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Vikas Vij headshot

How Caterpillar Drives Innovation to Reduce Its Energy and Water Footprint

By Vikas Vij

Large companies have the ability to invest in innovative solutions and systems that can help minimize environmental, social and economic costs of business. As many of these companies operate globally, their efforts in this direction can make a difference to communities around the world, promote sustainable economic growth, and help protect the planet.

Caterpillar's 2017 Sustainability Report sheds light on how the company’s global operations are guided by its sustainability principles of preventing waste, improving quality, and pursuing innovation to make more efficient use of energy and water.

Innovative Energy Solutions

Many of Caterpillar’s manufacturing operations are carbon-intensive. But even in such energy-dense environments, Caterpillar employees continue to find ways to implement innovative energy solutions to reduce the company’s environmental impact as well as energy costs.

For example, the Material Handling & Underground Division at Caterpillar’s facility in the southern part of India receives an average of 2,700 hours of sun per year. The division has leveraged this to its advantage by installing a 285 kW Cat microgrid, which has helped it cut down GHG emissions by one-third over the past two years.

To help its customers use less fuel and reduce their GHG emissions, Caterpillar is developing greener products, expanding the use of alternative fuels, improving the efficiency of power systems, and introducing electrification into its product lines.

The company is implementing efficient power-generation solutions that make use of diesel, natural gas and alternative fuels to improve energy access while emitting fewer GHG emissions. These power systems can double the efficiency of power generation compared with traditional power grid systems. These systems provide energy diversity from sources such as landfills, livestock operations, wastewater treatment operations, mine methane, flare gas, syngas and biofuels.

Improving Water Conservation

The manufacture, testing and painting of diesel engines for Caterpillar customers requires large volumes of water. At its Seguin Engine Center in Texas, the company has implemented an innovative micro-filtration system that allows it to reuse water, reducing wastewater from the engine testing process by 90 percent.

At its facility in Xuzhou, China, the company used to obtain water from the city for use in its paint line. But in November 2016, Caterpillar introduced an innovative process to collect condensate water for reuse, reducing the need for fresh water. The facility now saves about 40,000 gallons of water per year.

Reducing Waste and Conserving Natural Resources

Caterpillar’s Advanced Materials Technology team drew inspiration from the aerospace industry to perform acid etch checks without methanol. Using innovative techniques, it managed to improve the safety of the process while reducing hazardous waste and hazardous air pollutants. One of the company’s new facilities in Mexico was designed to use this process from the start and has successfully replicated the technique.

Resource conservation and waste reduction are vital goals for many of Caterpillar’s customers. To help them realize the full value of their assets, the company’s Job Site Solutions team works with Cat dealers to help customers identify innovative ways to make their operations more efficient.

These solutions often produce additional sustainability benefits. For instance, optimizing fleet efficiency reduces costs, and also improves the life cycle of a machine, in turn reducing raw material consumption.

"We constantly look for ways to work smarter on the job, to reduce waste and conserve natural resources," said Jim Umpleby, CEO of Caterpillar in a letter introducing the company's latest sustainability report. "This is also part of our commitment to our customers who want to improve their operations and competitiveness and realize the full value of their assets on job sites."

Image credit: Caterpillar/Facebook

Vikas Vij headshot

Vikas is an MBA with 25 years of managerial and entrepreneurial experience. He is the author of “The Power of Money” (Scholars, 2003), a book that presents a revolutionary monetary economic theory on poverty alleviation in the developing world. Vikas runs a digital content development company, and personally loves to write on global sustainability issues.

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