Reducing carbon footprint will be one of the more challenging tasks for the manufacturing industry in the coming years. There is an evident shift in public opinion and consumer spending based on the environmental impacts of companies. Investors are also willing to give higher valuations for businesses with better environmental outcomes. Government regulations in the near future are bound to crack down on greenhouse emissions. Looking from every angle, factories have to proactively reduce their carbon footprint.
What is Carbon Footprint?
Carbon footprint is the carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent that is released into the atmosphere as a result of industrial activities. All industrial operations require energy and raw materials. The greenhouse gasses emitted in creating this energy and raw materials are harmful to the environment. Different greenhouse gasses, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide (CO), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), ozone (O3), are emitted in industrial processes. All such emissions are converted to CO2 equivalent to figuring out the carbon footprint of a factory.
When greenhouse gas emissions by a factory are considered, a wide range of activities goes into estimating the carbon footprint of organizations. The World Resources Institute has developed a Greenhouse Gas (GHG) protocol defining three scopes for emissions.
Scope 1 (Direct): This considers the GHG emissions created by the direct burning of fossil fuels in the factory premises. Refrigerants in factory premises and emissions of vehicles of the organization are also part of this scope. Other greenhouse gasses emitted due to other processes are also counted here.
Scope 2 (Indirect): This scope of indirect emissions by a factory is with the electricity usage. The creation of electricity and its distribution results in emissions that are off-site. This varies widely depending on the fuel used to produce electricity.
Scope 3 (Indirect): All other indirect emissions that are not part of scope 2 falls in this category. Emissions due to the production of purchased goods & services, capital goods, business travel, employee commuting, and waste disposal are part of this scope.
Reducing Carbon Footprint
According to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), industries contributed to 23% of global greenhouse emissions. This is nearly 1.5 billion metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent. This could roughly double by 2050. Industries have to double down on their efforts to reduce their carbon footprint.
The wide range of processes in factories is the key challenge to reducing the carbon footprint. Each factory has a different set of needs to be addressed to reduce its carbon footprint. But across industries, the use of modern technology is the way to go forward. The steps that can be taken by businesses fall broadly into three categories. Each of these categories is addressed in the following sections.
This first option is by moving from high carbon-intensive fuels used in factories to low carbon-intensive fuels. Coal is a carbon-intensive fuel and releases a much higher quantum of greenhouse gasses. On the other hand, natural gas is a low-carbon fuel and releases much lower greenhouse gases. Moving from coal to natural gas will radically reduce the carbon footprint of a factory.
Switching from one kind of fossil fuel to another will not reduce emissions enough, though it is a great first step. In the long term, moving to renewable sources of energy from fossil fuels is the sustainable path to a reduced carbon footprint.
Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS)
CCS technologies applied to factories can reduce the carbon footprint. Carbon capture refers to a broad range of techniques used to absorb greenhouse gasses from emissions and safely store them in pellet form. This makes sure that greenhouse gasses from industrial processes do not spread in the atmosphere. As carbon capture removes greenhouse gasses from emissions, the carbon footprint of the factory reduces drastically. According to estimates from International Energy Agency (IEA), carbon capture could contribute to nearly half of the reduction in industrial carbon footprint.
Energy Efficiency Technologies
Using machinery and equipment that consume very little energy will reduce greenhouse gas emissions directly and indirectly. One method is to replace older machinery with newer ones that consume much less energy. The other way is to shift to modern and advanced technology that consumes way less power.
Consider the flow wrappers used in food manufacturing and processing. They are made up of multiple different components like variable frequency drives, servo motors, and control equipment. Switching to more energy-efficient components will increase the efficiency of the flow wrapper which in turn helps to reduce the carbon footprint of the factory.
The Sapphire™ and Garnet from AES packaging solutions is a highly energy-efficient flow wrapper delivering high mechanical power with low electrical consumption. This is possible by using One Motion™ mag-drives instead of conventional drum motors. These gearless, magnetic direct drives consume 44% less power than comparable drum motors and 55% less power than conventional gearmotor systems. This will help food processing plants to deliver minimal energy waste, high efficiency, and low carbon footprint.
Better Technology = Better Carbon Footprint
The rising carbon footprint of industries is a global concern that has to be addressed soon. Businesses that are responsible to society and shareholders have to think about reducing their carbon footprint aggressively. Using better and improved technology is the most effective means of reducing carbon footprint. This is evident from scientific studies and past implementations. Industries coming forward to embrace new and better technology can help to reduce the global carbon footprint.