COP21 – A Call for Engineers and Scientists to Innovate

As the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference — COP21 — took place in Paris, I watched as business and world leaders met with the goal to reach a binding agreement on climate policy among all nations. One of the main objectives is to set a path to limit global warming below 2 degrees Celsius by 2100 by reducing man-made emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases (GHGs).

While a unified policy and economic plans are needed to tackle this global concern, engineering and innovation will be equally important elements in making the conference goal achievable. For this reason, I believe COP21 is not only a meeting of policy makers, but also a call to engineers and scientists around the world to help increase energy efficiency and reduce emissions. Since there is a direct link between energy use and emissions — and if you believe that man-made GHGs are a major cause of climate change — we must find new ways to design, manufacture and deliver products and services in a sustainable way.

Even if you believe that climate change is a natural phenomenon not caused by human activities, we engineers are still on the hook to deliver solutions to deal with its effects, including drought, floods, severe storms and other effects on food supply and human health. Either way we need to:

a) reduce emissions with increased urgency and more aggressive goals and/or
b) help with adaptation to the consequences of climate change.

There will be debates on which alternative sources of energy we should pursue, and what development path will get us to zero emissions faster. All responsible corporations are looking for ways to reduce and control emissions, limit their carbon footprints, and be good stewards of the environment.

With the right technologies and practical engineering solutions, it is becoming more possible to run a profitable business while reducing environmental impact. Take retrofitting flares and reducing venting of methane from industrial processes as examples. It is possible to design flares to reduce the amount of unburnt fuels and thus reduce Co2 emission and release of GHG into atmosphere.

Optimization of flare reduces the amount of CO2 emission and dispersion of unburned fuel into environment

Optimization of flare reduces the amount of CO2 emission and dispersion of unburned fuel into
environment

Methane is often found with oil while drilling for or producing oil, and historically it was common to release the gas to the atmosphere or burn it off (called “flaring”) both creating greenhouse gases. New production methods are evolving to process and liquefy the gas or separate it and push it back into the reservoir. These are host of new innovations, product capabilities and equipment that have been designed or are being developed to produce efficiently and reliably to reduce emission associated with oil and gas and other industrial production.

IC-Engine-2015Similarly, initiatives to reduce weight through use of engineered plastics and composites, as well as alternative powertrains, fuel efficiency innovations such as turbochargers, and emission control devices are increasing combustion engine performance, and reducing emission from cars, trucks and off-highway vehicles. (For more information on this topic, you can watch an on-demand webinar entitled Accurate Simulation of Engine Emissions.)

Electric, hybrid and natural gas engines are helping us shift away from gasoline and diesel as transportation fuels. Similar innovations are also happening in aerospace and marine transportation. In energy intensive industries, steady improvements are driving energy efficiency and reducing carbon emissions from heat generation equipment, motors and drives, and material handling and processing equipment.

So what will take to avoid disastrous climate change, and how can engineers help increase the pace of innovation?

At ANSYS, we believe enhancements in computational technology, power of high performance computing and easy access to computers through public and private cloud, coupled with a suite of well-integrated engineering simulation solutions, have the power to significantly help in this global cause. Simulation is obviously not the whole answer, but it is and increasingly playing a bigger role in developing the technologies that could slow the rise in global temperature during this century.

By placing complete virtual prototyping in the hands of all engineers, they can develop solutions that reduce the cost of alternative energy, lower emissions and increase energy efficiency in almost all aspects of modern and developing economies. Computational analysis will help accelerate innovation and assist the global community in achieving aggressive emission reduction goals.

Related materials:

Learn more about how to optimize gas-burner to reduce emission from a cooktop burner. (PDF)

Read about the power of simulation in design of renewable energy equipment. (PDF)

Modal analysis of a power transformer (PDF) – to ensure equipment performance reliability in earthquake-prone areas.

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4 thoughts on “COP21 – A Call for Engineers and Scientists to Innovate

  1. Content of this article is mostly good. We should design more efficient products that produce less waste/toxins for the environment. But there is no such thing as “disastrous climate change”. Climate change is real and it is not dangerous; it’s driven by the sun. The sun goes through hot and cold cycles all the time, therefore driving natural “climate change”. CO2 levels have been much greater historically than today based on ice core samples. Based on the ice core samples, CO2 levels were found to be driven by hotter temperatures, not vice versa.

  2. I did not want to sound alarmist by writing “disastrous climate change” the fact is this time around man-made or natural increases in temperature will have consequences on human race like never before. So, it appears engineers will have a role to play in reducing negative effects of warmer temperature. It does not matter why the temperature is rising – paraphrasing the words of the U.S. Department of Energy Dr. Ernest Moniz scientific community can act now on to mitigate AND act now to adapt to effects of temperature rise

  3. With innovative computational techniques and modern high performance algorithms, it may be possible to put effort on the global emission reduction goal. There may be more questions than answers, but there is room to advance thoughts on the least understood climate change using advanced computational methodology. Nice blog post.

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