- Elkem around the world
- Elkem around the world: Bjølvefossen, Norway
Elkem around the world: Bjølvefossen, Norway
In 2020, Hroar Holm Carlsen made the move from being one of the plant managers in Bremanger to taking over the reins at Elkem’s Bjølvefossen plant. Despite the challenges posed by the global pandemic, Carlsen adapted and got to know the new team both virtually and in-person.
"I like having the full responsibility for the plant’s activities," Carlsen explains when asked about what he enjoys about the role as a plant manager. He finds that motivating improvements and witnessing the tangible results are some of the most rewarding aspects of being a leader. Notably, Carlsen points out the importance of setting shared goals with the team and empowering individuals to take ownership of their work.
A cornerstone in the local community with long history
The plant’s history dates back to 1905 upon the establishment of the plant, which became a part of Elkem in 2000. Founded to utilize the nearby hydroelectric power resources, the name Bjølvefossen comes from the lifeblood of the melting works, namely the waterfalls in the Bølvo watercourse. Like the other production sites in Norway, Bjølvefossen is based on industrial value creation from competitive- and renewable power.
Situated in the natural surroundings of the small town Ålvik in western Norway, Bjølvefossen is one of Elkem's six production sites in the country. With 155 employees taking great pride in their work, including experienced operators and engineers, the plant plays a central role in the local community. "Most of our employees have a long-standing history with the company and have worked here for 10-30 years," Carlsen notes. Earlier this year, the plant invited everyone in the municipality to visit the plant’s facilities and learn about its activities. “It was a great opportunity for the team to bring their families and showcase the work we do here on a daily basis”, Carlsen underlines.
In addition to contributing with both direct employment and indirect employment through its supply chain, the plant also invests back in the community by actively supporting local children and youth initiatives. “Being an integral part of our local community comes with great responsibility, and we are grateful to be surrounded by a tight-knit community supporting our activities”, Carlsen emphasizes.
Apart from the challenges posed by COVID-19, the significant surge in electricity prices approximately a year ago, presented a hurdle in managing the plant’s operations. When asked about the plant’s response, Carlsen notes “We adjusted our production levels and adopted a different mindset”. Still, rising electricity prices is not a new phenomenon to the plant. In 2006, the rising energy costs threatened the plant’s future. It was decided that the production at Bjølvefossen would move to Iceland. “The following years was a tragic period for both Bjølvefossen and Ålvik”, Carlsen shares. However, a stroke of luck and a combination of factors, including a subsequent decline in electricity prices, prompted Elkem to bring the production back to Bjølvefossen – a decision it has not regretted since.
Bjølvefossen produces ferrosilicon and customer-specific special alloys for iron foundries worldwide, contributing to improved material properties, higher quality, reduced waste, and increased sustainability in the metal industry. Ferrosilicon is made from quartz, coke, coal, and iron. Elements, such as magnesium, are added through the alloying station. Subsequently, metal is refined to 600-700 different products, mainly Ferrosilicon Magnesium (FSM). “High quality and specialization combined with our technical expertise is what makes us a good partner for foundries”, Carlsen states. He adds that the plant primarily supplies foundries in Europe where they have a significant market share, but also delivers to some countries in Asia.
Carlsen outlines three key focus areas for the future. Firstly, sustaining global market shares is a priority. Secondly, the team is committed to continuous improvement, maintaining stable processes and high quality. Finally, Carlsen affirms their commitment to further improving facilities, ensuring that the plant remains an attractive workplace for the younger generations.