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. This series will share an insight into the work of the EHS team and in this latest installment we caught up with Kevin Moloney. Kevin originally hails from Limerick City but now lives in Leixlip. He studied Environmental Science and Chemical Engineering at the University of Limerick. He previously worked as an EHS consultant with the Project Management Group (Cork) prior to joining Intel in 2018.
Kevin explains his role in the management of water systems at the Intel campus.
“The main focus of my role is on the environmental management aspect of our water use. Water is essential to the semiconductor manufacturing process and we use it in many different ways. We use ultrapure water to remove impurities from our silicon wafers, and we use industrial and reclaimed water to run our facilities systems.
There are 3 key aspects of our water management system and we have several strict programs and mitigation measures in place for each. The 3 aspects are; process effluent, storm water and groundwater.
Process effluent is the wastewater that is generated in the factory during the manufacturing process.
This wastewater is only discharged to a local wastewater treatment plant and does not return directly to the natural water system.
Before the wastewater is discharged to the local wastewater treatment plant operated by Irish Water, it undergoes a range of pre-treatments on site to reduce the loadings and to ensure that it meets our discharge requirements. Various wastewater steams are treated in different treatment plants on-site before flowing to the large AWN (Acid Waste Neutralisation) plants which ensure that the wastewater is always pH neutral.
We have a strict monitoring programme in place to ensure compliance with our licence requirements. We carry out sampling of our wastewater and these samples are analysed by an external laboratory for a whole host of parameters so that we can ensure we are not having a detrimental impact on the Irish Water wastewater treatment plant.
The River Liffey is the source of all the water used on site and we ultimately return 87% of the water we take in after it has been suitably treated and rendered safe.
Storm water is water that originates from rain falling onto the site on roofs, hard surfaces etc. Any storm water from our site will eventually end up in the Rye River as all our storm drains lead there. We have a number of systems in place on the site to ensure that this river is protected as the river itself is important due to the presence of salmon and trout. The areas surrounding the river has been designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) under the EU’s habitats directive due to the presence of rare habitats and species.
These protective systems include the bunding of chemicals and oils used on site which means that, even in the unlikely event of the failure of a tank, there is no discharge of its contents to the surface water systems. Further protection is also given by the contained stormwater systems. In the event of an incident or spill on site, these containment facilities can be remotely activated. In addition, interceptors are located in strategic locations across the site to remove any residues of oil (from, for example, car park areas) as well as some sand and grit before the water reaches the retention pond.
The retention pond is the final step in this series of mitigation measures and has a 3,000 cubic meters capacity to collect surface water. We can, therefore, control the discharge of water into the river.
We continually monitor the flow of water in and out of the pond and conduct continuous analysis of the pH. If these pH measurements indicate a potential issue, the outlet from the pond is automatically shut off thereby protecting the river. In addition, we also take samples of the pond water on a weekly basis as part of our industrial emissions licence and these are analysed in an external lab.
The last aspect of the water management program is ground water. Groundwater is water that is found underground in the cracks and spaces in soil, sand and rock. We monitor ground water to ensure that our operations do no impact negatively on the groundwater.
Similarly to storm water, our ground water is managed passively in the sense that we do no treat the water, but we monitor it to ensure that there is no adverse effect from our operations .
The measures in place in relation to the containment of chemicals and oils for surface water similarly protect groundwater.
Part of our environmental policy in relation to water is to preserve the quality of the water resources where we operate and to openly engage with our local communities, stakeholders and regulatory bodies about our approach to water management and our conservation initiatives.
Some examples of initiatives in this space include the ‘Friends of the River Rye’ – a key group of local stakeholders concerned about the long-term viability of the river. Intel plays a leadership and facilitation role in bringing together all interested parties quarterly to explore ways the river can be improved.
Each year, Intel commissions an independent assessment of the Rye Water. The main focus of the study is to assess the water quality of the Rye Water using the macroinvertebrate community as bioindicators, and to assess the salmonid populations in the surveyed stretches.
In relation to water conservation, Intel has invested millions of euro in its water recovery systems on site which have resulted in the conservation of 8.1 billion litres of water in the period 2012 to 2019”.
Visit our Explore Intel portal to find out more about environmental performance.