As companies increase their focus on ambitious environmental goals amid the energy transition, quantifying (or rather, accurately counting) carbon emissions is proving to be a complex challenge for the industry to solve.
“Net-zero commitments represent about 91% of the global economy,” says Kayla Ball, Chief Product Officer at Validere. “Companies are transitioning from saying the right things to doing the right things, and proving that with a credible methodology is critical.”
While reducing emissions is a difficult problem, it’s not impossible — especially when you have the right processes, technology, and expertise in place. Learn more about how to build an effective carbon management program to accurately quantify emissions.
5 keys to a good carbon management program.
Before you can build out a carbon management program, it is important to have a clear understanding of emissions quantification and to identify the fundamental components required for accurate calculations. We define quantification as creating a reliable emissions baseline, consolidating and synthesizing:
- Emerging emissions monitoring and measurement data
- Operating data and conditions
- Emissions factor estimates
- Emissions-related events
In short, quantification provides an additional measurement based assessment of your emissions. By applying quantification methodologies or calculation models to a comprehensive, validated dataset, companies can ensure a comprehensive and true assessment of emissions and their sources.
Accurately quantifying emissions enables a number of key business initiatives, including better planning, prioritization, and execution of emissions reduction strategies, identification and evaluation of voluntary initiatives, streamlined processes for regulatory and voluntary reporting, as well as the ability to forecast and model scenarios with confidence.
Making data accessible is essential. Teams across the industry know how hard it can be trying to make sense of the deluge of data coming in at different frequencies from different sources, with no centralized place to access key insights.
“We see everything: drones, satellites, continuous monitors,” says Ball. “Also, if you’re doing it correctly, you probably have your operational SCADA tags, in terms of your tank pressure levels, and other information associated with activities happening on location.”
Often, companies have disconnected workflows and rely on outdated legacy software or on Excel spreadsheets to track operational and emissions data. This poses a challenge, as different teams at an organization tend to work in silos, each leveraging their version of the data, in their own system(s) or spreadsheets, applying their methodologies to interpret and make decisions without alignment with other departments.
“As an industry, we have this reflex where Excel is great and is such a workhorse — until it's not,” says Ball. “I see a lot of companies that are at a place where Excel is not going to cut it anymore. It’s not sustainable and you’re not going to be able to scale that across a section of your assets or your global assets.”
The key to ensuring accessibility is using technology that can centralize disparate data sources into a single platform, connect workflows, and connect disparate data sources to integrate teams, not just through data flows, but through interconnected workflows and decision-making processes. When teams are looking at all the data and understand its interconnectivity, they can collaborate effectively to make the right decisions with confidence.
Another essential aspect is establishing trust and credibility in your emissions data, as auditability of environmental information now means more to investors and the public than ever before. That’s why companies must go beyond self-reporting and embrace third-party audits.
“When you publicly state a certain commitment, you need to back it up with some level of credibility and certainty that you are doing what you said,” says Ball. “There needs to be some type of third party, some type of neutral audit in the mix when you come up with these numbers and reports.”
Making your data auditable also means moving away from generic, factor-based emissions. While these paper emissions are great for looking at the industry at a macro scale, they are not an accurate assessment of an organization’s actual emissions and their sources, which requires a measurement-based approach.
“What we now know based on measurement studies and consortiums that are going on is that estimate-based emissions can lead you astray in terms of where you deploy your capital, where you try to remedy a lot of these emissions,” says Ball.
The key is to utilize technology and a team of experts that are rooted in measurement science and can quantify your emissions based on real-time data instead of generic estimates.
Another challenge to accurately counting carbon is the lack of standardization around requirements and best practices for the industry.
“There is no standard other than the regulatory aspect, which most consider to be the floor — not the ceiling — of expectations and capabilities,” says Ball.
Due to the lack of uniformity of facility configuration and operating practices, as well as the fact that each organization has unique operational and environmental goals, approaches will differ from company to company. Since every asset and facility is different, organizations need technology and expert guidance that are tailored to their specific goals, measurement technology, regulatory and voluntary reporting processes, and other key aspects of their business. Features like scheduling, alerting, report management, and more should all be customized to support these efforts in the most effective and efficient way possible for each company’s unique needs.
“We study and analyze our customer’s assets, we take all of their real-time operational data, we take all of the new types of technology and measurement that they have invested in, and we deploy our subject matter expertise in the form of software,” says Ball. “The problem is, it’s not hard to build the models, it’s hard to upkeep the models, and maintain and continuously tweak them based on the different protocols, based on the different methodologies that are available in the industry.”
Above all, the biggest piece of the puzzle is having the right environmental expertise coupled with operational knowledge. Today, teams are being pulled in every direction, asked to analyze and interpret data sets they may not have the right backgrounds in.
“Traditional EHS teams that were here for regulatory reporting, health and safety reporting, are now being asked to look at more operational data,” says Ball. “The operations team is also being asked to look at emissions data — no one necessarily knows what they are looking at and what they should be doing with it.”
The key to solving this problem is enlisting experts in measurement science, operational data, emissions reduction, and regulations who can provide context around your data and help you take the right next steps. Working with experts is crucial and can ensure that you are investing your time and energy into fixing the right problems.
For example, organizations that are only operating under a regulatory lens, guided by generic emission estimates, may think they need to replace all of their pneumatics in order to make significant emissions reductions. However, that might not be the case, as a measurement-based approach would likely reveal a simpler operational fix that could have a bigger impact.
“If you look at the measurement-based studies and approaches that are coming out, it’s not the pneumatics,” says Ball. “Oftentimes, we’re leaving the thief hatches open on our tanks — simple operational things where you don’t need further investment, you don’t need to throw $50 million at the problem, you just need to tell the field operators to check the latch of the tank hatches.”
Having the right experts on your side who know what to look for is vital to making sure you tackle the right problems and build a carbon management program that aligns with your goals. That’s why Validere has assembled a top team of experts, who not only help our clients navigate the evolving energy landscape, but also inform how we build the models and applications that power our technology.
A systematic approach to counting carbon in hard-to-abate industries.
Building a carbon management program that’s rooted in emissions quantification is foundational to addressing the ongoing challenges of climate change, and requires a structured approach to measuring, monitoring, and verifying emissions data.
See how Validere’s technology and team of experts can help your organization monitor and prove progress, create a defensible reduction plan, and scale emissions strategies while mitigating operational and financial risks.
Learn more about Validere’s MRV platform and team of industry experts.
Validere is a measurement, reporting, and verification (MRV) SaaS company that helps energy organizations transform disconnected, incomplete data into clear and immediately actionable pathways to financial and environmental value.