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Will Dow’s Efforts to Shrink Rio’s Carbon Footprint Win Olympic Gold?

Biomass BahiaThe Olympic Games kick off tonight in Rio and as the official carbon partner of Rio 2016, it’s Dow’s job to mitigate the games’ carbon footprint.

It’s a big job. The direct carbon footprint of the games — from operations, facility construction and spectators — is projected to hit 500,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalent.

There’s also the added environmental pressure due to waste management concerns and water pollution that have plagued the host city in the lead up to the Rio Games.

Despite these challenges, Dow, working with partner companies and nonprofits, says it is confident it can mitigate the games’ carbon impact and beyond. Company officials won’t say how much Dow is investing in its efforts to implement a host of energy- and resource-efficiency initiatives and technologies in four key industrial sectors: agriculture, manufacturing, packaging and construction.

These projects will help the city generate an additional 1.5 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent in climate benefits by 2026, moving the country and its businesses closer to their climate goals, Dow says.

The company is working with Environmental Resources Management (ERM) to provide third-party validation of the projects’ planned emissions reductions and to verify their actual GHG emissions reductions.

“Brazil has said it will reduce CO2 emissions by 2025 by 37 percent and they have outlined different key areas of focus,” said Dr. Nicoletta Piccolrovazzi, Dow’s global technology and sustainability director for Olympics and sports solutions. “All of these projects are relevant, not just for carbon footprint mitigation of Rio 2016 but, they are really relevant in the long term to meet Brazil’s goals.”

Pastureland recovery is one of these key areas of focus for Brazil’s climate goals. To this end, Dow partnered with Brazilian ag giant Roncador Group to help ranchers and farmers deploy sustainable agriculture technologies such as satellite imagery, precision harvest and profit maps, intensive soil sampling and laboratory analysis, and weather monitoring.

The project is also introducing farmers to carbon-tracking methodology to quantify emission reductions, with a goal to monitor more than 50,000 hectares of pastureland.

The Brazilian construction market is the largest in Latin America — and a leading cause of GHG emissions. To minimize the industry’s affect on climate change, Dow partnered with polyurethane-panel producers in Brazil and is hosting seminars and workshops to educate architects, builders and contractors about the benefits of these panels, which decrease demand on heating and cooling systems and minimize GHG emissions.

The companies are engaging facility owners and managers as well because buildings with efficient insulation lower energy costs.

Dow has already expanded this program to Argentina and expects to reach Colombia by 2017.

“The second component of the construction industry project is how can we use construction materials that have a lower carbon footprint,” Piccolrovazzi said.

For this component, Dow worked with two of its customers — FrioStar in Argentina and Termo Puertas Ajustables in Mexico — to reformulate their insulation panels and doors, substituting gases with near-zero global warming potential for those with high global warming potential. “This results in a construction material with a lower carbon footprint,” Piccolrovazzi said.

The third industry sector project targets sustainable packaging. Dow introduced its patented microfoaming technology to several manufacturers in Latin American. The technology reduces the weight of plastic films and packages and allows manufacturers to produce more packaging material using the same amount of resin.

In its fourth project, Dow partnered with partnered with biomass energy company Energias Renováveis do Brasil to power its own large-scale production facilities in Brazil from eucalyptus biomass and sugarcane bagasse, thus reducing their GHG emissions. Its Aratu industrial complex switched from natural gas to eucalyptus biomass that comes from dedicated farmlands in Bahia. The project also reforests about 5,000 hectares of degraded lands and sends more than 12 MW of electricity back to Bahia’s grid.

The Santa Vitória plant produces 38 MW of power and 250 tons of steam per hour and consumes about 102 tons of biomass. It meets all the energy needs for Dow’s operations in Santa Vitória and producing excess energy for the grid.

“Both of these demonstrate how you can use biomass for energy for industrial-scale manufacturing operations,” Piccolrovazzi said.

Dow selected projects across these four industrial sectors that would advance sustainable technologies beyond usual market practices, Piccolrovazzi said: “We wanted these projects to go beyond business as usual. The second key requirement was these projects had to deliver high-quality CO2 reductions that are verified by ERM.”

ERM has already validated the expected emissions reductions for Dow’s projects, Piccolrovazzi says. “We expect 2.2 million tons of CO2 reductions to occur by 2026 and ERM has already verified that actual CO2 reductions amount to 100,000 tons of CO2 equivalent.”

We’ll be closely watching Dow’s carbon mitigation progress, as well as its efforts to expand these low-emissions technologies across sectors — and countries. And now, let the games begin.

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One thought on “Will Dow’s Efforts to Shrink Rio’s Carbon Footprint Win Olympic Gold?

  1. Dear Jessica, how does a company whose fully-owned subsidiary is responsible for the world’s largest industrial disaster pretend to now be the one protecting the environment? Dow and Union Carbide have done little to atone for their crime in Bhopal, India. So this article sounds like pure propaganda from Dow Chemical. You can learn more about what happened in Bhopal and Dow’s role at http://www.bhopal.net

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