Here's How BP Is Using Digital Technology to Create a More Environmentally-Friendly Supply Chain

Environmental issues have been hitting the headlines a great deal in recent years. As the effects of man-made climate change begin to be keenly felt across the globe - through more extreme weather, for example - there is a great need and desire for companies to find more environmentally-friendly ways of carrying out their business.

This desire can be seen in consumer behavior, with 85 percent of people stating that, given equal prices, they would be more likely to buy from a sustainable company than a neutral one. 33 percent of consumers also have sustainability in mind when making purchasing decisions. It may surprise you to learn than a brand's supplier network is responsible for up to 24 times the company's own environmental impact, and 65 to 95 percent of their total CO2 emissions, leading to a need for companies to find new ways of mitigating these factors.

As one of the world's biggest suppliers of energy, BP is using digital technology to create a more environmentally friendly supply chain.


The crux of BP's strategy can be found in a new strategic three-year partnership with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). The purpose of the partnership is to help advance new technology and instigate policy and process change to reduce methane emissions from gas and oil supply chains.

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, being 28 times more powerful than carbon dioxide at warming the earth on a 100-year timescale. Since the UK Industrial Revolution, methane concentrations in the atmosphere have more than doubled, and roughly 20 percent of global warming has been attributed to the gas.

The partnership will include collaboration with universities and third-party experts to help reduce the impact of methane on the environment. While the project will initially look to help BP itself apply technology and policy to reduce its own methane impact, it's hoped the innovations which come out of it will have broad applicability which can benefit the entire energy sector.

"BP is taking a leading role in addressing methane emissions, and this collaboration with EDF is another important step forward for us and for our industry," said BP's Upstream Chief Executive, Bernard Looney. "We've made great progress driving down emissions across our own business, including meeting our industry-leading methane intensity target of 0.2 percent, but there is much more work to do and partnering with the committed and capable team at EDF will help us develop and share best practices."

When it comes to reducing methane emissions, new technology has the best chance of achieving these goals. These technological advances are changing almost every facet of industry, and environmental friendliness is no exception.

Sustainable Technology

BP offers a research grant of half-a-million dollars to an initiative led by Colorado State University. The grant is awarded to projects which are looking to improve pathways to regulatory acceptance for emerging methane detection and quantification technologies.

"CSU welcomes this support from BP and EDF for this critical research work, and this provides the necessary confidence and momentum for other stakeholders to contribute in a collaborative environment, in which the results and tools will benefit the wider industry," said Senior Research Associate for Colorado State University's Energy Institute, Dan Zimmerle.

For example, drone technology is being developed which can carry out methane monitoring tasks alongside stationary continuous monitoring solutions. These, combined monitoring systems, can reduce detection times and speed up the rate at which any leaks in the energy supply chain are discovered and repaired. Digital technology such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and augmented reality can also give supply chains new ways of gathering insights into their own environmental impact, so all involved can help develop new ways of mitigating it.

For example, data and artificial intelligence can be used to constantly analyze every part of the supply chain and discover the most inefficient segments. If a part of the supply chain is found consistently have a negative impact on the company's methane emissions, the reasons for it can be investigated and new efficiencies can be introduced.

Final Thoughts

All brands should be placing a high priority on addressing the environmental impact of their supply chains, and it's great to see a massive energy brand such as BP leading the way in this regard.

"BP's commitment to push the next frontier of methane technology and practice is important to prove out solutions that oil and gas companies can use to accelerate emission reductions. The scale of the methane challenge is enormous, but so is the opportunity," said EDF President, Fred Krupp. "Whether natural gas can play a constructive role in the energy transition depends on aggressive measures to reduce emissions that include methane. BP took such a step today."

You can hear BP's Director of Procurement and Supply Chain, Balaji Ramakrishnan, speak at Supply Chain Next 2019, taking place in November at the Westin Chicago River North, IL.

Download the agenda today for more information and insights.

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