to traditional materials.
  • Distribution – Simple designs and strategically located factories have a positive effect on transport and CO2 emissions.
  • Assembly – Low weight means easy handling without the need for any special machinery, which in turn results in lower CO2 emissions.
  • Use – Our products help to solve global climate challenges by allowing or customers to create more with less, either by bringing down their existing energy consumption in relation to traditional structural materials or by creating good and efficient green energy.
  • Recycling – Surplus fibreglass from our production process is either reused as raw materials (70%) and substitute fuel (30%) in cement production or as supplementary materials in moulded fibreglass solutions.

 

Raw materials

The most energy-intensive part of our low carbon footprint comes from our raw materials which account for an entire 80% of our overall footprint. The two primary raw materials used in our products are glass and/or carbon fibres, as well as resins. Both are produced for us by external suppliers using a complex production process. This involves the extraction of resins from crude oil while glass and carbon fibres are made using materials such as sand, carbon and a range of different additives.

Production

Our approach to industrial production and our modern factories in Denmark and China have given us the best possible framework for an energy-efficient production process. This is an area where we strive to create more with less.

Energy-efficient production
Fiberline profiles are manufactured using a continuous process known as pultrusion. This production method effectively limits the evaporation of volatile compounds by using a closed process. At the same time, the hardening process also generates heat through what is known as an exothermic reaction, which keeps energy consumption per unit produced to a low level. We also strive each and every year to bring down our own energy consumption per unit produced even further. You can read more about our energy policy here.

Energy-plus factory
Our factory in Middelfart has the best environment profile attainable – energy plus. The building is well insulated, has a very low level of energy and heat consumption, and its ventilation and lighting are carefully adapted to actual needs. Moreover, our factory has fibreglass window frames which give them insulation properties that are among the best on the market, as well as a fibreglass facade with low heat-conducting properties.

Cleaner water with fibreglass
The level of water contamination in connection with the production of a fibreglass bridge is relatively low compared with the contamination caused by traditional building materials. That was the conclusion drawn by an environmental assessment undertaken by authorities in the Netherlands. Environmental impact was calculated using the so-called critical load method, which makes it possible to compare diverse materials with one another.

In their calculation, the actual emission of greenhouse gasses is compared with the threshold values. These emissions are then converted into critical emissions for water, air and/or soil that result from the production of a given product, such as a bridge, for example. Contamination at all stages is taken into account – from raw material extraction and processing through to final production of the finished bridge.


Distribution/transport

Given that the density is only ¼ of that of steal and concrete, there are often significant weight savings to be made from using our glass and carbon fibre profiles in a finished solution. This has a positive effect on transportation and CO2 emissions.

Lighter design = lower CO2 emissions
Our materials have an excellent weight-to-strength ratio which makes it possible to create slim and lightweight designs. Compared with traditional materials such as concrete, timber, steel and aluminium, using fibreglass often results in weight savings – to the benefit of transport and CO2 emissions. Read more about the lightweight properties of fibreglass here.

Closer to the end user
From 2009 onwards, we have also had production facilities in China in order to better service the global wind power sector and to be closer to our end users. This reduces the distance between us and our end users and cuts down the level of transport needed in between. You can read more about our local and global presence here.

Assembly

Due to the low weight and high strength of our materials, there are also many advantages to be gained in the assembly or establishment of solutions that use our profiles. Among other benefits, the material consumption in other parts of the construction (so-called co-products) can often be minimised as a lighter design places less demands on strength; e.g. in the foundations.

Optimisation of resources
The light weight of our glass and carbon fibre profiles makes them easier to handle and often means that there will be no need for any kind of special machinery. This has a positive effect on CO2 emissions in connection with establishment. Moreover, the light weight also makes it easier to use more prefabricated components, which in turn is something that reduces the amount of time and equipment needed on-site.

Use

Our entire business is based around making glass and carbon fibre profiles for an energy-efficient society, where we create more with less. This allows us to help do our bit to resolve global climate challenges.

The energy-efficient material of tomorrow
With consideration to the unique technical properties of the materials used in our products, we have taken the decision to focus on three areas where our profiles are able to make a real difference – either by reducing their own energy consumption in relation to traditional materials or by creating good and efficient green energy:

  • Wind turbines: Our profiles are used in the wind turbine industry where there is a need for strong, lightweight and durable materials.
  • Windows: Our window profiles break thermal bridges, reduce heat loss and enable slim frame constructions where the window helps contribute to energy balance in the building.
  • Load-bearing constructions: Due to their light weights, minimal maintenance requirements and long lifetimes, our composite constructions have an excellent environmental profile compared to traditional materials.

Low operating costs
If you look at the total life-cycle costs of a completed solution, our profiles are often the most cost-effective choice. Our profiles are exceptionally durable and have minimal to zero maintenance requirements, which means that the costs and resources needed for their operation, maintenance and cleaning are comparatively low. Moreover, these technical properties also mean that the products last longer. So if you look at the budget for the entire lifetime of a solution, fibreglass is often the most cost-effective choice.

A good environmental profile from a life-cycle perspective
Producing a bridge structure using traditional construction materials instead of fibreglass composites requires more than twice as much energy. That was the conclusion drawn by an environmental assessment undertaken by authorities in the Netherlands in connection with a specific bridge project. You can take a look at their comparative study below:

You can download the full report entitled 'Study of Rijkswaterstaat, NL, 2003, by Ryszard A Daniels' here.

Recycling

Fibreglass composites are recycled as part of a technical and circular process in which the composite is used as a raw material and substitute fuel in the production of cement. Fibreglass composite is used 30% as energy and 70% as raw material in cement production. Granulating fibreglass composite and using it in the production of cement can supplant the use of fossil fuels and virgin raw materials at cement plants.

From composite profile to cement
In 2010, Fiberline became the first Danish company to join forces with the company Zajons, and later with Neocomp GmbH, which has established a facility in Northern Germany for the processing of composite materials for recycling.
The profiles are broken down at this plant using a huge grinder. The calorific value of the material is then adjusted by mixing it with other recycled materials in a patented process. The final mix is then used as substitute fuel and raw material in cement plants owned by Holcim – one of the largest cement producers in the world.

Here's what we save
By recycling 1000 tonnes of Fiberline profiles, we save up to 450 tonnes of coal, 200 tonnes of chalk, 200 tonnes of sand and 150 tonnes of aluminium oxide in the cement production process. And no dust, ash or other byproducts are created in the process. (Ref: Holcim, 2010).

Optimisation of resources
Surplus glass and carbon fibre materials from our production lines are collected together and sent to our partner, where they are used as supplementary materials in moulded fibreglass solutions. In this way we are able to optimise our use of resources even further.