Process Improvements

Process Improvements

The following is a brief overview of process improvements undertaken by members of C2ES's Business Environmental Leadership Council (BELC).

For more information on each of these companies efforts to address climate change, please see the Businesses Leading The Way section of this Web site.

Air Products and Chemicals

  • Air Products and Chemicals, working with semiconductor manufacturers, helped to optimize chamber-cleaning processes resulting in perfluorocarbon (PFC) emission reductions of as much as 85 percent.
  • Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. was presented with the 2002 Climate Protection Award from the EPA for its role in reducing PFCs in the semiconductor industry. For more information, visit Air Product's EPA Award site.
  • As the world’s leading supplier of hydrogen, Air Products is providing hydrogen to petroleum refiners to help them meet government mandates worldwide for producing low-sulfur, cleaner burning gasoline and diesel fuel. Hydrogen Article
  • Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. has helped pioneered the LNG industry and have been designing liquefaction systems and supplying cryogenic heat exchangers for LNG plants all over the world for the past 30 years. Building on the leadership position, Air Products saw a breakthrough in liquefaction technology with the introduction of the AP-X™ process in 2004. The new AP-X™ process is capable of producing 50% more LNG product in a single train process. Such projects are key enablers to bringing greater quantities of clean natural gas to the energy consuming markets of the world.
  • For the glass industry, Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. has enabled yield and efficiency improvements, as well as pollutant emission reduction, from its experience with oxy-fuel technology. For more information, please visit Oxy-fuel for Glassmaking.
  • For the metals industry, Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. has also provided efficiency improvements via oxy-fuel technology. Article: When Do Oxyfuels Make Sense?


  • Alcoa’s 26 aluminum smelters reduced PFC-generating “anode effects” by 75 percent between 1990 and 2002, resulting in an annual savings of 12 million metric tons of CO2e.

American Water

  • American Water is testing the efficiency of its pumps, evaluating the alternatives for improvement, and designing enhancements. The vast majority of American Water's electricity consumption is used to pump water from source to treatment and storage facilities and on to its customers. Improved pump efficiency is an opportunity to reduce energy use and decrease its carbon footprint.

  • Research has shown that the average “wire-to-water” efficiency of existing “in-field” water utility pumps is about 55 percent. New installations are designed to achieve efficiency ratings of between 76 percent and 82 percent. American Water sees this as a major opportunity to decrease its carbon footprint. By replacing or refurbishing older pumps, its studies have shown that pump efficiency can improve by as much as 20 percent

Delta Air Lines, Inc.

  • Delta reduced its jet fuel consumption from 2009 to 2010 by 1.8 percent, representing 56 million gallons of jet fuel. While most of this reduction was due to Delta’s decision to exit the dedicated freighter business, Delta also made additional fleet changes and implemented or expanded fuel projects to further improve its fuel efficiency. As a result of these improvements and higher load factors, passenger-miles increased by 2.7 percent despite a 0.1 percent reduction in passenger aircraft fuel.
  • Since 2005, Delta has reduced its aircraft-generated NOx emissions by 18 percent, including a 27 percent reduction in emissions during landing and takeoff.


  • Dominion’s Transmission Business Unit has joined the U.S. EPA’s Natural Gas Star Partnership, a partnership that encourages oil and natural gas companies to adopt cost-effective technologies and practices that improve operational efficiency and reduce emissions of methane

  • Using the smart meter technology, Dominion has been able to implement voltage conservation strategies that reduce customer electricity use by 4% during off-peak hours and 2.5% total. These strategies do not require any additional infrastructure or changes in customer behavior.

  • Dominion and Lockheed Martin have recently announced the availability of the EDGE Grid Side Efficiency solution for utilities. EDGE is a modular and adaptive conservation voltage management solution enabling utilities to deploy incremental grid-side energy management that requires no behavioral changes or purchases by end customers. The EDGE product suite provides significant and sustainable energy savings through integrated planning, execution and validation of grid side energy efficiency management.

Duke Energy

  • In November 2010, Duke Energy and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) released preliminary results of a pilot project showing that data centers operating on direct current (DC), rather than alternating current (AC), can cut their power usage by 10 to 20 percent. Working with EPRI, Duke Energy converted part of a data center in North Carolina to operate only on DC power.


  • Entergy has replaced electrical equipment containing SF6.


  • SF6 Reduction: SF6 is a highly potent greenhouse gas used for insulation and current interruption in electric transmission and distribution equipment. Exelon’s ComEd and PECO subsidiaries are members of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Sulfur Hexafluoride Emissions Reduction Partnership for Electric Power Systems.

General Electric

  • General Electric's FlexEfficiency 50 Combined Cycle Power Plant is GE’s latest innovation in gas turbine technology, engineered to deliver cleaner, more efficient energy onto the power grid and into our homes. The first product in GE’s new FlexEfficiency portfolio, the FlexEfficiency 50 plant will enable the integration of more renewable resources onto the power grid by combining efficiency and flexibility to rapidly ramp up when the wind is not blowing or the sun is not shining, and to efficiently ramp down when they are available.
  • GE uses the Energy Treasure Hunt, a Lean Manufacturing based process created by Toyota Manufacturing North America, to engage employees and identify projects that drive energy efficiency. The process is a structured multidisciplinary review of the energy use at a faciity. GE has identified and implemented numerous cost effective projects to upgrade lighting, HVAC, and industrial process equipment and to better manage energy use through more than 200 Treasure Hunt events since 2005. 

General Motors

  • GM transitioned from R12 (Freon) to R134a - a hydrofluorocarbon with a much lower global warming potential, as a refrigerant for air conditioning systems in plants and vehicles.


  • In June 2011, HP unveiled the HP POD240a, the world’s most efficient modular data center that utilizes 95 percent less data center energy. Also known as the HP EcoPOD, it streamlines a 10,000-square-foot data center into a compact, modular package in one-tenth the space. It provides a traditional data center service model while housing up to 44 industry standard racks of IT equipment and more than 4,400 server. With unique Adaptive Cooling technology developed in part by HP Labs, HP EcoPod gives customers the ability to intelligently optimize energy savings based on IT load, climate and policy by automatically adjusting cooling methods, including using outside air.


  • In 2010, Intel more than tripled the number of Intel meeting rooms with videoconferencing capabilities, including the addition of videoconferencing rooms in 11 new countries. It estimates that videoconferencing saved employees 57,000 hours of travel time in 2010—a 27% increase over 2009—and saved Intel more than $26 million in travel expenses. In addition, the reduction in travel helped prevent the release of 22,500 metric tons of CO2 emissions.

  • Intel has deployed energy conservation solutions across the company by retrofitting boilers with more efficient Autoflame™ control technology. At Intel’s New Mexico site, five boilers were successfully retrofitted at a cost of about $250K. The return on investment realized was $170,000 per year in natural gas fuel costs, $50,000 per year in electrical energy savings, and $40,000 per year in boiler maintenance costs. Similarly, where the new technology has been installed, there has been an average reduction of nitrous oxide (N2O) and carbon monoxide (CO) emissions from the boilers of 32 percent and 92 percent respectively.

  • Intel IT’s Sustainability Framework uses data center, computer, and office infrastructure, as well as its client computer offerings, to collectively contribute to Intel’s emissions reduction goal. Its IT organization has met growing computing demands while reducing Intel’s consumption of IT-related and office energy—resulting in energy cost savings of $5.8 million in 2010 (up from $4 million in 2009) and the avoidance of more than 60,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions.

NRG Energy

  • Combined heat and power (CHP) is inherently more efficient than producing electricity and heat separately. NRG Energy supplies CHP to the new Princeton hospital near its corporate headquarters in New Jersey, and it is actively pursuing additional CHP projects throughout the country. NRG’s thermal business also provides district energy for building heating and/or cooling in several major U.S. cities, such as Phoenix, AZ; Minneapolis, MN and San Francisco, CA. District energy enables building owners and managers to conserve energy and protect the environment. 

  • Environmental Compliance: NRG’s environmental management program is built on a foundation of environmental compliance. Its Environmental Policies and Procedures Manual directs and compels all NRG facilities to follow all environmental regulations in its activities and processes. Plant environmental performance is tracked monthly through NRG’s environmental key performance indicator (EKPI), which measures compliance with permits and regulations, agency citations, reportable spills, completion of required environmental training, internal audit findings and environmental stewardship. Since January 2007, environmental performance across the NRG fleet has improved significantly. EKPI events during 2010 were reduced by more than 36% from 2007. NRG tracks federal, state and local regulations as they are drafted, works collaboratively with regulators to drive sound regulation, provides constructive input during public comment periods and prepares our facilities for compliance. All of the proposed rules generally meet our expectations and the Company expects to fully meet or exceed all requirements through executing our existing plan to spend $721 million on environmental capital expenditures by 2015.

  • Air Emissions: Since 2004, NRG has spent $653 million on environmental controls to cut emissions and make our traditional generation cleaner. Through 2015, it expects to spend another $721 million. These controls combined with fuel switching, operational improvements and shutting down older coal units have and will continue to result in dramatic reductions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, mercury, acid gas and particulate emissions. 

PG&E Corporation

  • PG&E reduced SF6 emissions by 60 percent from 1998 levels by year-end 2007

  • PG&E Corporation’s Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) became a charter member of the U.S. EPA’s Natural Gas Star Partnership in 1994, and its former subsidiary, National Energy and Gas Transmission (NEGT), joined the program in 2000. Through the systematic replacement of equipment and older pipelines, the company has adopted cost-effective technologies and best management practices to reduce methane losses. Efforts in this area continue to include focused inspections and maintenance at compressor stations, modifying system operations to reduce venting, and reducing frequency of engine restarts with gas. In 2002, the PG&E and NEGT undertook numerous activities that resulted in over 185,000 tons of methane avoided. These 2002 emissions avoided equate to over 4.2 million tons of CO2e.

  • PG&E is a charter member of the U.S. EPA’s Sulfur Hexafluoride Emissions Reduction Partnership for Electric Power Systems.

Rio Tinto

  • Rio Tinto reduced annual GHG emissions by 1.76 million tons compared to business as usual through projects undertaken with the Australian Government's Greenhouse Challenge, a program that helps industry identify opportunities to mitigate emissions.

Royal Dutch/Shell

  • Royal Dutch/Shell's Closed Loop Cooling Water Project is a heat integration project that aims to use waste heat from our process to preheat water and hence reduce on purpose firing.

  • Royal Dutch/Shell's Pernis CHP Plant. features a new natural-gas fired combined heat and power (CHP) plant that provides steam to the refinery and electricity to the refinery and the grid. It replaces steam boilers that burnt residual heavy fuel oil and a small, older gas-fired cogeneration unit. CHP plant built and operated by Air Liquide.

  • Royal Dutch/Shell installed a large steam driven turbine was installed in the Caroline gas plant in Alberta, Canada. The turbine is attached to an electricity generator and uses the energy in the surplus low pressure steam (waste heat) in order to develop electricity, thereby reducing the plant's purchase of largely coal fired electricty from the local grid. This project is essentially "energy neutral", since the thermal energy removed in the form of electricity must be replaced with energy from fuel gas combustion, which goes into steam used for heating back up the colder steam condensate production.

  • Royal Dutch/Shell has ended the practice of continuous venting of gas at oil production facilities and has a target to end continuous operational flaring at such facilities by 2008.


  • Toyota reduced the energy required to produce a vehicle manufactured in its North American facilities by 7 percent in fiscal year 2002 through process improvements, such as reducing compressed air usage by improving system operating control, and the development of waste heat recovery systems in painting shops.