Puma Bitumen’s approach to carbon-neutrality

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Roads & Infrastructure speaks to Dr Erik Denneman, Global Technical Manager at Puma Bitumen, about the company’s latest move to help pavement providers account for their carbon emissions.

The race to cut carbon emissions is gaining momentum globally. Industries, including the construction industry, are increasingly responding to the urgency placed by governments, as well as by their investors, to implement measures aimed at achieving net zero emissions.

Reinforced by the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, more commonly referred to as COP26, last year proved to be a banner year for corporate action on climate change. 

As of February 2022, there were 2000 businesses and organisations worldwide working with the global Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) to set clear paths to reduce their emissions in line with the Paris Agreement goals. This number stood at 1200 companies two years prior.

In a collaborative report with the University of Oxford, the UK-based non-profit Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit estimates that at least one fifth (21 per cent) of the world’s 2000 largest public companies have now committed to meet net zero targets by 2050. 

In Australia, nearly a third of the 300 largest listed companies have committed to net zero emissions by 2050, according to Macquarie Group data.

The fresh urgency across the corporate world follows renewed momentum among investors as research points to a quickening pace in global warming.

Net zero emissions, in simple words, is agreeing to not add new green-house gas (GHG) emissions to the atmosphere. This can be done by reducing the emissions or balancing new emissions by using natural carbon sinks like forests and oceans to absorb them. 

The UN has asked the world to aim for net zero emissions by 2050, which would help limit global temperature rise to 1.5C above pre-industrial era levels and in turn limit the impact of climate change.

Accounting for emissions

While setting targets is a first step, companies also need detailed plans on how emission reductions will be achieved.

Within the world of civil construction, two options, firstly a shift to renewable energy and secondly, a greater use of low-carbon or carbon-neutral – or in some cases, carbon negative – products are being favoured.

Puma Bitumen has completed a lifecycle analysis of its bitumen supply chain to report accurate emissions for each of the company’s products.

As Dr Erik Denneman, Global Technical Manager at Puma Bitumen observes, moving to low-carbon raw material for construction has a positive cascading effect for businesses that aim to achieve net zero emissions. 

And the first step, he says, is accounting for the actual emissions. 

“To achieve net zero emissions, you first need to know how much emissions your business is producing. For our bitumen products, that’s an area we are trying to help companies gain more clarity,” he tells Roads & Infrastructure.

To this end, Puma Bitumen, as part of global business Puma Energy, recently completed a lifecycle analysis of its bitumen supply chain, taking account of GHG emissions produced at every stage of production and supply, from the extraction and refining stage, all the way to transportation and storage. 

This, as Dr Denneman explains, was made possible with a high degree of accuracy given the vast majority of Puma Bitumen’s bitumen supply is carried out using its own fleet of bitumen vessels, the largest in the world, and where charters are used, detailed reporting of GHG emissions are required from the charter party. The bitumen is stored at terminals operated by Puma Energy, or its parent company, Trafigura. 

“When bitumen is transported and stored at elevated temperatures at our terminals, all of those stages have a certain carbon footprint. We went through a detailed lifecycle assessment of our supply chain, so that for every Puma Bitumen product, we can calculate and report exactly how much carbon was emitted,” he says.

The emissions assessment helps Puma Bitumen’s customers to calculate their own carbon footprint accurately, thus allowing them to take realistic measures to reduce and compensate for those emissions.

The majority of Puma Bitumen’s bitumen supply is carried out using its own fleet of bitumen vessels.

“With this information at hand, we will eventually prepare Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) for each bituminous product in our portfolio, which helps the end-users as they prepare their environmental impact reports,” says Dr Denneman.

We also have a very strong focus on warm mix additives, which allow the asphalt plants to reduce their emission production.” 

Across the larger Trafigura group, the goal is to reduce operational Scope 1 and Scope 2 GHG emissions by 30 per cent by the end of financial year 2023 compared to 2020. The company also aims to reduce shipping emissions (Scope 1 and 3) by 25 per cent by 2030 compared to the 2019 International Maritime Organization industry baseline and to own and operate six zero emissions vessels by 2030. 

Offsetting options

Following the initial step of identifying their carbon footprint, businesses often look at options to reduce the carbon intensity of their operations. 

While emissions reduction across the supply chain is a priority, there comes a point where carbon abatement is no longer technically or economically viable. Here, Dr Denneman says Puma Bitumen is now offering customers the option to offset their residual emissions by offering a diverse portfolio of carbon offsets. 

Carbon markets allow carbon emitters to offset their unavoidable emissions by purchasing carbon credits arising from projects targeted at removing or reducing GHG from the atmosphere. Puma Bitumen offers customers the option to compensate their emissions with offset projects that have been registered on leading voluntary registries such as Verra, Gold Standard, ACR and CAR as well as Australian Carbon Credit Units (ACCU), which is a carbon offset project undertaken as part of the Australian Government’s Emissions Reduction Fund.

Key projects may include renewable energy, forest conservation and restoration. Aside from reducing carbon from the atmosphere, these projects can also present opportunities to deliver impact across other sustainable development indicators such as protecting biodiversity and supporting local communities. Customers can then choose which projects to support depending on their corporate objectives.

Mobilising action

Already, Dr Denneman observes, there’s been interest from companies in Australia to make use of the available options offered by Puma. 

“In all honesty, the interest has been a lot higher than we anticipated. Companies are certainly responding to the UN’s call for voluntary emissions reduction,” he says.

He also points out to the importance of regulatory action. 

“From what we have seen globally, where there’s more incentive to account for carbon emissions in the companies’ proposals as they bid for projects. There’s good progress being made here in Australia by organisations such as the Infrastructure Sustainability Council and the Australian Flexible Pavement Association to encourage project owners to select bids by best value, rather than by lowest cost,” he says. 

 

This article was originally published in the April edition of our magazine. To read the magazine, click here.


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