A defining characteristic of the remarkable industrial development experienced over the last 100 years has been a ‘make-use-dispose’ approach to resource utilization in industrial processes. While this ‘linear economy’ approach has resulted in enormous advances for societies, it also has created an unsustainable demand for and use of resources and materials. With global population expected to swell to an estimated 9 billion by 2050, the intelligent use of limited resources in production and consumption has become a subject of socio-political, environmental, and economic discussion.
- James Feiler: Environmental Services Manager, Bechtel Oil, Gas & Chemicals
- Michael Davies: Project Environmental Manger, SCPx Project, Bechtel Oil, Gas & Chemicals
In 2015, more than 190 countries adopted a set of goals to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all over the next 15 years. Called the 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), it consists of 17 goals that cover a range of social, economic and environmental issues, including tackling climate change and environmental protection. Goal #12 highlights the commitment by countries and other global stakeholders such as business, scientists, consumers, and media, to fundamentally change the way society produces and consumes goods and services. Achieving this goal means ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns through improved scientific processes, technological innovation, and capacity building. For Bechtel, this call to action requires reassessing our use of resources, design and reuse of products, and transforming how we think and operate throughout the lifecycle of our projects—a basic premise to our own 2030 Goals. This paper presents our contribution to the SDG Goal #12 and how we are addressing them as a part of a continued drive to develop innovative and lasting approaches to pressing global concerns.
The design, procurement, and construction of projects relies heavily on a consistent supply of materials and energy. Often, these resources are limited in nature for projects and could mean competing with the public for use—particularly water, energy, and waste disposal. Thus, Bechtel is increasingly challenged to maximize the use of materials through the entire project life cycle and to reduce significantly our impact on the environment. Ultimately, the challenge for Bechtel is in how to decouple the relationship between industrial production and resource consumption. As a premier EPC company, we are embracing the circular economic approach of producing little to no waste or greenhouse gases by utilizing goods and materials as long as possible, and then recovering, reusing, and recycling materials at the end of their service life.
II. Our Approach
Many of Bechtel’s projects around the world are their own small-scale circular economies. Bechtel projects have material and energy inputs and outputs that are tracked. The data provide an important opportunity to manage the sourcing, use, and disposal of individual materials at different points in the project life cycle.
One project where Bechtel as part of Bechtel-Enka Joint Venture, in the capacity of construction contractor is successfully employing circular economy concepts, is the South Caucasus Pipeline Expansion (SCPx) Project in the Republic of Georgia. The existing pipeline, which is operated by BP (Technical Operator) and SOCAR Midstream Operations (Commercial Operator) is being expanded to transport additional volumes of gas. The scope of the Project includes building two compressor stations, a metering and pressure-reducing station, and associated access roadways at several locations across the country along an existing pipeline. The peak period workforce comprises approximately 4,175 workforce personnel spread over three sites. Approximately 1,945 personnel live in Project-provided camps and require the full range of services needed for human habitation. Also, a large amount of inert construction waste such as excavated rock, wood pieces, metal scraps, and food is generated during construction and at workers’ camps and associated facilities.
Recognizing that infrastructure required for the camps was not always available, the Project installed construction, food, and sewage-waste systems that have brought substantial additional benefits, including lowered energy and material use, reduced environmental footprint, and improved safety in the communities adjacent to the projects. We are using a mix of design, material procurement, technology, and community interaction to soften the project’s environmental footprint, including:
- Food waste from food preparation and post-meal leftovers are separated and sent to a food dryer system that removes water content. The dried food waste is then sent to biomass units to be burned. The heat generated is used in boilers that provide hot water to camp residents.
- An on-site sewage treatment system that processes more than 100 million liters of waste water per year. Treated effluent is discharged and made available for certain re-uses, such as dust control.
- Waste-handling areas store, segregate, and process waste for reuse and recycling while waste compression machines decrease volumes of waste.
- Sustainable procurement practices to purchase local goods and in bulk minimize packaging amounts, reduce environmental impact and waste generation, and maximize durability and reparability of goods and equipment.
- Food is largely sourced locally from the abundant and highly dispersed farming sector in Georgia. This reduces travel distances required for food delivery as well as providing substantial local economic benefit.
- An intensive site-wide waste segregation program is implemented to separate out metals, timber, cardboard/paper, and plastic waste.
- Surplus construction materials are donated to local villages located within five km of the project. This avoids landfilling and transportation to distant recycling centers and provides local benefit.
- As an integral part of this program, local workers were trained in the use and maintenance of waste processing technologies, including food dryer, biomass units, Sewage Treatment Plants, bailing equipment, and waste segregation strategies, as well as in foremen and supervisory roles.
III. The Outcome
Overall, our approach on the project helped:
- Save an average of 371,316 gallons (1.4 million liters) per year of fuel, which equates to removing nearly 700 cars from the road;
- Prevented an average of approximately 3,300 metric tons of emissions per year;
- Conserved an average of 100,000 gallons (378,541 liters) of water per year, enough to fill 1 million 12-ounce (.35-liter) water bottles;
- Reduced 90 percent (990 kg/work day) of food waste, equal to about 730,000 pounds or 365 tons of waste on average per year; and
- Recovered, reused, and recycled 40 percent construction waste annually.
The circular economy advantage is about leaving behind a positive legacy for our customers and society on Bechtel projects. Our value to improve the quality of life in communities where we work inspires our people with such purpose for every project. At Bechtel, we are innovating and providing solutions that lead the world toward sustainable growth. We understand that our work transcends the fence lines, and our responsibility is to continue innovating and working with our customers, partners, and communities to better use limited resources in a smarter more efficient way.
Listen to our PodCast on the Circular Economy: