Treating water for a second act

Cummins employees at the Rocky Mount Engine Plant tour the new system's greenhouse at a ribbon cutting earlier this year.
Cummins employees at the Rocky Mount Engine Plant tour the new system's greenhouse at a ribbon cutting earlier this year.

No, the greenhouse at Cummins’ Rocky Mount Engine Plant (RMEP) doesn’t mean the company is diversifying into fruits and vegetables.

It’s part of Cummins’ commitment to reduce water use in the North Carolina (U.S.) community where the plant is located. RMEP has a new system employing multiple technologies including hydroponics – using plants as a filter –  to treat millions of gallons of water annually so it can be returned to the facility for non-potable use.

A similar system – minus the greenhouse – is conserving millions of gallons annually at Cummins’ Jamestown Engine Plant in western New York (U.S.). Both plants expect to cut city water use by about a third – collectively saving more than 25 million gallons annually.

Rocky Mount Engine Plant Water Hub
The new system at the Rocky Mount Engine Plant is capable of treating about 75,000 gallons per day, returning it to the plant for non-potable use.

The projects will likely play an important role in reaching the goals established in PLANET 2050, Cummins’ environmental sustainability strategy to reduce the company’s impact on the climate and other environmental challenges.

The strategy calls for reducing absolute water consumption in facilities and operations companywide 30% by 2030 or more than 200 million gallons annually. The strategy calls for reusing water and returning it clean to communities as a 2050 aspiration.

In 2019, the company used 895 million gallons of water, down from 949 million gallons the previous year, about a 6% reduction.

“What we learn at these locations could be applied elsewhere when we update facilities in the future,” said Nichole Morris, Cummins’ Manager for Water and the Environment. “Each site has unique characteristics that will help us as we move forward.”

Unfortunately, replacing every Cummins treatment system with the latest technology is cost prohibitive. These new systems, however, could provide lessons for other locations when investing in new systems makes sense.

THE POWER OF THE PLANTS

Rocky Mount earlier this quarter held a ribbon cutting to celebrate what it calls its WaterHub. The multi-faceted system includes anaerobic and aerobic treatment, allowing micro-organisms to break down organic materials.

Hydroponics provide additional microbiological treatment coupled with membrane filtration to remove fine solids. A final stage uses a reverse osmosis process to address any remaining undesirable constituents.

The hydroponic plants are critical to the functionality of the WaterHub. Root surfaces provide supplemental aeration and catalyze an ecology of grazing micro-organisms (protozoa and micro-crustaceans) to help reduce sludge and increase overall efficiency.

“These technologies have been around for many, many years,” said Gary Keffer, Director of Health, Safety and Environment at the plant. “What makes this innovative is it puts all of these technologies together to produce the ultra-clean water we need for our manufacturing processes.”

Working with four different outside contractors, the system took nearly four years to complete and has a treatment capacity of about 75,000 gallons per day. Most of the water is returned to the plant’s cooling tower, which is used to cool various machinery such as air compressors. The water must be ultra clean to prevent degradation within the tower, which includes several sensitive metals.

The old system had been updated several times but essentially went back some 40 years. Plant leaders hope the greenhouse will host school tours, providing hands-on learning opportunities on the importance of clean water.

“This project has not been without its challenges,” said Tim Millwood, Vice President of Manufacturing at Cummins, speaking remotely at the ribbon cutting because of COVID-19. “Probably the pandemic was the ultimate challenge. But, thanks to your commitment, this team got the WaterHub over the finish line. I’m really, really proud of you all.” 

PLANT WITHOUT PLANTS

The three pillars of Cummins' water strategy.
The three pillars of Cummins' water strategy.

The Jamestown plant's new system has been around a little longer, and lacks a greenhouse, but it, too, could provide important lessons for other Cummins sites.

Over the past 18 months, the plant has been working to upgrade the treatment system, which was largely original to the more than 40-year-old plant.

While there’s no hydroponics, the Jamestown system also includes a reverse osmosis and filtration process to polish wastewater so it can be re-used in the plant’s manufacturing processes, said David Burlee, Health, Safety and Environment Leader at the plant.

“We are finding the high quality of the reclaimed wastewater is dramatically reducing the number of regeneration cycles required on our deionized water system and increasing the efficiency of our cooling towers,” Burlee said.

Jamestown is significantly north of Rocky Mount and the low temperatures it gets most winters would likely not be as conducive to a greenhouse as the warmer climate in North Carolina.

The system looks a little more industrial, which might be fine in many settings while a system with a greenhouse could be more visually pleasing for plants close to residential areas.
 
THE PATH FORWARD

Given the company has around 125 major manufacturing sites in various locations and climates around the world, Morris is happy to have multiple examples to share moving forward. She says a one-size-fits-all approach isn’t likely to work.

While 10 years might seem like a long time, she often feels those 2030 goals are lurking just around the corner.

“The reductions from these systems are significant,” she said of the Jamestown and Rocky Mount projects. “But we still have a long way to go to reach our 2030 goals and beyond. It will take many different approaches to get there.”
 

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 CEO makes case for climate action at the White House

Cummins Chairman and CEO Tom Linebarger unveils the company's environmental strategy in 2019.
Cummins Chairman and CEO Tom Linebarger unveils the company's environmental strategy in 2019.

Cummins Inc. Chairman and CEO Tom Linebarger joined other corporate leaders at the White House Wednesday, making the case for aggressive action on climate change.

 

“My view is we’re out of time to protect our climate and we’re out of time to make sure that American companies are the ones that lead the world in these technologies,” Linebarger told President Biden. “When we invest, we can win, and we can create jobs for our workers here in the United States.”

Corporate executives including General Motors CEO Mary Barra, Ford CEO Jim Farley and Microsoft President Brad Smith also championed climate action at the meeting, held ostensibly to talk about the stalled Build Back Better Act. The legislation includes a wide range of provisions, from climate action to childcare initiatives.

Linebarger called climate change the “existential crisis of our time,” adding he would not want to be sitting in his living room with his family one day and not be able to say he made every effort to build support for climate action.

Cummins wants to be a leader in addressing climate change. The company has brought to market new low-carbon technologies such as hydrogen fuel cells while working to reduce the carbon footprint of its more traditional products such as internal combustion engines.

During his discussions with the president and other business leaders, Linebarger voiced his support for advancing the Build Back Better Act because of its provisions that address climate change, provide tax credits for hydrogen production, and other initiatives to reduce carbon and drive job creation while enhancing American competitiveness.

“When we invest, we can win and we can create jobs for our workers here in the United States,” Linebarger told Biden. ”That’s what we intend to do at Cummins, and that’s what I think all of us can do if we invest in climate change technologies now.”

“But we can’t do it alone,” Linebarger added. “The truth is we need investment. Tax credits in the Build Back Better Act for hydrogen and clean trucks will play a big role in getting all of us to invest in infrastructure and other things we need to get this going.”

To date, the U.S. House has passed Build Back Better Act, but it has stalled in the U.S. Senate. Linebarger says that comes with significant consequences.

“If we wait, not only do we harm the climate, but we make sure we are not the winners in global competitiveness,” Linebarger told the president.
 

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 introduces Destination Zero to its employees and other stakeholders

The endgame is clear: Destination Zero. The journey to get there is complex. 

“Climate change is the existential crisis of our time, and we must work together to solve it,” Tom Linebarger, Cummins Inc. Chairman and CEO and Jennifer Rumsey, Cummins Inc. President and Chief Operating Officer wrote in a recent note they co-authored for the company’s employees. “Our ability to deliver on our mission of making people’s lives better by powering a more prosperous world is threatened by the world’s climate challenges.”  

They further explained that the industry contributes to climate change, and Cummins has an opportunity to be part of the solution by pursuing reductions from both internal combustion engines and new technologies. 

The note from Rumsey and Linebarger introduced Destination Zero. This is the name for the company’s strategy to go further, faster to reduce the greenhouse gas (GHG) and air quality impacts of its products and reach net-zero emissions by 2050 in a way that serves all stakeholders in a sustainable way for Cummins’ business. This commitment requires changes to Cummins’ products and the energy sources that power them. This work requires collaboration and leadership from governments, utilities, and other industries. 

To reach a world with net-zero emissions, it is necessary to improve the resiliency of the grid and decarbonize it with renewable energy. Developing and growing the hydrogen economy also is essential. Hydrogen can be used as a fuel source to decarbonize transportation as it becomes more available and less expensive. (Cummins’ electrolzyers are helping customers produce green hydrogen.)  

Because these changes will take time, as part of its Destination Zero strategy, Cummins is also focused on improving GHG emissions that come from the internal combustion engines that dominate most industrial applications today. In fact, it’s these reductions, which are projected to provide more cumulative carbon reduction than an alternate scenario of waiting until the grid is green and deploying technology that relies on electric charging. 

Cummins’ Destination Zero strategy lowers carbon and other emissions today, and reduces well-to-wheels emissions by matching technology readiness with infrastructure readiness. (Well-to-wheels emissions include energy use and emissions from the primary energy source through consumption during vehicle or equipment operation.) It drives wide-scale adoption by focusing on affordability, and it achieves zero emissions by 2050. Simply put, it provides the most cumulative emissions reduction for the least cost on society. 

The pace will look different in different applications and regions of the world. Driving factors of the pace of the transition include infrastructure investment, regulatory advancements, and customer requirements. Because so many partners will influence these changes, Cummins employees around the world are working in their communities to partner on these efforts. 

This work builds on the framework of the company’s PLANET 2050 environmental sustainability strategy, which also includes a focus on improving its communities and using natural resources in the most sustainable way. PLANET 2050 includes quantifiable goals for 2030 and visionary, longer-term aspirations for 2050. 

katie zarich author bio photo

Katie Zarich

Katie Zarich is Manager of External Communications for Cummins Inc. She joined the Company in 2015 after more than a decade working in government and the nonprofit sector. [email protected]

Cummins named to prestigious world ESG index

Cummins plants and facilities made significant greenhouse gas reductions in 2020.
Cummins plants and facilities made significant greenhouse gas reductions in 2020.

Cummins Inc. has returned to the S&P Dow Jones World Sustainability Index, one of the most prestigious sustainability indices evaluating companies’ performance on environmental, social and governance matters.

The company was also named to the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for North America for a 16th consecutive year. The new ratings go into effect Nov. 22 and are based on 2020 data.

Dow Jones emblem"We congratulate Cummins for being included in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) for the World and North America,” said Manjit Jus, Global Head of ESG Research for S&P Global. “A DJSI distinction is a reflection of being a sustainability leader in your industry. The record number of companies participating in the 2021 S&P Global Corporate Sustainability Assessment is testament to the growing movement for ESG disclosure and transparency."

The Dow Jones announcement follows several recent awards and honors recognizing Cummins’ efforts to play a leadership role on the world’s climate challenges. The company was accepted into the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Climate Challenge, one of 35 members with the goal to reduce scope 1 and scope 2 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 50% within 10 years. Scope 1 emissions include direct emissions owned or controlled by an entity while scope 2 emissions include emissions from the generation of purchased electricity.

That followed Prince Charles’ Nov. 3 announcement in Glasgow, Scotland, site of the COP26 global climate summit, that Cummins was one of 45 inaugural recipients of the Terra Carta Seal. The seal recognizes companies from around the world that are taking a leadership role within their industries on sustainability and decarbonization. The Prince of Wales is making a major push for climate action, challenging companies to restructure their business in a way that protects the world’s natural resources.

LEADERS ON CLIMATE ACTION

Cummins is working to improve its traditional products such as diesel engines through improved efficiency and the use of low- and no-carbon fuels, including hydrogen, while bringing to market new low-carbon technologies such as battery and fuel cell electric platforms. The company is also manufacturing electrolyzers critical to producing green hydrogen, a promising no-carbon fuel.

Chairman and CEO Tom Linebarger told Forbes magazine during his visit to COP26 last week that the world is running out of time to address its climate challenges, and no single technology is the best answer to reducing carbon emissions in every application.

“It’s just that simple,” he told the magazine. “We are putting carbon in the atmosphere we cannot remove, so we need to get moving on all of them.”

Cummins Vice President Amy Davis, President of the company’s New Power business segment, was also in Glasgow. During an appearance on a panel at The New York Times Climate Hub, she said both battery electric and hydrogen fuel cells offer promising futures. But she also said technologies widely available today like advanced diesel are needed to remove as much carbon as possible now because once carbon is emitted, “we can’t get it back.”

The company has taken a number of steps to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from both its operations and by working with customers to reduce GHG emissions from Cummins’ products in-use.

For example, the company achieved 2020 intensity reductions in its plants and other buildings totaling 27% in energy and 41% in GHGs from a baseline year of 2010. Meanwhile, Cummins achieved a cumulative reduction of 21.7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from Cummins’ products in-use since 2014, working with customers to use company products more efficiently.

Cummins has also launched Cummins Water Works to help strengthen communities facing climate-related shortages by developing sustainable water supplies. 

SOCIAL, GOVERNANCE ADVANCE, TOO

While Cummins received high marks from Dow Jones for its work on a variety of environmental matters (96th percentile) in 2020, it also praised the company’s social initiatives (91st percentile) and Cummins’ governance and economics (96th percentile) programs.

On social matters, the company had a strong year in 2020. The number of women and girls impacted by the gender equity law and policy changes resulting from Cummins Powers Women climbed to 17 million since the effort started in 2018. Meanwhile, the company successfully launched Cummins Advocating for Racial Equity (CARE), to focus on dismantling institutional racism in the United States following a summer of protests across the country. 

Cummins in 2020 also recorded the lowest Health and Safety Incidence Rate, the rate of recordable injuries at the company, in Cummins’ history. In addition, the company reported significant improvements in gender diversity, especially in the company’s leadership and executive ranks. 

The company’s Board of Directors also saw significant gains in gender as well as racial diversity in 2020 and early 2021. The board met 15 times in 2020 – three times its normal number of meetings, providing important leadership during Cummins’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cummins was dropped from the Dow Jones World Index in 2014 but maintained its place on the North American index. In recent years it narrowly missed returning to the world index.

More than 10.000 publicly traded companies were invited to participate in this year’s S&P Dow Jones sustainability review. Only slightly over 320 made the 2021 world index. Those companies come from more than 20 different countries and more than 20 industries, ranging from automobiles and components to media and entertainment to utilities. Cummins was in the capital goods category.
 

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 joins Better Climate Challenge to help reach key GHG goal

Cummins Inc. has been accepted into the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Climate Challenge, one of 35 members with the goal of reducing their scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 50% within 10 years.

Scope 1 emissions include direct emissions owned or controlled by an entity. Scope 2 covers indirect emissions from the generation of purchased electricity, steam, heating and cooling.

“Cummins has benefited greatly from its participation in the department's Better Buildings, Better Plants Challenge to reduce our environmental footprint,” said Mark Dhennin, the company’s Director of Energy and Environment for Facilities and Operations. “I’m confident this partnership will help us reach our aggressive carbon reduction goals for 2030.”

Other groups participating in this most recent Department of Energy (DOE) initiative range from Ford and General Motors, to the Deschutes Brewery in Central Oregon, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation, which develops affordable housing in San Francisco. 

Any organization with a portfolio of buildings, plants or housing in the United States is eligible to join the DOE challenge provided they are willing to set a portfolio-wide goal of at least 50% emissions reduction over 10 years. In return, they can access technical assistance for reaching their goals through the DOE’s network of national laboratories as well as “peer-exchange” opportunities through conferences, webinars, regional meetings and more.

Terra Carta Seal
Cummins was recently named one of the inaugural recipients of Prince Charles' Terra Carta Seal for the company's commitment to sustainability and decarbonization.

BUILDING ON SUCCESS

The program builds on the success of the Better Buildings, Better Plants Challenge, which Cummins drew on extensively to achieve intensity reductions of 27% in energy and 41% in GHGs by the end of 2020 from a baseline year of 2010. 

The company has established a new set of 2030 goals to build on the success of its 2020 goals, including several aligned to the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement to keep global temperature rise to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Among those new goals is reducing absolute GHG emissions from facilities and operations by 50%. The 2030 goals are included in PLANET 2050, the company’s environmental sustainability strategy adopted in 2019.

The Better Climate Challenge will allow the company to draw on both the expertise of other like-minded organizations and the DOE as well as share what it has learned since Cummins established its first public energy reduction goal some 15 years ago.

A RECORD OF INNOVATION

The company has implemented a number of innovative programs since then, supporting, for example, the expansion of a northwest Indiana wind farm to generate low-carbon power to help offset Cummins' electricity use from more traditional sources.

Cummins also created a trained cadre of employees to look for energy savings in their own particular locations. Finally, the company has now established solar installations at more than 40 locations. 

“Cummins has long believed in the power of partnerships to achieve critical goals,” Dhennin said. “Our partnerships with the DOE have not only produced environmental benefits, they have made our core products more efficient. We also know from experience we can learn a lot from other like-minded companies and organizations. I’m confident the relationships we develop in the Better Climate Challenge will help us reach our important goals.”
 

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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