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According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 22% of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are attributable to industrial plants and facilities. As RAM professionals, we play a vital role in designing, operating, and maintaining the equipment that produces those emissions. As such, we must take an active role in controlling GHG emissions. To do so, we must understand how these emissions are classified, hence my preparation of this short primer.

To start, the largest GHG that’s contributing to climate change is carbon dioxide (CO2). It’s responsible for 81% of all GHGs. Methane (CH4), nitrous oxides (N2O), and fluorinated gases are also GHGs. A very large proportion of these emissions are tied to energy usage—both the type and the quantity of energy that we use in our operations affects the plant’s GHG footprint. Climate-change experts classify our emissions into three so-called “Scopes” to target for control and management. Let’s explore these scopes in more detail.

Scope 1 are direct emissions related to the combustion of hydrocarbons in a process. For example, if your site is a power-generation plant, the emissions associated with combusting coal, natural gas, or oil to fire your boilers to make steam are classified as Scope 1. If you’re generating your own electricity by combusting natural gas in a combined-cycle unit or operating diesel-engine-driven generators, the resulting GHG emissions are classified as Scope 1. Likewise, emissions associated with combusting the fuel to operate heavy mobile equipment (HME) and light mobile equipment (LME) are classified as Scope 1. These emissions are classified as Scope 1 because the plant is directly converting the hydrocarbons into COand other GHGs.

Scope 2 emissions are indirect, upstream emissions. You don’t have direct control over the process, but your demand for various services is a driver. For example, most industrial plants use a great deal of electrical power and, except for emergency-generation capacity, most of that electricity is purchased through your local utility from the grid. You must count these emissions in your GHG footprint because you drive demand for the utility’s generation of emissions, but because you don’t directly control their emitting processes, they are classified as Scope 2 GHG emissions. The purchase of steam, heating, cooling, compressed-air services, etc., are also classified as Scope 2 GHG emissions. To summarize, Scope 2 GHG emissions, you’re responsible for the demand your operations create, but not for the efficiency with which energy is converted from a chemical form, e.g., natural gas, to another form, such as electrical, thermal, etc.

Scope 3 emissions are also indirect emissions, but may occur either upstream or downstream. Upstream emissions include, among other things, business travel, purchased goods and services (including capital goods), leased assets, employee commutes, and distribution and transportation of various production inputs. Downstream Scope 3 emissions include, among other things, transportation, distribution, and processing of sold products, the use of sold products, end-of-life treatments, e.g., recycle vs. landfill, investments, etc.

As RAM professionals, our greatest control over GHGs is through our ability to affect Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions. For example, we can ensure that boilers, engines, and combustion equipment is properly tuned and maintained to achieve the maximum combustion efficiency, which, in turn, minimizes Scope 1 emissions. And we can exert significant control over Scope 2 emissions through strategies such as those listed here (not exhaustive):

♦    Specify high-efficiency motors.

♦    Employ variable frequency drives (VFDs), where appropriate.

♦    Design piping systems to minimize turbulence and associated parasitic frictional loss.

♦    Specify lubricants (especially viscosity) to minimize parasitic frictional losses that result from boundary contact or churning losses.

♦    Manage compressed air/gas leaks, steam-system leaks, and pressurized-liquid leaks. (Note: Managing leaks offers additional environmental benefits.)

♦    Employ precision mechanical alignment and balance practices to minimize parasitic frictional losses that result from excessive vibration.

♦    Properly tension V-belt drives to keep belt slip to less than 2%.

♦    Keep machines properly oiled and greased to minimize parasitic frictional losses.

♦    Ensure proper voltage, current, resistive, and inductive balance in electric motors, and maintain high-quality electrical circuits to minimize I2R losses and heating.

♦    Operate equipment within its acceptable stress range.

♦    Routinely monitor and inspect machines to ensure the above conditional goals (and any others that apply) are met.

Keep in mind that managing Scope 2 losses with proactive and precision equipment care will naturally increase the life of your plant’s assets, thus reducing your Scope 3 GHG emissions as a byproduct.

Climate change is real and it’s caused by GHG emissions. Nearly one-fourth of these emissions are directly or indirectly caused by industrial plants and facilities. The demand for industrial companies to reduce their GHG footprints is not going away—in fact, it’s rapidly increasing.

As I’ve written previously, Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) performance is driving a growing amount of investment, particularly for large mutual funds and other industrial investors (see article links below). Unfortunately, a plant’s equipment assets utilize energy that produces GHG emissions. This means those of us working in the RAM arena are responsible for the performance of these equipment assets, including their associated GHG emissions. 

The great thing is that lowering your operational GHG footprint will reduce your energy bill and increase equipment life and reliability—an all-around good-news story. So, let’s bring our respective GHG footprints into focus and reduce our Scope 1, 2, and 3 GHG emissions.TRR



Click On The Following Links To Read Two Of The Previous Articles Drew Referenced Above

“It’s Time to Get Serious About Environmental Sustainability” (Feb. 8, 2020)

“The Market Says Get Sustainable or Get Out” (Aug.20, 2020)



Drew Troyer has 30 years of experience in the RAM arena. Currently a Principal with T.A. Cook Consultants, he was a Co-founder and former CEO of Noria Corporation. A trusted advisor to a global blue chip client base, this industry veteran has authored or co-authored more than 250 books, chapters, course books, articles, and technical papers and is popular keynote and technical speaker at conferences around the world. Drew is a Certified Reliability Engineer (CRE), Certified Maintenance & Reliability Professional (CMRP), holds B.S. and M.B.A. degrees, and is Master’s degree candidate in Environmental Sustainability at Harvard University. Contact him directly at 512-800-6031 or



Tags: reliability, availability, maintenance, RAM, greenhouse gases, GHGs, fugitive emissions, emissions control, environmental safety, environmental sustainability, sustainable manufacturing, energy efficiency, safety, climate change, sustainable investment, ESG sustainability performance