Intel is committed to caring for our people and the planet by integrating design for the environment and safety principles into all aspects of our business; from the development of our products, through our supply chain and manufacturing.
The Intel campus in Leixlip is home to facilities where we manufacture computer chips. The process of making computer chips is called fabrication and the factories where chips are made are called fabrication facilities, or ‘fabs’. Intel’s fabs are amongst the most technically advanced manufacturing facilities in the world. We use a photolithographic “printing” process to build a chip layer by layer on circular discs or ‘wafers’ made of silicon. Many layers are deposited across the wafer and then removed in small areas to create transistors and interconnects. The stages involved in creating these layers rely largely on chemical and electronic processes. Our manufacturing operations are underpinned by rigorous environmental management systems to protect the environment.
Central to these systems is our Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) team who oversee all aspects of safety and environmental management at our campus here in Leixlip. From compliance with licences and regulations to innovative programs that provide safeguards for the workplace and the wider community, the team have an uncompromising commitment to safety and environmental excellence.
The EHS team includes a number of environmental engineers who have a variety of responsibilities at the campus. We caught up with one of these engineers, Michael Cullen. Michael originally comes from Tipperary but now lives in Kildare. He is a 20-year veteran of Intel; most of which has been spent at the Leixlip site, but also included a three-year assignment at the company’s environmental research and development department in Portland, Oregon (U.S.). He has a background in Chemical Engineering (UCD), Environmental Impact Assessment Management (UCD) and Management of Health and Safety (DCU).
Michael explains more about the role of his team;
“Intel is very committed to environmental responsibility – something that goes back many decades to the ethos of the company founders themselves. There is a strong culture of environmental responsibility that feeds through to the entire Intel network across the world, including here in Ireland.
The protection of the environment is important to Irish people and it is vital that all of us, including industry, play our part in looking after it.
The environmental engineers on the Ireland site work collaboratively within a network of Intel environmental engineers world-wide. Our focus is ensuring that Intel’s operations are carried out in the most responsible way possible.
In Ireland, the Irish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plays a significant role in protecting the environment. Under Irish and European law, as a large industrial site, we are required to have a licence from the EPA. This is called an Industrial Emissions Licence. It is an integrated licence covering air, water and noise emissions as well as waste management and resource conservation. It places strict conditions on our operations to ensure that we do not impact negatively on the environment.
It is the job of our team to understand potential environmental impacts and to ensure that we have the appropriate controls in place in accordance with this licence. We have robust procedures and protocols for environmental protection that are all part of our documented Environmental Management System.
Extensive engineering systems are in place to prevent or minimise emissions. These are typically large-scale abatement systems that remove contaminants from air or water being emitted from the factory.
We also have an extensive monitoring program in place. This monitors our emissions as well as surrounding air quality, water quality and noise levels.
From time to time, the EPA make unannounced visits to the site and carry out comprehensive audits. These include inspection of the site and a review of relevant documentation and records. The EPA also carry out independent monitoring of our emissions.
Designing with environmental protection in mind
Given the scale of investment in our manufacturing facilities, it is essential that environmental protection is considered from the early development stage, both in terms of the kind of process we use to manufacture our products and the design of our facilities to house that process.
This means that we, in the environmental team, liaise closely with our colleagues in the U.S. and across the world to understand future processes that the Corporation will transfer to our site. This way, we can ensure the appropriate controls that minimise our impacts are designed into the process from the very beginning.
We ensure that EU and Irish standards are incorporated into the design considerations and that, in this very complex business making the most advanced devices on the planet, we can ensure that whatever environmental standards apply in Ireland or the EU are embedded within the design process.
Working with our local community
We are very proud of our relationship with the local community here in Leixlip and endeavour to provide information to them on a continuous basis such as through the publication of our annual environmental report and through our Explore Intel online portal where people can find data about our environmental performance.
We also work together with our colleagues in Public Affairs to engage with the community on a regular basis through forums such as the Community Advisory Panel and the Friends of the Rye River.
I enjoy the fact that my role here at Intel combines my interest in engineering and technology with my interest in the environment and the local area. There is such a breadth of scale involved in what I get to do on a day-to-day basis – I could go from talking about large infrastructure projects to sampling of water in the local river.
I’m proud to work for a company that takes its environmental responsibility so seriously and to play a small role in the development in Ireland of such a hi-tech industry whilst also ensuring that the environment is protected”.
Visit our Explore Intel portal to find out more about environmental performance.