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Preparing for Paris

Digitalization and a Renewed Focus on Sustainability

February 05, 2021

The new US Administration has committed to rejoin the Paris Agreement on climate change. A global agreement that now includes 189 countries, its primary goal is to limit the rise of global temperature in this century to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels (and just 1.5 degrees Celsius longer term). These changes affect all companies in capital-intensive industries and a vast majority are already working through approaches to sustainability. In fact, in a recent ARC Strategies survey of global chemical and energy companies, 90% of respondents said they have sustainability initiatives in place.1

Digitalization, with its promise of reducing inefficiencies and predicting failures, is a key enabler not just to profitability but also to reaching sustainability goals. Seventy-five percent of respondents in the same survey agreed. Digitalization allows companies to progress towards their sustainability goals by making the most efficient use of their current resources and assets. Higher efficiency means reduced emissions, waste and energy consumption in existing assets, something that can also be tracked and reported on. 


Five Customers, Five Digital Solutions 

A few of the ways AspenTech customers support their sustainability goals can be seen here. These include:


1. Supply chain optimization to coordinate, manage and improve transparency of connected processes. Supply chain planning tools are typically used to improve demand planning and to gain visibility into existing processes. The same tools can also be used to reduce emissions and waste. Digitalization of these processes maximizes profitability and enhances data capture and access, providing better real-time data to workers. 

2. Programmatic advanced process control to reduce process variability and energy consumption and support autonomous operations with a very significant carbon reduction impact.

3. Asset wide energy optimization and utility optimization models will help reduce energy use on both the supply and demand sides and enable control over use of renewable sources in powering refining operations. At least 5-10% energy use can be targeted using hybrid models to get a better, more accurate representation of the asset, with Industrial AI being used to improve model accuracy.

4. Predictive and prescriptive maintenance use machine learning to identify precise failure patterns to predict equipment degradation weeks or even months in advance so action can be taken to avoid unplanned downtime and associated safety and environmental risks.

5. Digital Twin technology uses real-time data to provide an evolving digital profile of the historical, current and future behavior of an asset or process. Digital twin monitoring systems, dynamic optimization and advanced control solutions can together save 5-15% energy use, reducing carbon emissions a proportional amount. 


The Shift’s Role in Accelerating Digitalization 

The pandemic and sudden shift to work-from-home has forced many businesses to accelerate their digitalization faster than anyone could ever have predicted. An October 2020 McKinsey global survey of executives2 found that “companies have accelerated the digitization of their customer and supply-chain interactions and of their internal operations by three to four years. And the share of digital or digitally enabled products in their portfolios has accelerated by a shocking seven years.”


Taking the Journey 

Often, the journey starts by measuring the issues that need action. For example, Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) implemented Aspen HYSYS® to develop a refinery-wide emission model that can track emissions from all sources in the refinery, fired heaters and boilers and more, every five minutes. The data that BPCL captures is written back to historians so it can identify trends and correct errors, and ultimately look at emission data in real-time to ensure optimization in its fuel production. 

Efficiency has been a key driver for customers in the process industries to achieve profitability, but the same approaches deliver reduced emissions and more sustainable solutions, too. If you are interested in exploring the potential of how digitalization can directly improve efficiency, profitability and reach sustainability goals, then please register for OPTIMIZE ’21 and hear from peers during the Sustainability Panel and sessions from May 18-20, 2021. This year’s OPTIMIZE is entirely VIRTUAL and FREE.


1 Sustainability Future for Energy and Chemicals, ARC Strategies, September 2020
2 McKinsey & Company


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