ARC recently met with executives at Emerson’s Asia Pacific headquarters in Singapore to discuss the company’s activities and progress in the area of sustainability and decarbonization, which has quickly shot to the top of the agenda for the company and its customers as the world endeavors to grapple with the huge and urgent challenge of climate change.
Representing Emerson at the briefing: Veronica Constantin, vice president global sustainability, a 26-year veteran of the company’s European operations, who is based in Romania; and from the regional headquarters, Pravin Raj, director of strategic planning, sustainability & decarbonization – Asia Pacific. The key discussion points are summarized here.
Why Emerson is putting so much emphasis and effort on sustainability
Our company’s highest purpose is to drive innovation that makes the world healthier, safer, smarter, and more sustainable. From a business perspective sustainability is a megatrend for the world, especially in relation to the transition to a more sustainable mix of energy sources. So sustainability is absolutely core for Emerson.
Organizational structure and resources for sustainability
We created the position of chief sustainability officer – with Mike Train as the first appointee in 2020 – and began to build the executive sustainability team around that. In 2021, another new position, vice president global sustainability, was created and Veronica holds that. There are executive roles in the regions, such as Pravin’s for Asia Pacific. And there is the Emerson Environmental Steering Committee, which provides regular updates to the board of directors.
At the site level we have green leaders and teams responsible for making our own operations more sustainable. These are passionate people looking at ways to reduce energy consumption, at new packaging options, for example, as part of Emerson’s “greening of” initiative. And we have teams in place in all world areas to drive business opportunities through helping customers become more sustainable, which we call “greening by” Emerson.
Introducing and evangelizing the topic of sustainability with customers
Sustainability being such an urgent topic, it’s easy to open a conversation by asking, “What are your plans to become more sustainable?” If you take the example of emissions, many companies publish reduction targets but don't have clear strategies for how to achieve them. With Emerson’s expertise and advanced technologies, such as integrated digital architectures, which can provide critical insight into operations unit-by-unit or across an entire enterprise, as well as intelligent field devices, control and optimization software and process simulation tools, we can help companies meet their sustainability targets.
So there are these opportunities with our existing customers, as they’re all under pressure to become more sustainable regardless of which industry they are in. But there are also many potential new customers in areas where Emerson’s solutions are of particular value, like renewable (green) hydrogen, carbon capture, biofuels and biochemicals, and plastic recycling, and we’re actively pursuing projects in all these and other new areas.
Regional differences in customers’ environmental awareness and enthusiasm
It is true that Europe is more advanced in the sense that it started much earlier than other regions and is far more regulated in terms of procedures, taxonomy, penalties and incentives, etc. But enthusiasm – not necessarily, because there is a lot of enthusiasm here in Asia Pacific, notably in Korea and Australia, and in the US. Perhaps more surprising is the level of interest and enthusiasm in the Middle East, which of course is the epicenter of the oil and gas business. Producers there are increasingly outlining plans for carbon capture components for new oil and gas projects, and are also quite advanced in water management, an important but seldom discussed sustainability topic.
End market opportunities in sustainability
We take the broad view on this, as our technology is applicable to many different opportunities that exist or are developing. Brownfield decarbonization, i.e., energy and efficiency and emissions, is an area where digital transformation is an important contributor and in which we have been working for some years now. In China, we are involved in many projects around producing biodegradable plastics. In Korea, Japan and also in China our technology is applied in the chemical process for electric vehicle batteries. The transition of traditional hydrocarbon refineries and chemical producers to bio-based feedstocks is another important area we are supporting. In the clean energy sector, where Emerson already has extensive deployments, we now have a much larger wind footprint after the acquisition of Mita-Teknik, the Danish wind turbine controls company, at the end of 2021.
Project successes in hydrogen
The hydrogen business, which is relatively new but growing extremely fast, is a very important area for us as well. Emerson has offerings for all three phases of the hydrogen value chain – production, distribution and storage, and dispensing – and we’ve been very successful, including here in this region with projects such as automating the world’s largest hydrogen fueling station for commercial vehicles for KOHYGEN in Korea, and helping to transform a Toyota facility in Australia into a commercial-grade hydrogen production plant.
Over in Europe, Emerson is the automation supplier for the PosHYdon project, the world’s first offshore green hydrogen pilot on a working platform. In this pioneering initiative, the electrolyzer uses seawater, which is desalinized on the platform, and the electricity comes from offshore wind.
One other thing to highlight is that our majority equity ownership of AspenTech now allows us to look at hydrogen projects from a process modeling perspective and assess their viability, including for example, given the cost of power coming and the efficiency of the electrolyzers, how much hydrogen can be produced? Having this access to AspenTech technology means that we can help customers at the front end from an R&D perspective, as well as with automation technology in system deployments.
Serving the oil and gas industry
Oil and gas continues to be an important sector for Emerson. While of course we all know the impact of fossil fuels on the environment, it is not possible to suddenly replace the entire hydrocarbon infrastructure without causing severe energy supply disruption. This process is going to take some time and that’s why it’s a transition to net-zero. It is also worth mentioning that many of the investments in sustainability and decarbonization are increasingly coming from traditional oil and gas customers. For example, Shell Energy is now producing and supplying sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) from its Pulau Bukom refinery in Singapore
Company performance on its own net zero targets
Emerson aims to become carbon neutral across our value chain by 2045, with an intermediate target to become net zero across our own operations by 2030. We constantly monitor performance towards these targets and are making good progress. For example, from 2020 to 2021 we managed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent and global energy use by 12.
It is important to keep driving the sustainability culture within the company and, to this end, we have established awards to recognize site achievements and we continue to actively share internal initiatives and success around the world in order to maintain motivation and interest in this critical area of sustainability and decarbonization.