Innovation accelerates drive to sustainability

By Rasha Hasaneen
Chief Product and Sustainability Officer, AspenTech

This week, as we pause to mark Earth Day, it’s worth taking the time to highlight the progress that’s been made in recent years to create a more sustainable world, and to reflect on the challenges that still lie ahead.

The reality is that climate change poses a very real threat to life as we know it, and we must all work together if we hope to address it. For asset-intensive industries, one of the most powerful steps in addressing that threat is the energy transition – shifting the energy system away from fossil fuels and toward renewable power sources.

While it’s far from an overnight process, the good news is that progress is clearly being made. Nearly one third of all electricity today comes from renewable sources, billions are being invested in new renewable projects around the globe and a growing number of companies are turning to electrification with renewable power to help reduce their carbon footprint, to cite just a few examples. Though challenges still exist, it’s increasingly clear going forward that technology and innovation will play a key role in helping to overcome them.

We don’t need to wait for those technologies to arrive – they’re already here.

Simply by implementing technologies that already exist, many asset-intensive industries are seeing significant reduction in their greenhouse gas emissions. One example comes in the form of easy-to-implement sustainability models. When combined with industrial optimization software, those models can help companies jumpstart their progress across a host of sustainability targets, from emissions management to the use of renewable energy and more.

Those models, however, are just the start.

To help drive sustainability efforts across specific focus areas, AspenTech has also laid out a series of sustainability pathways, ranging from well-understood approaches like energy efficiency and emissions reduction to emerging technologies like carbon capture and renewable energy to future pathways, including the use of CO2 as feedstock and advanced plastics recycling.

Those pathways, however, also represent targets for innovation. Using advanced modeling and simulation, companies can identify the best, most economic and most scalable processes for the production of green hydrogen or carbon capture utilization and storage before making expensive capital investments.

And once those innovative assets are up and running, digitalization solutions exist that can help companies make faster, better-informed operational decisions as the work to curb emissions.

Real-time decision-support software, built using operational insights technology, can make it easy for companies across asset-intensive industries to bring together data from across the enterprise, visualize and analyze it and take action on items that have the most impact on emissions and waste reduction.

Those innovations, however, don’t exist in a vacuum. For the energy transition to happen fast enough to truly have an impact at the scale and timeline that’s required, collaboration and co-innovation between industry and digital technology innovators will be critical.

While the notion of collaboration between digital solution providers and customers has long been an established part of business, increasingly companies are building partner ecosystems to accelerate projects around the world or co-innovate with start-ups as they develop new sustainability technology.

Already, some companies are using technology to overcome significant challenges in their industries.


In India, Hindustan Petroleum (HPCL) recently launched a project to process 10 percent of all used cooking oil in India as part of an effort to produce greener fuels. The problem, however, was that different oils had different chemical properties, some of which created challenges to the way refineries operate.

Using AspenTech’s molecular modeling capabilities, HPCL created a detailed model of their entire refining operation, allowing them to characterize the used cooking oil feedstock and process it together with conventional feedstocks to produce fuel.

Carbon Engineering

Carbon Engineering is using AspenTech software to accelerate the design and scale up of their carbon capture processes as they work to scale-up and commercialize their technology.

Using engineering modeling, the company proved the economic and technical viability of their invented processes to investors and are now simulating scale-up to understand tradeoffs between capital and operating costs and optimize the construction and dynamic operation of new industrial facilities capable of capturing up to 1 million tons of carbon dioxide per year from the atmosphere. 

Salt River Project

Based in Phoenix, AZ, the Salt River Project (SRP) is the third-largest public utility in the U.S., providing electricity to more than 1 million customers.

Like many other utilities, SRP faced a number of challenges as renewable energy resources – like solar and wind - expanded rapidly, including managing increasingly dynamic bidirectional power flow and ensuring grid reliability while integrating intermittent power and battery storage sources in the power network.

Using AspenTech’s Digital Grid Management software, SRP was able to create an advanced energy management system that includes transmission, distribution and outage management. Going forward, the company is also working to deploy an advanced distribution management system (ADMS). Taken together, the technology not only adds grid resiliency for today, but also positions SRP to integrate significant additions of renewable sources in the future.

All over the world, Earth Day is a moment for both reflection and action. If we hope to ensure this world remains sustainable for future generations, companies – both large and small – must step up, with new innovations, new ways of doing business and new commitments to making sustainability a part of their culture going forward. It is only by working together that we can make this world a better – and more sustainable – place for everyone.

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