Caterpillar Reduces Energy, Water and Waste

(3BL/JustMeans) - Caterpillar manufactures heavy equipment, so some of its operations are extremely energy-intensive. Yet, its employees have found ways to reduce energy use through innovative energy systems. The company now gets 21.1 percent of its electricity use from renewable and alternative energy.

Energy conservation has long been important to Caterpillar. The company first set energy efficiency targets back in 1998, and now has a targets for alternative and renewable energy and reducing its energy intensity in its operations, as its latest sustainability report details. From 2006 to 2015, its operational energy intensity decreased by 24 percent, and its absolute energy consumption decreased by 10 percent from 2014 to 2015. 

One of Caterpillar’s manufacturing facilities in Tianjin, China serves as an example of how the company is practicing energy conservation. AsiaTrak Ltd. (ATL) is a 15-year old facility. Leaders at ATL discovered that the facilities energy costs represented nearly 41 percent of total variable burden. So, the company formulated a plan to conserve energy and reduce costs at the facility. 

The plan to reduce ATL’s energy use contained three main components. The first part consisted of focusing on saving energy through technology innovation. The company retrofitted the facility’s building by installing skylights to incorporate more natural light, which allowed over 400 lamps to be switched off during daylight. They replaced 1,200 incandescent light bulbs with light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs, and automated devices such as thermostats and steam valves. ATL also set a facility-wide energy savings goal and conducted weekly energy audits. As a result of the plan, ATL saved over $616,000 in energy costs in 2015 and avoided over 6,900 metric tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. 

Caterpillar has installed biogas and solar photovoltaics (PV), plus purchased renewable energy certificates to increase its renewable energy use. It also has used combined heat and power (CHP) facilities to power several of its manufacturing facilities. The company is evaluating opportunities to use CHP at other locations. The Caterpillar Energy Solutions facility in Mannheim, Germany developed a CHP system and added alternators to the test beds to convert waste heat into electricity. The facility uses the power generated to power its operations and has surplus electricity that it sells back to the electric grid. The facility earned an award from the city of Mannheim in 2015 as one of the outstanding environmental efforts by large enterprises operating in the city. 

Caterpillar’s efforts to conserve energy and use more renewable and alternative energy has helped it reduce GHG emissions intensity from its facilities by 32 percent in 2015 from a 2006 base. Its absolute GHG emissions were reduced by seven percent in 2015. At its Grimbergen Distribution Center (GDC) in Belgium, efforts to lower GHG emissions from its daily operations reduced them by 577 metric tons. The solutions to reduce emissions included optimizing heating in the offices and warehouses and installing solar panels that generated as much as 60 percent of the facility’s energy needs. 

Caterpillar’s water and waste reduction efforts

Reducing water is important these days with drought plaguing different regions around the globe. Caterpillar has managed to reduce water consumption intensity by 30 percent in 2015 with 2006 as the base year. At its facilities globally, the company is taking water conservation seriously. Its facilities in Batam City, Indonesia implemented a zero discharge process in 2015 for treating and reusing all of its wastewater. The facility is able to reuse the wastewater, after sending it to on-site sewage and effluent treatment plants. The facility has saved over one million gallons of water a year, enough to provide water for a local family of four of 24 years, in a region suffering from drought.

Waste sent to landfill creates methane emissions as it rots. Caterpillar shifted its recycling focus in 2014 from the percent recycled to reducing all by-product materials, which are generated as part of its production processes. The company generated 676,000 metric tons of by-product materials and recycled 90 percent of them. By keeping by-product materials from landfills, the company reduces its environmental impact.

Photo: Caterpillar

Sources Cited