How Technology Can Aid Sustainability

Mar 03, 2020   Written by Pablo Jimenez-Asenjo, Visual MESA Global Business Line Leader

In a recent interview with Pablo Jimenez-Asenjo on his new role, leading the Visual MESA® technology business, we asked him how technology can aid sustainability and its economic, environmental and social elements.

Visual MESA is known for energy optimization, so why are you interested in sustainability?

The ways we consume and generate energy have become of paramount importance to ensure our kids and the next generation can sustain life on a planet that is quickly deteriorating. In that regard, our industry is in the middle of a big transition to become more sustainable over the long term and is targeting zero waste. Being part of this goal motivates me the most. It is what drives me, and I see lots of challenges but nonetheless exciting times!

How do you match the sustainability goal to business performance?

Sustainability has become a strategic goal for companies worldwide. This is now not only a moral duty but a business mandate. We’re all in it together. Being responsible for the business performance means working with our experienced and professional teams to deliver a strategic direction that triples revenues. Sustainability needs to be incorporated and utilize the latest technology. There is no getting away from the need for healthy economics in order to provide the ability to transform, but advanced technology will play a critical role in becoming the catalyst for change. For example, the product developers are incorporating some Artificial Intelligence applications, such as Machine Learning, to improve the understanding of the industrial plant behavior so that we can make quicker and more accurate improvements on environmental performance.

Can industry achieve the needed emissions reductions?

I believe net-zero can be achieved by reducing the energy from existing plants, gradually moving to renewable sources of energy and finally offsetting carbon emissions with natural processes.

Zero waste means more than just carbon dioxide. It is also about the other industrial losses too. As an illustration, additional to combustion emissions, a zero-waste target uses production accounting with the application of data analytics to rapidly spot errors in measurements, locate the molecules as well as identify the conditions that lead to waste before it happens.

Visual MESA technology was originally built to respond to change, and now it has the look-ahead analytics to anticipate change. This is perfect for the situation where there are rapid short-term choices and optimizations to be done, and it has been applied successfully in various energy intensive industries, such as oil refining, pulp and paper, alcohol and sugar, etc. Recently we have implemented it for district heating and cooling in Houston.

How is technology benefiting the social element?

A very good question. Implementation of software relies heavily on the human element as a new system will only work if it creates a positive impact on the people using it; so, having a team of very experienced consultants with vast experience in operating and optimizing industrial plants, can help define work processes that ensure the users maximize the value from the software.

However, it must be recognized that the majority of our work is in high hazard industries and here we are using digitalization to minimize human interactions, increasing safety. A good example is the implementation of Visual MESA Energy Management System in Closed Loop. This was pioneered with an Oil Major, who are operating many of their plants in Closed Loop mode. In essence, this ensures the recommendations of the system get automatically implemented with no human intervention. We expect the industry will implement more of this, building on the deep track record that we have.

What is one thing that you didn’t expect when taking over the role?

One thing that surprised me is that we are advanced in the development of energy optimization using alternative sources such as solar and wind. Therefore, it is perfectly suited to support the industry in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and utilizing renewable sources. I am lucky to be working with a great set of people, products, leading-edge analytics and business potential and this will help drive me in the goal of making a positive contribution to the planet.