Across all industries, there is an increased urgency and demand to reduce emissions. Every sustainability strategy—from capturing CO2 and using more clean energy sources and green fuels to improving energy efficiencies—directly or indirectly links to managing emissions. In earlier podcasts we focused on challenges and opportunities operators face with hydrogen production and transportation. Today, we look at emission management technologies for industrial applications.
The need to optimize operations to reduce energy usage and waste, and meet ever-changing emissions and environmental regulations is critical. To learn more about emissions and the technology opportunities for manufacturers and producers – download our emissions e-book – Emissions Management Provides a Path to Achieving Environmental Sustainability Goals.
Visit the Energy & Emissions section on Emerson.com for more on strategies and technologies for lower emissions and improved resource efficiency.
Jim: Hi everyone. This is Jim Cahill with another “Emerson Automation Experts” podcast. Today I’m joined by Aurelién Tissot to discuss the global effects to reduce emissions and some of the technologies that can help drive more sustainable performance. Welcome, Aurelién.
Aurelién: Hi, Jim.
Jim: It’s great to have you with us today. Let’s begin by asking that you share with our listeners your background and path to your current role here at Emerson.
Aurelién: All right. Well, thank you very much, Jim. I’m very happy to be here today. I wanted to say that and discuss about such an important topic. So my name is Aurelién, I am based in Lyon, France, and I am looking after Europe marketing and digital business for one of Emerson Automation Solutions for major business groups being Final Control. I have a master’s degree in mechanical systems from the University of Troy and an Executive MBA from La Sorbonne in Paris. I started to work for Emerson back in 2007, so some time ago, as a Europe engineering manager in France.
Sometime after that, I spent three years in McKinney, Texas as a new product development project manager. Back to Europe after this taking care of strategic planning, product marketing, communication, business development, working for Pressure Management back then, which basically led to my current role since Pressure Management is about the Final Control.
Now very important on top of these attributions, I am also co-engagement leader for two main sustainability programs globally, one being energy and emission for the refining industry, and another one being carbon emissions capture, utilization, and storage. So basically, here, we talk about two programs that put the emissions topic at the very center of my current endeavors.
Jim: Well, that’s great that you have that focus on energy and emissions, which we’ll get into. And also it was great to hear that you spent some time in our great state of Texas. So we love having people come to the state and getting the feeling for what it’s like around here. So that’s tremendous. Can you describe the importance of the emissions topic and ways that it affects manufacturers and producers?
Aurelién: Yeah, and I think it is absolutely key. Let’s say that the end goal for all global sustainability or decarbonization discussions that we hear about, and there is a buzz right now, is to reach the so-called carbon neutrality. So what does it mean? It means that greenhouse gas emissions that we are producing as a civilization must be reduced or contained so that we do not emit more than the planet absorption capacity.
So we talk about Net Zero emission, or carbon neutrality. In other words, every sustainability strategy, or initiatives such as capturing CO2, limiting methane emissions, leakages, or simply venting, working on the energy efficiency, insulation, cleaner energy source, green fuels, smart management, name it, all of that either directly or indirectly link to the purpose of managing or reducing emissions.
Jim: Well, that makes sense. So for the manufacturers and producers that emit carbon emissions, what’s their mindset right now?
Aurelién: So obviously, everybody’s looking at them. And that is a very important question, one that we as Emerson absolutely need to answer so that we know the type of support that we can provide. Now, depending on the sector, or the world area, the economic development, or simply the belief of the person we’re talking to, I would say that we managed to identify three main categories.
The first category is kind of resisting to this reality, and then the need to take action. Fortunately, it’s less than less. But we still have that. And there can be different reasons to that fact, right? Some reasons can be very noble, like the lack of financing or the danger that it puts on an operation that is growing, right? And we don’t want to disturb that.
Other reason, are not so noble, but, yeah, that’s a category that exists. The second category is reacting. So these people, and I believe this is the greater category by far right now, these people are aware of the reality, they are willing to take the appropriate actions, mainly because it is more and more part of the regulations. But they still see that as a constraint, meaning, yes, they’re going to act, but they want to do that at the lowest possible cost, and maybe not do more than what’s requested.
Finally, the last category is optimizing. Not only are they aware that they see sustainability as an opportunity to outperform the competition. It is indeed well proven that such companies, companies that have a strong sustainability strategy will have a much more attractive culture, they will manage to stimulate innovation and end up having greater financial but also extra financial performance, and that attracts investors. So at Emerson, we want to help climbing the different stages of this ladder with a mix of technology, expertise, services, and very important, education.
Jim: Well, that’s very interesting about it. And the people looking to optimize, usually, in those industries that are the emitters, that’s one of their greatest cost sources. So whatever they can do to be more efficient in that area seems like it makes good business sense for them to be able to do that. So what are some types of emissions of most concern and the industries most affected?
Aurelién: Yeah, we can really segment the type of emissions in so many different ways, their shape, liquid, particulate gas emissions, their impact, some of the emissions will mainly impact the soil, the water. I mean, it’s not only about air emissions, even though we talk a lot about that. And if we focus on the air emission, I mean, it could be top-five type of air pollutant, our carbon monoxide, lead, ozone, or nitrogen and sulfur dioxide. So as you see, if we go that way, it gets very complex very quickly, and we really need to look at it based on what’s relevant for the emitting sector we focus on. In our case, the biggest contributor by far being energy producers and suppliers, as well as industrial players.
So my personal take on that is a segmentation based on the way the emissions are actually created. The first category is where you have combustion, you’re basically burning stuff, you’re burning fuel to create heat for a variety of purposes, or you’re flaring the surplus, right?
And that’s usually linked to greenhouse gas emissions. The second category that I see is venting that is intended. That’s actually a very prominent source of methane emissions, which is also one of the greenhouse gas emission, and it’s quite a hot topic right now at the COP 26. It’s actually 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide, quite a big deal.
And the last one is fugitive emissions. So that’s a third category. It’s when containment of toxic gases and liquids is lost due to leaky valves and tanks, corroded piping, or faulty mechanical connections. And that’s more industrial type of emission. So long story short, they are emission that you’re totally aware of, and also that you get to measure and report to your authorities. And there is this last sneakier type of emissions, fugitive…on one end, it’s harder to locate on the other end, it’s easier to tackle.
Jim: Well, given those various sources and challenges in these emissions, what solutions do we offer that prevent fugitive emission leaks, greenhouse gas emissions, etc.?
Aurelién: So we see that a lot, you know, companies investing in new, cleaner energy alternatives, we hear a lot about hydrogen, for instance, which is very, very important. But while they do so, they must also look at ways to cut emissions in the shorter term, and they have to focus on where they have a lot of leverage as well, which is basically their own operation. Specifically, they will be looking at emissions management technologies that are available today.
So, back to the different type of emission, we can talk about preventing leaks in the first place. We can talk about running processes with more efficient combustion. And when you don’t have the choice, at the end of the day, even though you optimize and keep optimizing, you’re still going to need to burn fuel, and so create emission. And in that case, you have the visibility to capture these remaining emissions and store them underground.
Jim: What are some ways to manage releases due to high-pressure conditions?
Aurelién: So Emerson’s advanced pressure relief and blowdown valves are basically engineered to protect against these cases are pressure buildup, and if not managed properly, this will result in discharges—gas and liquids. Also today, new valves technology automatically seal leak points at valves. Emerson’s enhanced design, including highly efficient stem seal system, higher flow capacity, and packing for huge temperature variation, either meet or exceed the most stringent fugitive emissions requirements. So there is that.
Now, though, it is very important to have such valve devices with superior sealing technology, it’s not like an existing plant or an industrial player will upgrade the thousands of valves using in one shot. Okay, so he needs to be clever about that and this is where advanced monitoring for pressure relief, for valve packing or tanks, I really help identifying fugitive emissions event and take action where this is happening.
Finally, people can also go from reactive to something more proactive in terms of the approach. And we really strongly suggest our customers to engage in walk-downs or audit their valves or include that concern as part of their STO [shutdown/turnaround/outage] because it’s very important for them to spend the budget where the impact will be the greatest.
Jim: You had made that point earlier about combustion. So processes that include combustion are another big source of emissions, what technologies can help here?
Aurelién: So this is really where automation technologies can help and that are actually available today. To optimize all these combustion processes from increasing boiler efficiency or measuring oxygen and carbon dioxide for better fuel consumption, optimizing flue gas treatment, all of that helps to reduce emissions at a conversion asset. This is where our measurement solutions and process devices, like valves, that we mentioned earlier are a very good fit. And we can also help our customers to report on their emissions to the authorities in the proper way and support for audits and continuous improvement.
Now, if we go from this combustion processes and expand to all processes or assets emitting CO2, one way or another. I was personally very impressed by our Plantweb Optics offering, with the possibility to use the carbon intensity as a control operating parameter to deliver a cleaner product. This type of innovation is really where advanced digitalization or data analysis, or industrial software will really make a huge difference.
It’s not only to improve existing plants, as we saw in terms of, you know, the carbon footprint, but also as we build future operation. And in fact, we start seeing more and more this carbon intensity topic within the scope of new industrial infrastructure project. So it really goes in the right direction for existing plant and new projects.
Jim: Yes, and we had some earlier podcasts about the Plantweb Optics operational analytics. So that’s really interesting to set carbon intensity as a key performance metric to be able to optimize around. So how can automation technologies help with carbon capture and storage processes?
Aurelién: As I mentioned earlier, you know, sometimes you don’t have a choice. At the end of the day, you’re going to have to burn fuel. And this is where that carbon capture comes into place. We talk also about utilization when you capture the carbon you can use it and the storage, which is at the end of the value chain.
So in there, same thing, Emerson’s advanced automation technology, I believe are designed specifically to monitor and control the capture process, you know, to optimize them, not only the capturing process, the liquefaction, after you capture it, you can liquefy the carbon, compress it, move it through pipeline transfer, loading… unloading, you’re going to have their first storage along the chain, and at the very end underground containment.
Our technology really helped to ensure Operational Certainty across that entire chain by delivering advanced control, or increased process visibility and actionable information so that you can take the right decision. Now, why is that important? Well, first, because carbon capture is a key element to reach carbon neutrality. Without massive investment in carbon capture, we won’t do it, we won’t succeed. On the other end, it is still very CAPEX and OPEX-intensive. So everything we can do to optimize the process, and so it’s commercial balance, ease with R&D, and industrial scale-up are very important critical success factors.
Now, at the very end of the chain, I mentioned underground storage. That’s also a very nice one, because clearly, when we store the CO2 that we have captured and moved underground, it’s supposed to last forever. So it’s a little bit like the nuclear industry, maybe not the same scale, but it’s similar in terms of the very long-term accountability and reliability. And again, here, you can see the importance of selecting and having the proper automation technologies.
Jim: Yeah, sounds like automation can play a large role in that complete chain until it’s going down to where it’s ultimately stored in there. Can you describe how one can produce fewer emissions through lower carbon intensity sources?
Aurelién: Yes, absolutely. So let’s say we nicely covered how industrial players can optimize the way they operate, and the management of their own emissions. Now, they also have the possibility to act on their input selection, meaning the energy they use and the material they buy. They can decide to switch to less carbon-intensive fuels, such as hydrogen, as well as employing renewable energy or electricity coming from wind, solar, hydroelectric, or geothermal sources.
They can use greener fuel sources as well. So all of their input will bear when they buy it as specific carbon intensity. Again, carbon intensity. Thus, selecting cleaner origin has a direct impact on the product that they will deliver. And this is actually part of what we call the Scope 2 of the Greenhouse Gas Protocol. So generally speaking, even though it is key to act on your own operation, it is also very important to consider the entire supply chain carbon intensity as part of one’s responsibility to act on its overall carbon footprint.
Jim: Well, it sounds like optimization is one step, then it’s looking at alternatives to be able to find lower carbon-intense sources as you go continue down your journey to lower emissions. Let’s get a little more specific. Can you share an example where Emerson is helping a customer with their emission reductions initiatives?
Aurelién: Yeah, we do have plenty of these examples. One that come to my mind happened in Utah where Emerson is collaborating with Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems in America to optimize performance and reliability, but also enable predictive and AI-driven maintenance strategies, automate operational decisions making, all of that at the Intermountain Power Plant.
So basically, what happens is, Mitsubishi turbines will replace a coal-fired power plant and use instead of coal, 30% green hydrogen and 70% natural gas to generate electricity, eventually shifting to 100% green hydrogen, which is not a small thing for turbines, right, due to the fact that hydrogen is also very sneaky. But the importance of that is that this transition will allow gas turbines to produce electricity with neutral carbon emissions. I like this example because to me, it’s a nice one, including not only the process optimization but also the cleaner energy source with the use of hydrogen.
Jim: Well, that is a great example of doing that shift from coal-based energy to those sources and kind of mapping it out over time to lower and lower carbon sources. So I always love to put our experts on the spot and throw an open-ended question at you. What haven’t I asked you that would be beneficial for our listeners to know?
Aurelién: Well, I think that all our discussion was, I believe, a very comprehensive opportunity to explore the different type of emissions, the associated challenges, and thing that can be done today, like right now, I guess, I want to leave the audience with that thought. We may not have all the technology and industrial practices available today to reach carbon neutrality by tackling emission, and there’s a reason why we’re talking about milestone in 2030, and another in 2050. But there is so much we can do to begin and accelerate the journey. And the second point is, let’s not consider that as a cost. This is an investment that always comes with great return. Okay.
Jim: Yeah, that’s like getting back to our point earlier about energy being a very high part of many people’s costs in their manufacturing and production processes. So there can be real return on that, as well as the other parts that we talked about through that whole chain of things that we can do. Where can our listeners go to learn more about some of the things we’ve talked about today?
Aurelién: So the best place to start with is our website, product pages. I mean, we talked about specific products during the discussion around the valves, around automation technologies, and we can link to that. Industry pages, approaches are different depending on the industry. What we’re going to do at a refinery is different than what we can do at a power generation plant, not the same approaches, not the same solutions. So every industry page that we have on our website, we’ll talk about activities to reduce emissions. Obviously, more and more is getting built as the focus on emissions grows since this is a very important matter, and we need to expand.
Jim: Well, and for the listeners that come across the podcast via the blog, we’ll have hyperlinks throughout the things we talked about to specific areas on Emerson.com. And for those that may have come through a popular podcast player and found our podcast here, I’d say Google Emerson plus the part you’re looking for. So whether it’s pressure management, or some of the no emissions valves, it’s a great place to Google for it. Okay, and finally, to close us out here, Aurelién, if anyone has a specific question for you, how can they reach you?
Aurelién: Well, first, don’t hesitate to reach me, right? I’m promoting that a lot. I’m enthusiastic about this. I do believe that it is a very important topic, and we all need to get in that direction. So please do reach out. The best is you LinkedIn me, otherwise, email me at Aurelien.Tissot@emerson.com. And I’ll be extremely glad to help and answer your questions.
Jim: Well, that’s great. Well, Aurelién, I want to thank you so much for joining us today and sharing your thoughts on emissions and way to drive to lower emissions. So, thank you so much.
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