Cummins takes leadership role in promising fuel cell technology

A Cummins employee works on the cathode screen printing process, towards the end of the solid oxide fuel cell manufacturing line at the company's facility in Malta, New York (U.S.).
A Cummins employee works on the cathode screen printing process, towards the end of the solid oxide fuel cell manufacturing line at the company's facility in Malta, New York (U.S.)..

Cummins is quickly becoming the leader in a power technology for commercial and industrial uses that could be an important bridge to a carbon-neutral future and beyond.

Solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) can convert a higher percentage of a fossil fuel’s energy into power than combustion-based processes and can also use low- and no-carbon fuels such as hydrogen to generate power.

The ability to do both, while producing far fewer heat-trapping gases and emissions than an internal combustion engine or a coal-burning power plant, is getting the technology plenty of attention recently. 

“We need every tool we can get to address the world’s climate challenges and other environmental issues,” said Thad Ewald, Vice President of Corporate Strategy at Cummins. “Solid oxide fuel cells give our customers another way to achieve their environmental sustainability goals.”

Cummins has been awarded two federal grants totaling $4.6 million to advance the commercialization of SOFC technology through separate projects demonstrating both the technology’s ability to convert fossil fuels into energy, and its potential to generate hydrogen and convert it into the ultra-clean energy that will power the future.

SOFCs use a ceramic electrolyte to convert the energy in a fuel to power through a series of electrochemical reactions. With a continuous supply of fuel and oxygen, the fuel cells can be linked or stacked together to power a variety of applications.   

They are viewed as especially promising for stationary applications. Unlike traditional sources of electricity, they don’t need to consume extra fuel to compensate for energy lost over long transmission lines.

Advocates, in fact, envision a day in the near future when SOFCs regularly power major energy users like data centers, effectively removing them from an increasingly over-burdened electrical grid.

THE POTENTIAL BRIDGE    

SOFC testing center
A Cummins employee works at a solid oxide fuel cell test station used for quality assurance and to validate stack performance at the company’s facilities in Malta, New York (U.S.). 

A $2.6 million U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) grant will help Cummins build a 20 kilowatt (kW) small-scale SOFC power system at the University of Connecticut, fueled by natural gas but able to use multiple fuels.

The system will run 5,000 hours to demonstrate its durability.

That’s not a big enough SOFC system to power a data center but systems can be aggregated together to provide energy resiliency, security and availability, sufficient for not only data centers but other commercial and industrial applications and microgrids, too.

Cummins’ proposal calls for developing a system that would be available at a price point below $1,000/kW, with the flexibility and robustness for use in smaller and larger systems. The proposal says testing will begin in 2021. 

THE PROMISE OF HYDROGEN

A second project funded with the help of a $2 million DOE grant will look at the cost, performance and reliability of a reversible fuel cell or R-SOFC.

It can run as a traditional SOFC or as a solid oxide electrolyzer cell (SOEC) that can split steam to separate hydrogen and oxygen.

This increases Cummins’ already market leading portfolio of electrolyzers to generate hydrogen, including Proton Exchange Membrane and alkaline technologies. The DOE grant proposal calls for building on a Cummins proprietary thermal spray technology to develop an advanced metal substrate or surface resulting in a 50% cost reduction by using less metal and cutting processing costs. 

Cummins is quickly emerging as the leader in SOFCs for commercial and industrial power. The company’s novel spray technology, for example, enables Cummins to achieve larger cells, higher power densities, increased reliability and lower costs.

The company’s industry leading cell and stack size reduces system costs and complexity while providing a modular building block suitable for a variety of applications. Cummins also uses commodity stainless steel in its cells rather than more expensive and brittle ceramics used by some competitors.  

Cummins' work on SOFCs is consistent with PLANET 2050, the company's environmental sustainability strategy adopted in 2019 to address climate change and other environmental issues. The strategy includes science-based goals aligned with the Paris Agreement to limit global temperature rise to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius by the middle of the century.

Want to learn more about Cummins investments in SOFCs and other fuel cell technologies? Join company leaders including Chairman and CEO Tom Linebarger at 10:30 a.m. (EST) Nov. 16 for Cummins’ Hydrogen Day. Click here to register. 
 

blair claflin director of sustainability communications

Blair Claflin

Blair Claflin is the Director of Sustainability Communications for Cummins Inc. Blair joined the Company in 2008 as the Diversity Communications Director. Blair comes from a newspaper background. He worked previously for the Indianapolis Star (2002-2008) and for the Des Moines Register (1997-2002) prior to that. [email protected]

 

Cummins celebrates 2020 reductions in water, waste, energy use and GHGs

The new Water Hub at Cummins' plant in Rocky Mount, North Carolina (U.S.), saves millions of gallons of water.
The new Water Hub at Cummins' plant in Rocky Mount, North Carolina (U.S.), saves millions of gallons of water.

Cummins’ 2020 environmental sustainability goals led to significant reductions in water use, waste production and energy use, as well as critical savings in greenhouse gases (GHGs).

The findings included in the company’s recently released 2020 Sustainability Progress Report demonstrate that setting challenging goals, sharing them publicly and reporting on the company’s progress can drive important environmental benefits.

Even when the company fell short of a goal, it made meaningful progress. For example, while Cummins didn’t achieve its goal of a companywide 95% recycling rate, it nevertheless set a record rate of 93%.

“I remember when we created the 2020 plan, expanding into a wide range of public goals across greenhouse gases, water and waste,” said Brian Mormino, Executive Director of Technical & Environmental Systems at Cummins. “It is amazing to now reflect on how we used our data and experience – combined with our passion and commitment – to produce really powerful results.”

Cummins 2020 Goals
Here's a look at the progress Cummins made on its 2020 environmental goals. The goals were announced in 2014.

WATER GAINS LEAD THE WAY

The gains on reducing water use were especially impressive from the goals announced in 2014. The company first reached its goal of a 50% reduction in water use intensity (water use adjusted by hours work) in 2018, then surpassed that goal the following two years, ending 2020 with a 53% reduction compared to Cummins' baseline year of 2010. 

The company reduced its overall water consumption to 772 million gallons in 2020, a nearly 14% drop from 2019 and a 20% reduction from 2017 when Cummins used 964 million gallons. Much of the company's water reductions were achieved through low- and no-cost efforts, notably fixing leaks and optimizing processes. Cummins' conservation efforts also involved some capital projects, primarily equipment efficiency upgrades and other high-impact projects.

Cummins' water neutrality efforts also yielded success. The company validated 16 sites as achieving Cummins' standard for water neutrality in 2020, surpassing the company's goal of 15. In many instances, these locations offset their water use with community improvements to either conserve water or make new water sources available.

The company will build on those community improvements in the Cummins Water Works program announced recently. The $8 million initiative will invest and engage in sustainable, large-scale, high impact projects. 

CRITICAL ENERGY AND GHG REDUCTIONS

Cummins also made significant progress on the company’s effort to reduce both the GHGs it produces and those the company’s products produce in use.

The company, for example, surpassed for a third consecutive year its goal to partner with customers to improve the efficiency of Cummins’ products in use to reach an annual run-rate reduction of 3.5 million metric tons (MMT) of carbon dioxide (CO2). The company first achieved its products in-use goal in 2018 when it recorded a 4.3 MMT reduction in CO2, then increased that to a 4.6 MMT reduction in 2019 and a 4.9 MMT reduction in 2020. 

And none of this includes the groundbreaking work Cummins is doing in low-carbon battery-electric and fuel cell electric technologies, or the electrolyzers critical to producing low-carbon green hydrogen.

Cummins also achieved its goal of increasing the company’s use of renewable power. In addition to its support of a wind farm expansion in northwest Indiana, Cummins is up to 45 sites that have systems to collect solar power. The wind farm expansion offsets nearly all of the electricity the company uses from traditional sources at its Indiana facilities in the United States.

While Cummins just missed its goal of achieving a 32% energy intensity reduction (absolute energy use adjusted by hours worked) from company facilities, it did reach a 27% intensity reduction. The pandemic introduced complications to achieving the goal, significantly reducing hours worked. However, absolute energy use fell 10% in 2020, which translates into a GHG savings..

WASTE REDUCTION EFFORTS ADVANCE

Cummins exceeded the company’s 2020 goal for sites achieving Cummins’ standard for Zero Disposal status. Thirty-five sites achieved the standard by the end of year, five more than the company’s goal of 30 sites. The standard is extremely challenging, only allowing incineration if it generates more energy than it takes to maintain combustion.

The company’s waste reduction efforts did benefit from the facility closings caused by the pandemic in 2020. Generated waste fell by 15.8% last year, or a little more than 78 million pounds.

That, however, was at least partially offset by an increase in waste streams from disposable personal protective equipment (PPE) to guard against the spread of COVID-19 in open Cummins facilities. Following local regulations for the safe disposal of PPEs was a top priority.

As for the 95% recycling rate goal, the company knew it was aggressive when it was announced in 2014. The challenge grew as Cummins absorbed or acquired additional sites and found it difficult to find places to recycle in some parts of the world. Finally, the amount of relatively easy material to recycle such as corrugated paper and wood dwindled as the company made greater use of returnable and re-useable packaging. And yet Cummins missed its overall goal by just two percentage points.

What's next? the company hopes to build on the success of its 2020 goals by achieving the 2030 goals established in PLANET 2050, Cummins' environmental sustainability strategy.

LEARN MORE

To learn more, check out the Environment section starting on page 18 of the Cummins 2020 Sustainability Progress Report.

 

 


blair claflin director of sustainability communications

Blair Claflin

Blair Claflin is the Director of Sustainability Communications for Cummins Inc. Blair joined the Company in 2008 as the Diversity Communications Director. Blair comes from a newspaper background. He worked previously for the Indianapolis Star (2002-2008) and for the Des Moines Register (1997-2002) prior to that. [email protected]

 

Cummins engaging employees across company to achieve climate goals

The PLANET 2050 Influencer program seeks to engage employees in Cummins' environmental sustainability efforts.
The PLANET 2050 Influencer program seeks to engage employees in Cummins' environmental sustainability efforts.

Cummins is working to engage employees in both the company’s 2030 goals to further reduce Cummins’ environmental impact and the company’s aspiration to be carbon neutral by 2050.

The PLANET 2050 Influencer initiative aims to create employee advocates who understand how Cummins' environmental sustainability strategy will impact the company and society as a whole as the world tackles climate and other critical environmental issues.

“We can’t meet our 2030 goals or Cummins’ 2050 aspirations without engaged employees,” said Karen Cecil, the company’s Director of Environmental Sustainability. “We want employees to know they are empowered to make change and that they have the knowledge and permission to act.” 

A UNIQUE OPPORTUNITY

The influencer program was unveiled during the company’s annual June Environmental Month, which Cummins started in 2014 when it launched its first comprehensive environmental goals timed to 2020. The company recently wrapped up work on those goals, achieving significant reductions in the water and energy Cummins uses and the waste it produces.

The company also partnered with customers to achieve substantial reductions in the carbon dioxide produced by Cummins’ products in use.

The company is now turning its attention to the targets established in the Cummins PLANET 2050 environmental sustainability strategy. PLANET 2050 was unveiled in late 2019 as attention began building on the world’s climate issues.

The company believes it has a unique opportunity to make a difference on the climate because of Cummins’ global reach and the number of markets its products serve.

Cummins technology powers on-highway freight transportation, construction machinery, agricultural equipment as well as the marine and rail industries and the generators that provide backup power to hospitals and data centers. The company’s sustainability strategy includes goals timed to 2030 that are aligned with the Paris Agreement on climate change and Cummins’ aspiration to be carbon neutral by 2050. 

CULTURE IS CRITICAL

More than 120 employees have expressed interest in the influencer program and nearly 50 attended the first influencer orientation meeting. Participants are asked to attend meetings to learn more about PLANET 2050, spread awareness about the strategy and participate in at least one engagement activity per quarter. 

An employee works at the Cummins Fuel Cell & Hydrogen Technology campus in Mississauga, Ontario (Canada), a center for the company’s fuel cell and hydrogen production, research and development initiatives.
Want to learn more about sustainability at Cummins? Check out the company's recently posted 2020 Sustainability Progress Report.

“It gives environmentally conscious employees like you, like me, a platform to spread awareness and to put our passion to action,” said Sandy Jeyaseelan, a Senior Product Engineer for the company’s New & ReCon Parts group. Jeyaseelan  is participating in the program.

Cecil says developing the right culture will be critical to the success of PLANET 2050. While the company has long been a proponent of sustainability, producing a sustainability report since 2003, the goals in the strategy will require a level of employee engagement and support unlike any the company has previously pursued. The 2030 goals include:

 

  • Reducing absolute greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from facilities and operations by 50%.
  • Reducing scope 3 absolute lifetime GHG emissions (including those that the company does and does not own or control) from newly sold products by 25%.
  • Partnering with customers to reduce scope 3 GHG emissions in the field by 55 million metric tons.

The new goals will literally impact everyone at Cummins. For example, they call for eliminating single-use plastics in company dining facilities and at employee events.

“PLANET 2050 touches more functions and employees than ever,” said Brian Mormino, Executive Director of Technical Environmental Systems. “It is important for us to keep employees informed, engaged and empowered about the strategy, the goals and what we’re doing to meet them.”

blair claflin director of sustainability communications

Blair Claflin

Blair Claflin is the Director of Sustainability Communications for Cummins Inc. Blair joined the Company in 2008 as the Diversity Communications Director. Blair comes from a newspaper background. He worked previously for the Indianapolis Star (2002-2008) and for the Des Moines Register (1997-2002) prior to that. [email protected]

 

Pandemic doesn’t stop Cummins from making progress on key ESG priorities

Employees at the Rocky Mount Engine Plant in North Carolina (U.S.) officially launch the plant's Water Hub in 2020. It uses a number of technologies including hydroponics to return millions of gallons of water to the plant for non-potable use.
Employees at the Rocky Mount Engine Plant in North Carolina (U.S.) officially launch the plant's Water Hub in 2020. It uses a number of technologies including hydroponics to return millions of gallons of water to the plant for non-potable use.

Cummins was able to make progress on its environmental, social and governance (ESG) priorities despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the company’s new 2020 Sustainability Progress Report shows.

The report includes a number of company firsts and records in 2020, including a record number of global patents, a record recycling rate, a record low health and safety Incidence Rate, the first virtual Hydrogen Day and the company’s key role in the first hydrogen-powered passenger train. While COVID-19 left an indelible mark on the company, it did not define Cummins in 2020.

The pandemic triggered its own set of company records and firsts, including a record drop in revenues followed shortly by a record increase in orders as Cummins' customers performed essential tasks such as the transportation of food and medicine. But it did not keep the company from addressing a host of key sustainability issues, including climate change, the environment, diversity and racial equity, cybersecurity and innovation.

“I am proud of what we achieved in 2020 and am optimistic about the opportunities ahead to continue powering a more prosperous world,” Chairman and CEO Tom Linebarger said looking back on 2020 in the introduction to the report.

When COVID-19 began spreading early in 2020 and communities began shutting down, even the healthiest companies were severely impacted. The pandemic showed, once again, that companies are only as strong as the communities around them.

Here’s a quick look at what Cummins did in 2020 to build a more prosperous world:

ENVIRONMENT

Cummins' 2020 environmental sustainability goals spurred many achievements outlined in the new report, including a record company recycling rate of 93% (page 24 of the report) and a water intensity reduction (water use adjusted by hours worked) of 53% compared to Cummins’ 2010 baseline year (page 22 of the report). The company's goal was a 50% reduction. Cummins also exceeded its 2020 goal for sites achieving company standards for water neutrality and zero disposal.

The company partnered with customers to far exceed Cummins’ goal for reducing the production of carbon dioxide, a key greenhouse gas, by its products in use (see page 25 of the report). That goes directly to the world’s mission to address climate change. But Cummins’ progress didn’t stop there.

On the product side, the report covers the important role Cummins’ New Power business segment is playing not just in the development of low- and no-carbon power platforms but also the technology needed to increase the world’s supply of green hydrogen (page 57). Cummins is also working to improve its diesel and natural gas engines with climate in mind. Finally, the report outlines the company’s vision for an innovation focused path to carbon neutrality (page 61).

SOCIAL

Cummins continued making progress on the social challenges it believes are critical to creating more prosperous communities. The gender equality law and policy changes resulting from Cummins Powers Women and its partners now impact the lives of 17 million women and girls (page 35). Cummins TEC: Technical Education for Communities has more than 1,700 graduates as of 2020 in its bid to transform the lives of disadvantaged youth through employable skills to obtain good jobs (page 34).

In the United States, the company launched Cummins Advocating for Racial Equity in 2020, a community initiative focused on dismantling institutional racism (page 36). Cummins pledged to take a leadership role on the topic both in and out of the company and started reporting on the racial and ethnic makeup of its own U.S. workforce to be as transparent as possible (page 42).

Finally, the company issued a record $22 million in grants to communities, including $2.7 million in emergency grants to partners who could quickly provide key services in the face of the pandemic (page 33).

GOVERNANCE

In governance, the report details how the Cummins Board of Directors demonstrated its commitment to diversity and inclusion, adding a fourth diverse member in 2020 and a fifth member in 2021 (page 47). The 13-member board also now has five women.

Meanwhile, the board and the company’s Executive Risk Council, consisting of top officers at Cummins, added climate change to the company’s list of enterprise risks that are actively managed (page 54). A new section on cybersecurity details the company’s multi-pronged effort to address the seemingly growing list of cyber threats (page 53). And the Ethics and Compliance function created a new website designed to make it easier for employees to learn about the company’s core policies (page 50).

All of these ESG efforts were largely in addition to the company’s incredible collaborative response to COVID-19 (page 63). Taken as a whole, the report shows it is very difficult to get between Cummins and its mission to build a more prosperous world. Not even a pandemic could do it.
 

blair claflin director of sustainability communications

Blair Claflin

Blair Claflin is the Director of Sustainability Communications for Cummins Inc. Blair joined the Company in 2008 as the Diversity Communications Director. Blair comes from a newspaper background. He worked previously for the Indianapolis Star (2002-2008) and for the Des Moines Register (1997-2002) prior to that. [email protected]

 

Cummins lauded as a top organization for environmental innovation globally

The technical center at the company's engine plant in Seymour, Indiana (U.S.).
The technical center at the company's engine plant in Seymour, Indiana (U.S.).

Cummins has been named one of the world’s top 100 organizations innovating for a better environmental future based on a review of the company’s “Green Patent Portfolio.”

The ranking in Sagacious IP’s GREEN100 Index follows Cummins’ record year for global patents of all types in 2020. The company received 312 global patents that year, topping its previous record of 287 reached in 2017. That’s a nearly 9% improvement over Cummins’ previous record and a more than 12% increase over 2019. 

“The GREEN100 Index is an annual feature to recognize organizations who are working and innovating relentlessly for building a green future,” said Tarun Kumar Bansal, President, Sagacious IP. “I congratulate Cummins for being at the forefront of green innovation and entwining sustainability within the company’s goals.”

ABOUT THE INDEX

The index includes 100 companies and universities from around the world, ranging from Qualcomm, the semi-conductor, software and wireless technology company based in San Diego, California (U.S.), which ranked first in the report, to Compagnie de Saint-Gobain, the French materials design, distribution and manufacturer, which ranked No. 100. Cummins ranked No. 92 in the study.

The United States had the most organizations in the GREEN100 with 39 followed by Japan with 20. The patents reviewed as part of the study generally fell into one of 10 groupings: energy and power; transportation - motor vehicles and parts; renewables; information and communication; transportation - airlines; industrial machinery; building and infrastructure; chemical; health care; and metal processing.

Sagacious IP is one of the largest global intellectual property research and consulting firms, headquartered in Gurgaon, India, with offices around the world. Established in 2008, it has more than 1,000 clients in over 45 countries. 

The firm’s GREEN100 index explored global patents from 2015 to 2020 to judge companies based on their commitment to a more environmentally sound future, their current impact on that future, and their potential to influence the future. Sagacious says its methodology goes beyond evaluating companies on the quantity of their relevant patents to also judge them on the quality of those patents.

The goal of the study and ranking, according to Sagacious, is to raise awareness and spark conversation around the quality of innovation being achieved to address issues like the world’s climate challenges.

2020 Cummins Global Patents Chart
Cummins has consistently increased the number of global patents the company received since 2013.

A RECORD OF INNNOVATION

Cummins has been quickly emerging as a leader in new low carbon power technologies such as battery and fuel cell electric as well as electrolyzers to produce renewable hydrogen by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen.

The company’s New Power business segment has been part of a number of firsts recently, including the world’s first hydrogen powered passenger train.

Meanwhile, Cummins has been working to improve its diesel and natural gas platforms to reduce heat-trapping greenhouse gases (GHGs) as well as key contributors to smog such as particulate matter and nitrogen oxides. 

The company has invested significant amounts in innovation, topping $900 million in research, development and engineering expenses in each of the past three years, including a record $1 billion in 2019.

Cummins aspires to be carbon neutral by 2050 under the company’s PLANET 2050 environmental sustainability strategy. PLANET 2050 also includes science-based goals timed to 2030 that are aligned to the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The company recently wrapped up work on environmental goals timed to 2020, achieving significant reductions in water and energy use at Cummins facilities while increasing recycling. The company also worked with customers to reduce the GHGs generated by Cummins products in use.

Cummins will be posting those results soon in the company's 2020 Sustainability Progress Report. More on Cummins' sustainability initiatives can be found on the company's sustainability website.

blair claflin director of sustainability communications

Blair Claflin

Blair Claflin is the Director of Sustainability Communications for Cummins Inc. Blair joined the Company in 2008 as the Diversity Communications Director. Blair comes from a newspaper background. He worked previously for the Indianapolis Star (2002-2008) and for the Des Moines Register (1997-2002) prior to that. [email protected]

 

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