Investigating the Industry’s Carbon Footprint

By Annel K. Greene, PhD, Center Director, Clemson University, Animal Co-Products Research and Education Center

Chemical engineer Dr. Charles Gooding, a member of the Clemson University Animal Co-Products Research and Education Center (ACREC) team, is working to determine the carbon footprint of rendering operations. A native of South Carolina, Gooding holds degrees from Clemson University and North Carolina State University. As a professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Gooding has vast experience in industrial processing, waste treatment, environmental testing and pollution control, energy conservation, and modeling.

In an ACREC project initiated this summer, Gooding is investigating the greenhouse gas impact of the rendering industry and developing a spreadsheet model that the industry can use to document and report the carbon footprint. In the past few years, the carbon footprint concept has been developed to measure the amount of greenhouse gas emissions generated by particular processes. All industrial processes result in generation of some quantity of these gases.

The measurement of these outputs is coming under scrutiny and certain governmental agencies are indicating that every industry may soon be required to document all emission rates. However, as Gooding pointed out in his project proposal, the techniques to measure a carbon footprint are poorly defined and subject to widespread debate on a number of factors. For instance, at what point should the analyses begin? Similar to the debate on the energy life cycle of biodiesel from animal co-products, will renderers be required to include all of the material and energy inputs required to grow the animals? Obviously, this would be illogical.

Other criteria under consideration include the definition of which greenhouse gases will be included. Also, should a comparison be made to greenhouse emissions that would be generated if the rendering plant did not exist? Gooding points out “the carbon footprint analysis for rendering should provide a credit for the fact that the industry makes useful products from carbon rich materials that might otherwise be decomposed into greenhouse gases.”

A number of authors have emphasized that public and political entities frequently use the term “carbon footprint” although scientists have published very little work in this area and the exact scientific definition remains elusive. It is imperative for the rendering industry to take the lead in establishing its own logical and reasonable criteria by which its carbon footprint will be measured. With this information in hand, the industry can be prepared to assist regulatory agencies in setting up a standard system for measuring the carbon footprint of rendering. Gooding’s project will accomplish this task.

Gooding will collect data available from the Fats and Proteins Research Foundation (FPRF), the National Renderers Association, and individual rendering companies. After analyzing the data, Gooding will investigate various approaches to defining the carbon footprint for rendering operations. Upon completing this initial review, he will develop a model and spreadsheet system for calculating the carbon footprint for individual operations. Since there are numerous different types of rendering operations, Gooding needs input from renderers so that the various types of systems can be adequately defined and accommodated within his model(s).

Upon obtaining a consensus from renderers on which approach is best for describing the carbon footprint of rendering operations, Gooding will develop one or more spreadsheet models. Upon completion, he will submit the material for review by renderers to ensure it is representative of industry practices. Once the spreadsheet tool is completed, Gooding will provide documentation and training tools so that each rendering plant can use the spreadsheet as needed.

The overall objective of Gooding’s project is to develop a tool that renderers can use in their respective plants for determining the annual greenhouse gas emission impact of their operations. The project will be beneficial to the rendering industry by allowing a proactive approach to any new regulations proposed concerning greenhouse gas emissions. Use of the spreadsheet also will allow renderers to respond to information requests from the public, customers, governmental agencies, or the news media. Use of this tool likely will be beneficial in public relations by showing that the rendering industry is not only aware of and concerned about its carbon footprint but also that the industry has an environmentally friendly, positive impact on greenhouse emissions. Gooding will conduct a seminar and discussion at the FPRF Emerging Issues Seminar in Laguna Niguel, CA, in October. During this session, he will present a draft version of the spreadsheet he has developed for carbon footprint calculations and will solicit input from renderers.

Gooding is a member of the American Society for Engineering Education, the American Chemical Society, and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. He is past chairman of the Clemson University Department of Chemical Engineering and past president of the Faculty Senate. Gooding has worked with numerous companies including Exxon, BP Amoco, Westinghouse Savannah River, Abbott Laboratories, Sigma Chemicals, Proctor and Gamble, Milliken, W.R. Grace, Duke Power, and Dow Chemical, assisting them with research and educational challenges. Gooding has developed and presented more than 50 continuing education programs to companies across a diverse range of industries.

The Clemson University ACREC is very proud to have Gooding working on the carbon footprint project. The results of his ACREC project will provide renderers with a powerful tool in their environmental control efforts.

ACREC Solutions – October 2008 RENDER | back