Sunday, October 30, 2011

Tools of the trade, Part 1

Turning the supertanker

As any good engineer knows (and carpenter, surgeon, chef, etc. I imagine) you are only as effective at your task as the tools you have. And your own skill of course.

Over the past two years we have discussed various approaches to greening manufacturing, the metrics you need to use, the tools that can help act on the results of the metric data and some examples.

I attended the first annual CaFFEETForum last week in San Francisco. CaFFEET is an acronym for California France Forum on Energy Efficiency Technologies and the focus of the meeting was achieving low-CO2 industrial plants. Sponsors included the French electricity utility, EDF and our local utility, PG&E along with several organizations including EPRI (Electric Power Research Institute). The discussion centered in energy (meaning not much attention to the other green elements like water, materials and other resource use.)

One of the speakers from EDF reviewed two major barriers to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in industry:

- the approaches considered to achieve decreases too often focus only on energy efficiency without considering the attractiveness of the business model for the approach (that is, great idea but economically infeasible), and
- industry in general and facilities in specific don't always have the in-house expertise/competence to manage projects of this size/scope

He was speaking generally of large scale projects such as replacing boilers or heat recovery systems and not just turning off lights in warehouses.

The speaker elaborated a strategy to overcome those barriers and assist industry at the plant level to decrease emissions based on three principles:

One - Levers: take advantage/utilize one or more of these 7 levers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions:

1) energy efficiency,
2) on-site renewable energy,
3) fuel switching,
4) energy storage,
5) demand response,
6) carbon offsets, and
7) green electricity purchase.

Most of these are well known in name or have been discussed in earlier blog postings here. Demand response is a bit more complicated (and there was a long discussion about "smart grid" at the meeting and what that means for industry) and we'll spend some time in a future posting going over smart grid and demand  response technology and likely impacts in manufacturing.

I think there could be another lever - recovering energy from the process - but, when questioned,  the speaker thought that was part of the first lever.

These seven levers, applied individually or combined would allow engineers/manager to identify and assess several possible technical approaches and, more importantly, associated business models. A fascinating part of the discussion was what are acceptable returns on investment to "make the business model work."

Two - Think big -  a holistic analysis of the plant identifying the combination of levers that maximizes the emission reduction per invested dollar is required. This will insure that a profitable business models for the stakeholders is in place. This holistic analysis should consider the entire set of factors involved, for example, the types of industrial processes, local weather conditions, the carbon content of the electricity from your supplier/grid (recall the conversion of kWh to GHG and its dependency on the source of the electricity - nuclear to coal to hydro), and any expected evolutions of the plant and the various costs (get out your crystal ball!), and

Three - Get expertise -  it may be advantageous to set up a partnership with an organization that has experience employing the seven levers in your industry to ensure that the analysis and eventual recommendations are objective.

Did I mention that there were a number of consulting organizations involved with the forum? This last one is for them!

But, sarcasm aside, this is a very logical approach.

To insure that any of the efforts from applying these levers, or any other levers you might use, are effective, it is helpful to have tools to measure the present state of your environmental performance (energy use, greenhouse gas, materials, wastes, water, etc.).

That's where the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) Sustainable Manufacturing Toolkit comes in. As reported in the last blog, the toolkit can help companies with their business approach to insure it can be more viable, socially responsible and get the most out of greening opportunities. One feature is that outlines a set of 18 key performance indicators (KPI) to measure and improve the environmental performance of manufacturing facilities.

In case you missed reading the last posting, you can find a Start-up Guide providing a step-by-step approach to measuring and benchmarking environmental performance, and a Web Portal with additional technical guidance, data tools and useful links.

So, what does the toolkit do?

First of all, it defines sustainable manufacturing as, basically, as progression of green steps. I understand that sustainability is the destination and not the journey. I have consistently defined green manufacturing as the steps along the path towards sustainability, see the posting on technology wedges. Green manufacturing technology wedges help to "turn the supertanker!"

Others are more severe in their definitions!

Graedel and Howard-Grenville explained the nature of sustainability in their book "Greening the Industrial Facility" (Springer, 2005, p.126). They bluntly stated:

 "A crucial important property of sustainability is that the concept is an absolute, as are pregnant and unique, to use two common examples. A sustainable world is not one that is slightly more environmentally responsible than it was yesterday.”

I tend to prefer this absolute definition and have used that in earlier blogs. Others take a more nuanced view but, I expect, do understand the full impact of sustainable manufacturing is achieved over some time with many small steps.

So, what about the OECD. They cite the US Department of Commerce's definition (“The creation of manufactured products that use processes that minimize negative environmental impacts, conserve energy and natural resources, are safe for employees, communities, and consumers and are economically sound” from US Department of Commerce (2011), Sustainable Manufacturing Initiative website.

They elaborate that sustainable manufacturing is "all about minimising the diverse business risks inherent in any manufacturing operation while maximising the new opportunities that arise from improving your processes and products."

The guide helps engineers and business folks improve the environmental performance of their facilities, systems and processes.

The guide also gives helpful background on motivations for sustainable/green manufacturing - very similar to those used when I started this blog and we asked "why green manufacturing."

Importantly, the OECD guide introduces a set of sustainable manufacturing indicators and talks about how those can be normalized to the output or performance of your factory, system or process. This is a key step.

These are shown below categorized by Inputs, Operations and Products, from the Toolkit.

This is a good set of indicators and the toolkit indicates that indicators such as water intensity, energy intensity and green house gas intensity can be extended to measure supply chain related impacts.

An important "next step" is the selection of normalization factors - that is, relating the level of performance to the individual product (piece, weight, volume) or to sales volume, person-hours worked, etc.

We'll go on to that in the next posting and explain more of the OECD Toolkit procedure and application in the next part of this discussion.


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