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Engineering company ABB is partnering with Swedish mining and smelting company Boliden to use low-carbon copper in the production of its electromagnetic stirring (EMS) equipment and high-efficiency electric motors.

The aim of the partnership – to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions while driving the transition to a more circular economy – forms an integral part of ABB’s strategic ambition to reduce the environmental impact of raw materials used in its products by replacing them with lower-carbon alternatives.

Apart from using recycled copper, ABB has committed to increase the use of recycled electric steel (e-steel) and recycled aluminium – a move that is also an important step in closing the circularity loop that has already seen ABB designing its motors to be up to 98% recyclable, with the remaining two percent of materials available to be incinerated for heat recovery.

Recycling copperaluminium and steel offers energy savings of between 75% and 95%, compared with producing its equipment using virgin materials.

ABB metallurgy products, process industries head Ola Norén says that, as part of ABB’s 2030 sustainability strategy, its target is for 80% of its products and solutions to be covered by a circularity approach. “The work with Boliden is an important step towards this goal.”

By taking stock of the delivery by the end of this year, he says ABB will ensure that all the company’s metallurgy products use recycled hollow copper conductors from 2023.

“We want to enable a more sustainable and resource-efficient future and, with this collaboration, our customers can not only decarbonise by upgrading to energy efficient motors but will also be able to install ABB technology that has an improved environmental footprint thanks to Boliden’s copper,” says ABB motion Sweden MD Ulf Hellstrom.

The cooperation includes ABB placing the first order for Boliden’s certified recycled copper through Finnish metals manufacturing specialist Luvata. Hollow conductor wire made from the material will be used in ABB’s energy management software products for both steel and aluminium manufacturing.

Further, as of 2023, ABB will buy Boliden’s low-carbon and recycled copper to cover the demand for its IE5 Ultra-Premium Efficiency SynRM and e-mobility motors produced in Europe.

The two companies have also signed a memorandum of understanding that will see ABB supporting Boliden in identifying inefficient low-voltage motors across its operating units. These motors can then be replaced with high efficiency motors within ABB’s take back upcycling framework, with the old motors recycled to provide raw material for Boliden’s recycled copper.

Copper is a vital material for manufacturing industrial electrical equipment, but its production is energy intensive. To address this, Boliden has developed low-carbon copper that is mined using fossil-free energy and also produces copper using secondary raw material from recycled products.

The carbon footprint of these products is 65% lower than the industry average. A typical 75 kW motor, weighing 650 kg, might include 80 kg of copper. Using Boliden’s copper saves about 200 kg of carbon dioxide emissions for every one of these motors manufactured.

Each stirrer has up to 2 700 kg of copper, saving up to 6 700 kg of carbon dioxide per stirrer.