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From Data to Industry Action: How Digitization Can Majorly Reduce CO2 Emissions by 2030

By Alex Passett
January 29, 2024

As we inch closer to the quarter-century mark of our contemporary history’s third millennium, our track record as a people is becoming filled more and more by advances made in technology. As the global population continues to grow further into the billions, technology-centric demands for smarter energy consumption, convenient transportation, seamless global connectivity and innovative consumer goods all continue, in turn, to rise.

So too, however, does the temperature of our planet.

In one hand, we have rapid globalization and waves of bona fide technological revolution. In the other hand, unfortunately, the pressing issue of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and the critical concerns they raise. In that vein, the adverse impacts that these emissions have include climate change, air pollution and resource depletion, to name a few.

This, quite frankly, underscores the very real (and urgent) need for industries to prioritize the reduction and management of CO2 emissions.

Enter a recent announcement that highlights new research from Gecko Robotics and Rho Impact. Together, the two have released climate impact forecasting-related findings and emphases therein on digitizing and wholly transforming critical infrastructure.

The research, combined with a previously released report on boiler tube failures, underscores (especially for those averse to taking environmentally conscious steps) that “better use of robotics and AI could result in an impressive reduction of 853 million metric tons (MMT) annually.”

That’s equivalent to 18% of U.S. CO2 emissions alone.

Hard to ignore that.

Gecko Robotics and Rho Impact have stressed the importance of addressing the health of key infrastructure points (i.e. through robotics-enabled digitizations that remove blind spots often associated with measurable and sustainable environmental change). By 2030, they predict that achievable carbon dioxide emission reductions (measured in MMT) look like the following:

  • Oil and Gas Pipelines: 556 MMT CO2
  • Baseload Power Plant Reliability: 230 MMT CO2
  • Pulp & Paper Manufacturing: 46 MMT CO2
  • Maritime Transportation: 11 MMT CO2
  • Bridge Inspection & Maintenance: 10 MMT CO2

Again, hard to ignore figures of that caliber.

“This data represents a major shift in how the world thinks about achieving net zero and Industry 4.0,” said Jake Loosararian, CEO and co-founder of Gecko Robotics. "At a time when leaders are balancing net-zero goals with economic stimulation and growing demand for energy (especially in developing economies), we need a new game plan to achieve 2030 goals. A paradigm that demands our existing infrastructure adopt technology at warp speed and ensures our renewable strategy doesn't make the mistake of the infrastructure that got us here.”

Additional actions that Gecko Robotics and Rho Impact address to make this happen include:

Addressing Fugitive Emissions: Detecting corrosion, leaks, and other defects within the oil and gas sector could reduce fugitive emissions by 556 MMT CO2 per year by 2030. The findings include a 37% emissions efficiency improvement compared to undigitized, unrepaired assets. This becomes possible by decreasing the release of potent greenhouse gasses like methane.

Decreasing Forced Outages: A previously released Gecko Robotics study conducted late last year concluded that the digitization of boiler tubes at energy generation sites could lead to a potential 230 MMT CO2 reduction per year. (All by keeping more efficient baseload generation online and inefficient backup generation offline.)

Monitoring to Improve Efficiency: In the pulp and paper industry, digitizing key physical assets could result in an annual emissions reduction of 46 MMT CO2 by 2030. Routine inspection and maintenance has been shown to improve operational efficiencies by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Digitization can legitimately drive a 6% emissions efficiency improvement, compared to undigitized assets.

Optimizing Maritime: Load optimization and leak detection present significant opportunities for delivering greenhouse gas emissions solutions in maritime shipping. Digitization could avoid 11 MMT of CO2 emissions by improving the availability of the largest, most efficient shipping vessels. The largest ships in the global maritime fleet can be made up to 70% more efficient than smaller, less fuel-efficient ships. After all, “90% of the world’s traded goods are moved through maritime transportation,” according to the IEA.

As Rho Impact CEO Gilman Callsen concluded:

“Improving the sustainability of today's infrastructure requires ongoing innovation, including how we collect data about the built world. The potential emissions impact of improving the reliability of heavy industry and infrastructure demonstrates the promise of deploying scalable technologies that are available today."

Edited by Greg Tavarez
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