Tuff processing
in Þorlákshöfn

Heidelberg Materials plans to build a grinding plant in Þorlákshöfn that processes Icelandic tuff for use in cement production. Plans assume that tuff will be extracted from mines in Litla-Sandfell and Lambafell in Þrengslin and transported to Þorlákshöfn, where the tuff will be processed in enclosed spaces for export.

The plans are part of Heidelberg Materials’ efforts to significantly reduce the carbon footprint of its cement production. With the production, it is estimated that carbon emissions due to cement production can be reduced by up to 1.3 million tonnes per year. That corresponds to roughly a quarter of Iceland’s total emissions, or close to what the entire national car fleet emits per year.

News

Í síðustu viku hélt Heidelberg Materials vel heppnaðan íbúafund um fyrirhugaða móbergsvinnslu í Þorlákshöfn þar…

Hér er á þessari slóð er hægt að nálgast þá kynningu sem fram fór á…

Fyrirtækið hefur nú fengið vilyrði fyrir lóðum í Þorlákshöfn en að öðru leyti er verkefnið…

Map that show the mines Lambafell and Litla-Sandfell

Picture that shows intended industrial area of Heidelberg Materials

Why Þorlákshöfn?

Þorlákshöfn has unequivocal advantages that make the location ideal: good harbour facilities, enough land and good access to electricity and fresh water, along with the fact that Ölfus’ strategy for utilising the municipality’s natural resources resonates well with the focus of the project. Emphasis is placed on fully processing the material in the municipality, which maximises its added value for the residents of Ölfus. Ölfus is both a dynamic and modern municipality and has many people that can work for the company in one way or another.

Tuff is present in large quantities in mines that have been utilised for decades and authorities have already identified for further utilisation. Þorlákshöfn is located close to the mines, which saves on transportation.

It is estimated that 70–90 new jobs will be created directly as a result of the plant’s operations, in addition to purchased services and secondary activities that accompany the operation of such a plant. In addition, the company will pay taxes and fees to the municipality. Roughly estimated, the project’s direct added value to Ölfus is estimated at around ISK 500–700 million per year, in addition to secondary jobs and income generated from them.

The operation of the plant does not result in significant noise, odour, visual or environmental pollution, apart from the fact that a new building will be built in the town’s industrial area. Tuff processing is not inherently polluting, as only natural rock is being ground. Nevertheless, it is planned that the processing will take place entirely in closed buildings so that there will be no risk of drifting or other pollution.

What will the proposed plant look like?

The plant buildings have not been designed yet, but Heidelberg Materials has experience in constructing buildings in harmony with their local communities. Buildings like the one that would house the tuff processing take up space. On the other hand, this project involves a single party instead of many, who wants and benefits from being an active and positive participant in the community in Ölfus.


Efforts will be made to establish a good dialogue with the local community so that the planned project fits well with the environment, adds value to the town and benefits the residents as much as possible.

What kind of company is Heidelberg Materials? 

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Heidelberg Materials is one of the largest manufacturers of construction materials in the world. The company’s products are used in the construction of houses, roads and commercial and industrial structures. Originally German, the company is now multinational with operations in many countries. It is also the parent company of Hornsteinn, an Icelandic holding company, which owns and operates three subsidiaries, all of which have a long history in Iceland: BM Vallá, Sementsverksmiðjan and Björgun.  

Why does Heidelberg have these plans?  

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Heidelberg’s goal is to become a global leader in sustainable building materials. The cement industry is responsible for 6–8% of global carbon emissions by human beings. Because of this, one of Heidelberg Materials’ main goals is to reduce its carbon footprint and the negative impact of cement production. The project in Þorlákshöfn is part of the company’s plan to significantly reduce carbon emissions in the construction industry and thus bring an important sector closer to sustainable production. The use of tuff in cement production and its processing with renewable energy in Iceland would reduce the climate impact of cement production to an extent unprecedented in the industry. 

Why is Þorlákshöfn suitable for this project? 

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Þorlákshöfn is particularly suitable for this project both because tuff can be found in an area near the town and because of the town’s harbour and its geographical location; by sailing to and from Þorlákshöfn, the sailing time from Iceland to Europe can be significantly shortened, compared to other places in the country, e.g. Reykjavík.  

How much is the carbon footprint of cement production reduced by using tuff in production?  

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It is estimated that the carbon footprint is reduced by 20%. It can be said that it is a medium goal, but an even higher replacement rate is aimed for, which requires further product development and the introduction of new products. Each step towards a lower carbon footprint of cement is a step in the right direction. A reduction of 20% is a good step forward, and with continued research and increased use of the material, a higher replacement rate can become a possibility.  

Is cement necessary for the construction industry? 

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Cement production is and will continue to be important to the modern construction industry for years to come. It is likely that in the future, it will be possible to use more of other materials in some sectors of the construction industry, but cement is absolutely necessary for various structures and will continue to be so for many years to come.

Has ground tuff already been used in cement production? 

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Tuff, a natural pozzolanic material (volcanic material), has long been used as an additive in cement production. The material is already part of the European cement standard EN 197-1. 

Where will the ground tuff be transported to? 

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Primarily to destinations in Northern Europe, to Norway and Sweden, but possibly also to Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Great Britain and/or Germany. 

How much marine traffic will there be in Þorlákshöfn when the factory is in use? 

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The current hypothesis assumes that about 1 million tons will be transported by ships during the first construction phase, which amounts to about 30-50 shipping trips over a year, approx 1 ship weekly. Later, about 1.5 million tons are expected. This number could increase even further with the expansion of the factory. 

Is this an Icelandic project? 

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This is Heidelberg Materials’ project. Heidelberg Materials is an international company with German origins, and the company will operate the factory. However, the operating basis of the factory will be in Iceland, which means that fees and taxes will be paid in this country. The idea is that a large part of the professional services will come from the domestic labour market / domestic workforce. 

How will the municipality and the state receive income from the project?  

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The factory will create approx. 70–90 jobs. We hope that the resulting impact will also be great for the local community through increased purchases of goods and services. Of course, the company pays taxes and fees from the operation, both to the municipality and the harbour, and the project could also lead to an increase in the population in the town, which would mean more taxes to the municipality. Taxes and fees will be paid to the Icelandic state as required by laws and regulations.  

How does this project benefit the community in Þorlákshöfn?  

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Beyond creating both increased employment and employment opportunities and generating taxable income for the municipality, the project will also contribute to an attractive economy and development of the municipality as well as the harbour. Heidelberg Materials will – as it always has – work according to a social plan where the company sponsors certain sports, leisure and cultural events as well as certain entrepreneurial projects. The possibility of connecting the area and the environment as best as possible is also being examined, i.a. by putting a public viewing platform on top of the storage tanks from where there would be a great view of the local area and the landscape – which could easily become an attraction for locals and tourists. 

  

How long will the mines last, and what happens when the mines are depleted? 

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Geological research is still ongoing, so it is not possible to answer this definitively at this time. In general, mineral reserves to last several decades are needed as a basis for investing. Research on other/new resources will continue after operations begin, with the aim of ensuring a stable supply of raw materials to the factory for years to come. Plans for the post-use of the mines (e.g. as leisure/recreation areas), if/when they are depleted, will be submitted well in advance of closure and are subject to the approval of the municipality. 

Will the environment and residents’ interests be taken into account when designing the factory and the surrounding area? 

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There is a strong desire to work on the project in consultation with the local community to the extent possible. The design of a factory of this type has various requirements for e.g. security and size, but it is Heidelberg’s desire and goal to participate in an active conversation with the residents about the design of the area and how the activities will benefit the community as much as possible. Part of this involves, among other things, carrying out presentations of plans and designs, calling for opinions and, in addition, ideas for increased use of buildings and plots, such as observation decks, building decorations, connections to outdoor recreation areas, etc. 

What is Hornsteinn’s connection to the project? 

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Heidelberg Materials in Iceland and Hornsteinn are sister companies that both operate in Iceland. Heidelberg Materials is the sole owner of HPM and the majority owner of Hornstein. Hornsteinn’s CEO, Þorsteinn V., has worked with Heidelberg Materials on the project and has been its advocate in Iceland. 

How will the operation impact traffic on the vicinity of Þorlákshöfn?  

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A final decision has not been made on how material will be transported from the mine to the factory. Several alternatives are under consideration, but Heidelberg Materials’ plans assume that the operation will not have an inhibiting effect on traffic in Þrengslin or in the vicinity of Þorlákshöfn. 

Will Heidelberg handle the demolition of the plant if/when it ceases to operate? 

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Each plant is closed in accordance with regulatory requirements and in consultation with key stakeholders. For example, Sementsverksmiðjan in Akranes ceased production in 2013, and then an agreement was made with the municipalities for the removal of land and the demolition of structures. The former plant site in Akranes has now been redeveloped as a residential area. 

When is the plant scheduled to begin operations? 

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The design and construction of the plant, along with the preparation of the mining, will take about two years if the schedule is met. Processing is expected to begin in 2025, but the final timing has not been confirmed.  

What economic impact will the operation have on Þorlákshöfn? 

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Due to the size of the project for Þorlákshöfn, it is expected that the project will have a great positive economic impact for the municipality. Job creation and secondary jobs will greatly increase the employment opportunities of the residents and the municipality’s income. It is difficult to give exact figures on the increase in the municipality’s income, but it is expected that municipal tax, harbour fees and other fees to the municipality will increase the municipality’s income significantly, probably by tens of percent. 

Will there be pollution due to the tuff processing? 

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Tuff processing is not inherently polluting. The processing takes place by grinding material that is found naturally in the town’s environment. The processing itself takes place in an enclosed space so that there will be no danger of fumes. The factory’s buildings have a visual impact, but otherwise, the operation will not have visual, noise or odour pollution or any other negative side effects on the daily life of the residents. 

How many jobs will the operation create? 

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It is estimated that around 70–90 employees will work at the plant once it is fully operational. The jobs are of various types and include, among other things, machine operation, engineering, electrical engineering and general management, not to mention other jobs that are created due to the purchase of various services related to the operation.  

Will Heidelberg Materials use material from both Litla-Sandfell and then Lambafell or even from more mines in the vicinity?  

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This has yet to be fully investigated and a decision made on what will follow. Based on current knowledge, the operation will probably use material from both mines when the plant is put into operation, and the larger portion will probably come from Litla-Sandfell. An environmental impact assessment for Litla-Sandfell is being completed, but the mine in Lambafell already has an approved environmental assessment available, along with all associated permits. 

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