Industrial sustainability, energy efficiency advance eight ways

At Rockwell Automation Fair 2023, eight experts in two panels explained how integrating automation software and hardware with digitalization efforts help advance industrial sustainability and energy efficiency goals.

By Mark T. Hoske January 25, 2024
Courtesy: Control Engineering

 

Learning Objectives

  • Understand how industrial environmental, social and governance (ESG) and sustainability goals advance and how software and automation help industries improve energy efficiency.
  • Explore process and power control technologies that augment sustainability by converting carbon dioxide into ethanol, recycling polyurethane from foam and using variable-speed drives for industrial energy savings and smarter maintenance.

Industrial sustainability insights

  • Industrial environmental, social and governance (ESG) and sustainability goals advance, while software and automation are helping industries improve energy efficiency.
  • Process and power control technologies augment sustainability by converting carbon dioxide into ethanol, recycling polyurethane from foam, using variable-speed drives for industrial energy savings and smarter maintenance.

Advanced automation-related technologies are being integrating into industrial systems to help industrial sustainability, as explained during multiple sessions at Automation Fair 2023, from Rockwell Automation. Sessions covered software that can enable industrial sustainability and energy efficiency efforts, how process and power-control technologies can augment industrial sustainability efficiencies and how sustainability efforts require better measurements, controls and system integration.

ESG, sustainability and how software helps industries improve

Eleni Rachaniotou, CTO, global ISV industry leader, Microsoft, moderated the panel discussion, “Approaching ESG from the ground to the cloud with Microsoft,” at Automation Fair, from Rockwell Automation.

Panelists discussed how software tools improve environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting and optimization to advance industrial sustainability efforts. Attention to industrial energy efficiency helps. Industrial sectors consume nearly 40 percent of the energy globally and are responsible for more than 30 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the description for the session. Rachaniotou introduced the panelists.

  • Chad Markle, principal, commercial lead, Kalypso

  • Andrea Ruotolo, global head of customer sustainability, Rockwell Automation

  • Paul Burke, group head of engineering, Barrett Steel Ltd.

  • Peter Clarke, director, CHG Electrical.

Eleni Rachaniotou, CTO, global ISV industry leader, Microsoft (left), moderated the panel discussion, “Approaching ESG from the ground to the cloud with Microsoft,” at Automation Fair, from Rockwell Automation. To her right are Chad Markle, principal, commercial lead, Kalypso; Andrea Ruotolo, global head of customer sustainability, Rockwell Automation; Paul Burke, group head of engineering, Barrett Steel Ltd.; and Peter Clarke, director, CHG Electrical. Courtesy: Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering

Eleni Rachaniotou, CTO, global ISV industry leader, Microsoft (left), moderated the panel discussion, “Approaching ESG from the ground to the cloud with Microsoft,” at Automation Fair, from Rockwell Automation. To her right are Chad Markle, principal, commercial lead, Kalypso; Andrea Ruotolo, global head of customer sustainability, Rockwell Automation; Paul Burke, group head of engineering, Barrett Steel Ltd.; and Peter Clarke, director, CHG Electrical. Courtesy: Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering

Rachaniotou said that from a technology perspective, industries benefit from an information technology (IT) infrastructure platform that allows customers and partners to measure progress toward sustainability goals. The Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability platform includes programming interfaces, measures energy use and uses the cloud to help. The platform provides up to 90 percent energy savings, depending on architecture and infrastructure. First step, she said, is to look at operational efficiencies and energy efficiencies. The software uses an artificial intelligence (AI)-based framework. Often time of energy use helps optimize costs.

Many organizations have data silos and different standards and systems. A cloud-based data hub helps data access, Rachaniotou said. Using this system creates convergence focusing use on a new data model. The software integrates data in a unified form and was developed in partnership with Rockwell Automation contextualized data tools.

Markle said the software integrates with operational architectures, enterprise resource planning (ERP) financial software and customer manufacturing execution system (MES). The modern sustainability cloud-based architecture connects multiple sites, moving operations and process measurements up to the cloud.

Clarke said the needed data can be more easily found in cloud-based systems to share as needed to contextualize in one central place.

Rachaniotou said that many see industrial sustainability as pressure from regulators to report on emissions, set goals and create standards to make progress. She asked: What are effects of regulations on industrial sustainability efforts?

Burke replied that there’s certainly enough “green washing” going on, but there’s pressure from many sources to make factual, real and green progress, beyond just words.

Markle said that mandates exist from states and for industries. Subsidies are available for industries progressing to net zero emissions. Efforts include direct air capture systems where carbon is removed from the air, renewable energy resources, solar credits and carbon credits. Governments play huge roles in creating incentives to help fund progress.

Rachaniotou said carbon emissions reporting has increased. Also on the way for North American industries, Rachaniotou said, are product specifications for packaging. Eco-friendly rules as Europe uses are spreading, she suggested.

Industries produce data. AI is fed by data. Rachaniotou asked: What can AI do for sustainability?

Markle said that generative AI can make data analytics easier and more accessible, though with more computation comes larger power consumption. A consumer packaged goods (CPG) company wanted to innovate to drive more sustainability and use more natural ingredients. In the engineering space, AI use now can get 80% of the way on many programming efforts. For better more sustainable business decisions, smarter analytic software can provide better context for decisions.

Rachaniotou said generative AI is being applied to the latest software developments, in computational storage, for water management improvements for rainfall and wastewater applications. She expects generative AI to extend into all sustainability efforts, reflecting the responsibility we all have to create sustainable solutions.

Rachaniotou added that it’s helpful for everyone to have a say in the future. If not, others will decide. She expressed hope that sustainability conversations can lead to a wonderful future for all.

An audience question asked about the political and economic conditions needed to influence sustainability.

Rachaniotou replied that effective supply chain management requires incentives with a clear view of benefits. The European Union (EU) regulatory framework proves scrutiny into sustainability in a good way, she said.

Markle said 90 countries have sustainability goals, and most will encourage design to the highest system requirements. Ecological design strategies are an excellent way to ingrain sustainability efforts, he suggested.

Rachaniotou pointed to strong sustainability efforts in ESG policies in Canada and Europe as leading examples.

Three ways process, power control technologies augment sustainability

In a media and analysts’ session at Automation Fair, Stanley Miller, head of public and analyst relations, Europe, Middle East and Africa Region, Rockwell Automation, moderated panel showing three examples of industrial sustainability and energy efficiency.

  1. Waste carbon recycling: Scott Kongkitisupchai is engineering director at LanzaTech , a carbon recycling company that converts carbon dioxide to ethanol that can be used as a chemical feedstock for fabric, foam, chemicals and fuels.

  2. Foam recycling: Steven Peleman is chief executive officer at Triple Helix, a Belgium-based “molecules as a service” company that recycles molecules in foam from furniture, car seats and mattress for reuse.

  3. Industrial energy efficiency: James Stewart Hynd is chief executive officer at Energy Drive Systems, which lowers industrial energy related costs and helps sustainability goals using variable-speed drives.

Sustainability was the topic of a media and analysts’ session at the Automation Fair from Rockwell Automation. From left, panelists were: Scott Kongkitisupchai, engineering director, LanzaTech Inc., a carbon recycling company; Steven Peleman, chief executive officer, Triple Helix, a Belgium-based “molecules as a service” company that recycles molecules in foam from furniture, car seats and mattresses; and James Stewart Hynd, chief executive officer, Energy Drive Systems, which lowers energy related costs and helps sustainability goals using variable-speed drives. Courtesy: Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering

Sustainability was the topic of a media and analysts’ session at the Automation Fair from Rockwell Automation. From left, panelists were: Scott Kongkitisupchai, engineering director, LanzaTech Inc., a carbon recycling company; Steven Peleman, chief executive officer, Triple Helix, a Belgium-based “molecules as a service” company that recycles molecules in foam from furniture, car seats and mattresses; and James Stewart Hynd, chief executive officer, Energy Drive Systems, which lowers energy related costs and helps sustainability goals using variable-speed drives. Courtesy: Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering

Miller said the companies provide three perspectives on how to use intelligent devices and data-driven insights and process and power control technologies to make a more sustainable world. While the Belgian recycling start-up, an energy optimization firm and South African carbon capture company are very different organizations, topics included how technologies can drive meaningful sustainability improvements with integration of digitalization and sustainability efforts.

Converting carbon dioxide into ethanol

Kongkitisupchai said sustainability is the future for humanity; we have to work together to create more recycle streams. LanzaTech applies more than 1000 patents in carbon recycling processes to convert CO2 using bacteria to create ethanol for chemical and fuel feedstocks across many applications.

Recycling polyurethane from foam

Peleman said sustainability credibility is needed to demonstrate benefits and make it easier for startups to progress with recycling processes. His company has plenty of materials to recycle. Mattresses in Europe entering the waste stream per year, stacked, is 800 times the height of Mount Everest, he said. More recycling is needed. Just polyurethane, if burned, would account for 25% of the carbon budget. Triple Helix aims to economically produce a recycled feedstock close to virgin polyurethane quality, Peleman said.

Use variable-speed drives for industrial energy savings, smarter maintenance

Hynd said more effective control of industrial loads to motor saves energy and can provide pending equipment failure information, saving millions of dollars. Using variable speed drives to save energy is well know and effective, with 10% to 15% energy savings in most applications. An Automation Fair show floor exhibit demonstrated significant savings with upgrades of a South African mine air circulation system. The system operated one fan and had another for emergency standby. Operating both at a lower speed saves 360 GWh and creates 390,000 tons of carbon offsets in 10 years.

Data insights provide more opportunities in more applications, Hynd said, creating more awareness of possible savings. The Energy Drive website says it reduces clients’ energy consumption an average of 47% while maintaining process requirements.

We have to work collectively to apply technologies to increase sustainability and reduce carbon emissions, Hynd suggested, to minimize the geopolitical impacts of already demonstrated global warming.

Mark T. Hoske is content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology, mhoske@cfemedia.com.

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For more about system integration to help industrial sustainability from Automation Fair from Rockwell Automation, see:

Automation Fair 2023: Sustainability efforts require measuring and control tools, system integration

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Author Bio: Mark Hoske has been Control Engineering editor/content manager since 1994 and in a leadership role since 1999, covering all major areas: control systems, networking and information systems, control equipment and energy, and system integration, everything that comprises or facilitates the control loop. He has been writing about technology since 1987, writing professionally since 1982, and has a Bachelor of Science in Journalism degree from UW-Madison.