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Balancing Industry Growth and Process Sustainability in Electronics

The semiconductor sector relies extensively on a diverse range of process gases during manufacture, some of which are rare and valuable. Sourcing, using and disposing of these gases responsibly is a significant sustainability concern.

As our dependence on digital systems continues to grow, so too will the demand for gases used in semiconductor manufacturing. At the same time, shareholders and end-users are increasingly applying pressure on the sector to reduce emissions. The recovery (transfer into other commodity) and recycling of these gases are important for several reasons.  

7 Reasons to Recycle & Recover Gases

  1. Cost Efficiency: Some gases can be costly to produce or acquire, so recovering and recycling them can significantly reduce operational costs.
  2. Conservation of Resources: Many rare gases are sourced from limited reserves, and their extraction can have severe environmental impacts.
  3. Environmental Impact: The production of gases can have negative environmental consequences, including increased energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
  4. Stable Supply Chain: Supply chain disruptions of process gases due to market fluctuations, geopolitical factors or unforeseen events can have a severe impact on production and possibly lead to increased costs or delays in manufacturing lead times.
  5. Regulatory Compliance: There are regulations governing the emission and disposal of certain gases due to their potential impact on human health and the environment.
  6. Process Consistency and Quality: Using recycled gases that have been purified and analysed ensures that the desired quality and process specifications are maintained.
  7. Reduced Waste Generation: Recycling and recovery of rare gases reduces the amount of waste generated by industrial processes.
" Deerns has more than thirty years’ experience in sustainability. More specifically, we have over ten years experience in gas recycling and recovery.
Richard Striekwold Senior Expert Clean Utilities

Here’s where we innovate Gas Recycling and Recovery

Some of the gases for which we have designed recycling and recovery systems include:

  • Hydrogen
  • Helium
  • Neon
  • Xenon
  • Sulphur Hexafluoride

Supply chain stability and cost reduction are two major drivers for gas recycling. Neon, for example, is a widely used gas with 70% of its production taking place in the Ukraine before the war. Today it costs ten times more than it did before hostilities and its availability is not always assured.

Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6), an insulator gas used for electrical installations, is described as the world’s worst greenhouse gas. It’s 23,500 times more potent than CO2. In cases such as this, it is important to minimize the amount of gas being discharged into the atmosphere regardless of the cost of the product or its availability. In instances when the gas does not meet re-use specifications it must be disposed of as waste by incineration rather than direct venting into the atmosphere, as the carbon equivalent emissions are much lower this way.

Recycled gases can be reused in the same processes from which they originated. Once purified, the output is then analysed for purity and suitability for re-use. Batches that do not meet re-use specifications are released or incinerated. Not all used gas is suitable for recovery and recycling. Some processes render gases unrecoverable, such as when a gas is contaminated by other gases.

Case in point – E2P2 Fuel Cell Project

Gases can also be repurposed. For example, Deerns is working on the pioneering Eco Edge Prime Power (E2P2) fuel cell project, funded by the Clean Hydrogen Partnership and the European Union. Here, hydrogen is used to produce electricity through an electrochemical process whose only by-products are pure water and potentially useful heat. Deerns is system integrator for this proof of concept (POC) project, which is currently underway at Equinix’s ML5 Data Centre in Milan in collaboration with critical infrastructure giant Vertiv, sustainable data centre specialist InfraPrime, Italian utility Snam, German fuel cell manufacturer Solid Power, Tec4Fuels research centre, and the Research Institutes of Sweden (RISE).

Deerns also has designed a system for the recovery of waste hydrogen with a fuel cell for the production of electricity in the semiconductor industry.

Collaboration leads to Efficient Solutions

To develop appropriate solutions, we work closely with our clients to understand their processes and to glean essential information such as which gases are used and whether gases are pure or mixed with other gases. We collaborate with facilities managers to understand the project’s scope and needs clearly, and we go above and beyond to make solutions work, if necessary.

We also undertake studies to ascertain a project’s viability and the return on investment of particular recovery systems. Using this approach, we are able to offer accurate insights and recommendations and, ultimately, deliver solutions that offer reasonable payback times, ensure business continuity, save costs and offer a first line of defense against scarcity in pursuit of a greener future for the electronics sector.

Are you interested in finding out more? Let’s Talk!

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Richard Striekwold

Senior Expert