- By Carla Saavedra
- Feb 08, 2010
When the U.S. House of Representatives passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 in June, the industry knew that big changes were coming. The bill may still be in the Senate, but software companies are staying one step ahead, producing programs to help businesses and environmental professionals transition into the "green" economy.
"[Companies] see the regulation coming," said Michael Banville, vice president of Climate Change and Clean Energy, IHS Inc. "But they're also trying to become more operationally efficient."
IHS' ecoAsset Manager is a greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions workflow and task management system that tries to help companies be efficient in their reduction efforts. "… If you're in an emissions trading scheme, like we already have in the U.S. on NOx and SO2 emissions—but also with CO2 in Europe—the program helps you manage all the workflow around trading," said Banville, explaining that the program allows clients to compare their allowance position with their internal emissions inventory.
Because emissions regulations vary by country and by state, the IHS Greenhouse Gas Suite helps multinational corporations organize emissions data from facilities around the world into a common platform. The software supports the EU Environmental Trading Scheme, the , Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, and the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, among other emissions programs.
According to Banville, ArcelorMittal, a multinational steel manufacturer based in Luxembourg, wanted the ability to look at emissions data, measure its carbon footprint, and determine ways to reduce it. Although the European Union scheme was the company's initial driver, its managers also wanted to be able to measure data from facilities in other countries.
"You can imagine the data in Kazakhstan probably looked very different from the data in the U.S. versus India in terms of the form and the level of automation," Banville explained, adding that once all the information is centralized, managers can easily adapt compliance reports as regulations change.
The Greenhouse Gas Suite enables ArcelorMittal to pull reports at a multinational level and analyze facility level data as well. Custom facility-based reports can help the manufacturer establish performance metrics and benchmarks, using certain data sets for that facility within a common structure. The result is an "apples to apples" comparison, Banville noted.
Another good use of this software is determining, at the asset level, significant contributions to a company's carbon footprint. Banville explained that the program can indicate what it is within an industrial process—a certain pump or compressor, for example—that's increasing GHG emissions. Once the culprit has been identified, the "facility manager can make link decisions that can move the needle on their environmental footprint," he said.
GHG emissions tracking may be the hottest software add-on in the environmental regulation sector, but environmental professionals still rely on facility management software programs to maintain reporting schedules.
ChemSW's Chemical Inventory System, CISPro Client/Server , manages, tracks, and reports chemicals and other laboratory supplies by hazard class regulatory status. The program creates Tier II reports, which must be submitted annually to the local emergency planning committee, the state emergency response commission, and the local fire department.
"Let's say you have a shack with very flammable liquid. That's very dangerous," said Brian Stafford, president of ChemSW, explaining that an effective inventory system helps reduce risk and prevents companies from exceeding their exemption limits. Many chemicals under exemption limits fall into the Fire, Chronic, Immediate/Acute, Reactive, and Pressure hazard classes and can only be stored on-site in small amounts.
CISPro also provides companies with a common platform to manage their chemical inventory multinationally, reducing the complexity of reporting. "The system can compare a site to regulations appropriate to that site," Stafford said.
ChemSW recently added CISPro Global, a software as a service application that employees can access over the Internet. The framework enables ongoing upgrades and system support and gives administrators the ability to customize data access levels for individuals or groups.
SI Live is a SaaS mobile application that lets employees search for chemicals onsite, uploading inspection forms to a mobile phone and downloading the data onto the program for reporting.
Of course, staying in compliance with regulations will always be the main priority for companies.
In 2009, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a new addition to its Toxic Release Inventory Program: the TRI-MEweb. Facilities can use this online filing system to submit their toxic inventory reports to EPA and their state agencies. Filers receive instant receipt confirmation for their submissions and keep their reports in compliance with Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act reporting requirements.
Having data on a common platform allows software companies to create add-ons that will organize information based on a certain set of parameters. With CISPro, clients can integrate regulatory lists and 3E's Ariel Global Chemical and Regulatory Content. "You can organize the regulatory lists by all agencies, even by local, county, and country requirements," Stafford explained.
The trick to staying in compliance is keeping up with regulatory changes and software companies are here to help.
IHS, for example, is developing an analytical tool—working name: Environmental Business Intelligence—that would run different emissions scenarios to help clients reduce their carbon footprint.
"We think that our value is not just to provide software on their emissions, but also to help them make the bigger strategic decision on 'what's my abatement project strategy?' and 'what types of investments should I be making to affect my footprint?'" Banville said.