In 2016, Air Products set new sustainability goals across all aspects of its Grow-Conserve-Care sustainability framework. In 2017, the company continued to make good progress against these goals.
Air Products has reported on its sustainability performance each year for the past 14 years, building on a previous decade of environmental, health and safety disclosures and reporting.
The company’s Chairman, President and CEO, Seifi Ghasemi, commented, “It was 25 years ago, in 1993, that Air Products issued its first-ever report on the environment and safety entitled, “Where We Stand.” The initial report included a few similar statistics that you will still find one quarter century later in this, our 2018 annual edition.”
“We believe Sustainability really is at the core of what we do as a business. We demonstrate this through the innovative technologies that we develop, the way we produce our products, and the way we make our customers’ processes better, all aimed at benefitting the environment,” he added.
Air Products’ energy consumption in 2017 was 54.6 million MWh, representing a 6% increase from 2016. The increase was a result of growth which was driven by rising customer demands.
Of electricity purchases in 2017, 22% was from renewable sources. This is an increase of 16% from 2016 due to the company’s higher use of renewable energy in France and the UK, as well as increasing the amount of renewable energy used that is available on the grids in certain regions where it operates.
In 2017, Air Products’ ASUs realised a 1.6% reduction in energy intensity from a baseline year of 2015. It’s HyCO units improved energy efficiency by 0.6%. These successes were realised through the commissioning of new, larger and more efficient facilities, as well as hundreds of facility improvement projects involving changes to equipment and manufacturing processes.
Greenhouse gases (GHG)
From an environmental perspective, Air Products’ greatest challenge is its GHG emissions, because they are so closely tied to continued business growth. Each time the company starts up a new plant, the gases can enhance the customer’s efficiency and have an environmental benefit, while Air Products’ absolute emissions increase. Therefore, the company is working to improve its existing facilities while simultaneously growing its capacity in a responsible way, implementing technology changes that increase efficiency and reduce environmental impact.
GHG reduced by 1.4% in 2017, with over half of the company’s total R&D budget of $58m spent on products and processes that improve energy efficiency and/or benefit the environment.
Air Products has established a goal to reduce water consumption by 5% on an indexed basis by 2020 from a 2015 baseline. In 2017, the company made good progress against this goal, realising a 9% decrease and achieving its goal.
The industrial gas giant’s consumption of water, on an absolute basis, increased to 15.6 million gallons in 2017 due to increased manufacturing production required to meet its customers’ needs. Consumption on an intensity, or per volume of product basis decreased, as the energy efficiency and water intensity improved. That means the volume of water consumed was not commensurate with the growth of its operations.
These water use improvements have been driven by collaborating with suppliers to evaluate water use and finding ways to reduce consumption. Specifically, the company identified facilities that are consuming more water per unit production than similar facilities, conducted assessments at these facilities to identify conservation opportunities, and made appropriate changes at the plants. The lessons learned at these facilities were then shared across its fleet of global plants.
In water stressed areas, Air Products has looked for opportunities to use recycled water and reduce its consumption of freshwater.
Ghasemi said, “It takes a dedicated, 24/7 effort to drive improvements in our own sustainability performance while developing innovative products and solutions that benefit our customers’ processes.”
“In this, our 25th year of reporting, I could not be prouder of the progress our 15,000 employees around the world have made, and I know they remain committed to our core values, operating safely every day, and achieving the sustainability performance goals we have set as a global company,” he concluded.