Addressing net zero

Ross Hayward, head of assets and commercial at Chepstow Plant International (CPI), discusses how the quarrying and aggregates sector can address the climate emergency, and explains how CPI plans to achieve net zero.

IT would be an understatement to say that it’s been a challenging time for businesses of late. Covid-19 has presented the biggest economic and public health crisis we’ve faced in modern history, while Brexit continues to be the biggest political upheaval we’ve endured for decades. 

Fortunately, both will pass. Climate change however, is here forever, unless it’s addressed urgently. 

Many agree that greenhouse gases, and human activities causing them, need our attention. Since the Industrial Revolution, CO2 levels have risen by over 30%, and we’re seeing temperatures increase, sea levels rise and air quality worsen as a consequence. 

Over time, our actions have spiralled, and it was only when lockdown restrictions were first enforced that we could truly see our impact on the planet. Indeed, last year’s outbreak prompted a record drop in global emissions from February through to May 2020. 

To tackle climate change and halt its effects, we must achieve a balance between the greenhouse gases we’re emitting and those we’re taking out – or put simply, net zero. 

Addressing climate change and achieving net zero is a shared responsibility. In 2019, the UK set a legally binding target to end the nation’s contribution towards global warming by 2050. It’s one of the world’s most ambitious net zero targets, and something we’re now working towards at CPI.

While it seems inconceivable that a company operating in quarrying and aggregates, and with a fleet of over 350 front-line assets, could accomplish this, we’ve followed discussions between the Mineral Products Association (MPA) and its members, and we believe this goal is achievable – not only for us, but for the entire sector.

While 2050 is the goal we’ve set – it’s essential that preparation work starts sooner. Actions taken to limit emissions in the next decade will have far-reaching consequences, and are critical to the future. 

In the wake of Covid-19 and Brexit, it’s inevitable that companies are looking to reduce costs and stay afloat. Business survival is essential, but climate change must remain high on the agenda.

For our sector, we believe the best way to reduce long-term costs, cut emissions and shift closer to net-zero is continual fleet investment, operator efficiency training and optimal machine pairings. 

Admittedly, the industry is bound by the assets available to it. While equipment manufacturers have made fuel efficiency advancements and evolved engine tiers, progress has been less radical than in other industries. After all, fully-electric and autonomous vehicles are still a while off for our sector yet.

To address this, we’re continually investing in our contracting fleet – purchasing the latest and most environmentally friendly equipment available. At present, 50% of our fleet have Tier V engines and 48% have Tier IV – but over the next year, this would shift to about 79% Tier V and 19% Tier IV. 

There are stark contrasting differences for contractors using the different engines within their fleet. An articulated dump truck (ADT) with a Tier V engine (2019-present) burns approximately 22,500 litres less fuel than a Tier IIIB engine (2011-2014) annually. For our entire ADT fleet, this translates to approximately 2.7m litres less fuel burnt per year – or 325 tonnes of C02, 54 tonnes of NOx and 4 tonnes of other pollutants no longer emitted. 

The benefits of driving fuel efficiencies are extensive, so we’ve committed over £60 million towards overhauling our entire core fleet over the next three years. We’ve also adopted an in-house training programme (FOIL) to encourage employees to become ‘zero-carbon operators’. FOIL helps our team to understand the efficiencies they can make and minimise factors that burn extra fuel and increase emissions – including excessive engine power, overuse of brake systems, idling time and under-filling dump trucks. 

This approach is producing tangible results – and we’ve already utilised it with several clients. One client, based at one of Europe’s largest china clay mines, wanted to improve excavator and truck efficiency, and enlisted our help to do so. 

By utilising and analysing each asset’s telemetry information, we could ensure they were fully optimised for the job required of them. After discussing our findings with the client, our learning and development team ensured that operators were effectively trained to improve equipment operation and reduce fuel consumption. The project was a success, saving the client over 300,000 litres of fuel annually.  

Conversations about climate change are gathering pace, and environmental standards are now part of our industry’s new business process. However, most decisions are still influenced by price, and when you’re investing large sums to utilise a fleet with minimal environmental impact, it’s challenging to offer the cheapest rates. 

Our industry must collectively involve customers in the fight against climate change, and explain why services offering continual fleet investment, operator development, fleet analytics and optimal fleet pairings might be more expensive, but also of greater benefit too. After all, customers can achieve greater supply chain management with a reduced carbon footprint, less fuel burnt and lower operating costs. 

Continual investment is more than purchasing machinery, it’s a commitment towards a cleaner, environmentally friendly, future. If we’re to develop a sufficient reduction plan and meet our net zero targets, our industry must work collectively to implement change now. The future of our planet depends on it.