During your supply chain career, there is every chance you will be involved in making decisions that impact our environment. More than likely, you will take part in some green initiatives, since it’s every responsible company’s goal to reduce environmental pressure.
Greening the supply chain is a complex process—a little like a chess game. You identify what you think is the right move to make, yet an initiative that seems, on the face of things, to be environmentally beneficial, often creates a negative impact somewhere down the line.
Natural Gas: A Greener Supply Chain Fossil Fuel?
Most recently, an example of the complexity involved in green decision-making has surfaced surrounding the use of natural gas; a product often used to replace diesel as fuel for fork trucks and road-going vehicles. Proponents of natural gas have been touting its benefits for reducing CO2 emissions considerably in comparison to diesel.
Less CO2, More Methane
However, it has emerged that ironically, within the actual supply chain processes for natural gas, a considerable amount of methane is released into the atmosphere. Methane is a substance that’s seriously harmful to the environment, contributing to global warming at a rate of 84 times that of CO2 over a 20-year period.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2013 alone saw more than six million metric tons of methane escape into the atmosphere from the natural gas value chain. That’s a 20-year negative environmental impact equivalent to 140 coal-fired power plants.
Natural Gas Can Be Greener
As a result of the research uncovering these facts, the American Environmental Defense Agency is advising decision-makers to be wary of switching from diesel to natural gas, especially for road-going goods vehicles, until methane losses from the natural gas supply chain have been curbed.
Fortunately, making such emissions reductions should not be a hugely difficult task; mostly involving maintenance improvements and valve changes in the natural gas production process. Yet this recent research serves to illustrate that choosing the right fossil fuels for supply chain activity is not as simple as following popular sentiment.
Here’s the Takeaway
If you are or, will be a supply chain engineer or a manager involved in greening logistics operations, it’s important to play a good chess game. Pay attention not only to improvement projections for your organizational green footprint, but also to how your decisions contribute to the overall environmental benefit or detriment. It will make the difference between your company looking environmentally friendly and actually making a positive difference.