2022 brings a host of opportunities and challenges for businesses in the aggregates and quarrying sector. Remaining high on the agenda, decarbonisation is one area where we can expect to see adaptation and growth this year. Here, Ross Hayward, Head of Assets and Commercial at Chepstow Plant International (CPI), considers five key decarbonisation trends for the sector in 2022, and offers suggestions to businesses starting their net-zero journey.
1. Hydro-Treated Vegetable Oil (HVO)
Alternative fuels will undoubtedly be the biggest trend of the year. With proven impact on CO2 reduction, HVO fuel earned ‘buzzword’ status in certain circles last year – and it will come to the fore in 2022.
Perhaps this isn’t surprising, given HVO supply is established within the supply chain, and there aren’t any significant engine changes or issues in switching from diesel for newer assets (Tier IV or V). Change a couple of engine filters and you should be good to go.
It’s important to remember that HVO reduces net CO2 emissions, rather than the amount of fuel burned. It’s a crucial consideration for smaller businesses, given that HVO is currently being quoted at 10p more expensive per litre than diesel. However, this could change in the future depending on fuel supply and availability.
For companies looking to implement something quickly in the hope of substantially reducing their carbon footprint, HVO is definitely the best bet.
If Brexit and Covid-19 didn’t stimulate enough self-searching, decarbonisation will ensure that sustainability starts aligning to company values and the bottom line in 2022.
An end to the red diesel rebate, announced by Government in March 2020, forced businesses to rethink sustainability, and this will intensify when this comes into force on April 1st. Weighing up the cost of pursuing carbon neutrality can be a minefield. A blend of sustainability and profitability is obviously the preferred option, as we all produce carbon when burning fuel – whether it’s done efficiently or inefficiently. Trying to find the sweet spot will be a key challenge moving forwards.
3. Fuel Management
With rising prices, there’ll be a greater focus on fuel management in 2022. After all, excess burning is going to be twice as costly, so businesses will be inclined to make changes quickly.
Idling time is easy to investigate – and effective reduction can secure some easy wins. Businesses don’t need in-depth knowledge of retraining operators or studying data, they just need to review their telemetry to determine whether assets are idling or not. If they are, identify the percentage of time spent idling and reduce it accordingly. It also pays to look at the site set-up and types of machines used – correct pairings will naturally keep idling to a minimum.
Picture this: A business notices one of its assets is burning 2L of excess fuel every hour. If it does 2,000 working hours a year, it’s costing £4,000 extra, mounting up considerably across an entire fleet.
While not directly led by decarbonisation, fuel management will certainly have an impact on it. Easy wins that can deliver both cost and carbon savings are within reach.
4. Training and Development
Training is central to the sector’s decarbonisation efforts. Businesses can only adjust idling – or operating and loading as CPI does through its FOIL initiative – by understanding mind-sets and encouraging a change in behaviour, all driven by internal training.
CPI is empowering employees to become ‘zero carbon operators’, because if your team on-site doesn’t buy into decarbonisation, you’ll burn excess fuel no matter what. This extends to our site managers too. If they’re unsure how to use assets correctly, they’re unlikely to get the most from them.
Again, there’s no need for industry-leading training facilities, although it helps to have the telemetry from newer assets.
In 2022, businesses will need the confidence to plot a pathway towards decarbonisation, implement any changes required, and overlay this with effective sustainability training for their operators.
5. Goal Setting
2022 will see many small to medium-sized companies setting long-term goals for their decarbonisation journey – if they haven’t already!
COP26 saw decarbonisation discussions hit new heights, and yet, the majority of net-zero policies are currently dominated by Fortune 500 companies and larger PLCs. Many will have pledged due to regulation, or to avoid being compared disparagingly to competitors.
Generally, it should be easier for smaller companies with fewer assets and suppliers to achieve carbon neutrality – even if it’s based on physical outputs rather than emissions they’re responsible for across the supply chain. There’s nothing wrong in taking time – incremental improvements are better than no improvements. Set a goal, do what’s required to achieve it, and then move onto the next.
It’s going to be another momentous year for the sector as we take steps towards decarbonisation. For CPI, our key focus will be switching assets across to alternative fuel.
While fuel prices are climbing, there’s no doubt HVO offers an opportunity to cut our emissions this year. We’ll be having open discussions with customers about joining this journey.
If we enter 2023 knowing our carbon footprint has shrunk, it’ll be a massive step towards carbon neutrality, and a considerable achievement too.
By Ross Hayward
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