PEP Announces 2023 Environmental Stewardship Awards

PEP Announces 23rd Annual Environmental Stewardship Awards Recipients

The Partners for Environmental Progress (PEP) has announced the recipients for their annual Environmental Stewardship Awards. The partners honored this year exhibited exemplary commitment to the protection and betterment of our coastal environment, economy and community.  This year’s recipients were officially recognized at the annual meeting on September 7, 2023.

The awards celebrate the innovative approaches our members take to solve environmental problems and enhance the sustainability and resiliency of our coastlines.

Alabama Power - Natural Gas Conversion to Reduce Coal Reliance

Alabama Power is the second largest electric utility within Southern Company, serving customers in the southern two-thirds of Alabama. More than 84,000 miles of power lines carry electricity to customers throughout the company’s 44,500-square-mile service territory.

In 2022, Alabama Power’s successful conversion of the Barry Unit 4 generating unit from coal to natural gas moved the unit toward a targeted reduction of approximately 50% in carbon dioxide emissions. Additionally, this fuel conversion has led to the complete elimination of this unit’s coal combustion residual waste. Today, approximately 69% of the energy produced by Plant Barry is sourced from natural gas.

The project’s overall benefits set a new standard for energy production in the Gulf Coast region and beyond. Alabama Power Company has demonstrated that it is possible to continue providing essential services to the community while
simultaneously reducing the environmental impact of operations. The Unit #4 fuel conversion, which provides energy to approximately 12,500 households per day, demonstrates Alabama Power Company’s commitment to innovation and
progress. The project has set an example for others in the energy industry to follow and has proven that innovative approaches are required to tackle the challenges around the future of energy production.

AM/NS Calvert - Waterfowl Habitat / Agriscience Student Project

AM/NS Calvert is a 50/50 joint venture between ArcelorMittal and Nippon Steel Corporation. The steel processing plant is in Calvert, Alabama, approximately 35 miles north of Mobile (Mobile County). The facility serves the automotive, construction, pipe and tube, service center and appliance/HVAC industry by providing high quality steel of various grades and coatings. 

With over 1,200 acres of undeveloped habitat onsite, AM/NS Calvert has been provided with the unique opportunity to enhance the environment in a way that fosters stewardship and sustainability. Responsible practices are in the forefront of attaining goals in environmental enrichment, and one of the ways AM/NS carries out these practices is through conscientious wildlife habitat management. 

In 2022, AM/NS Calvert was able to employ another wildlife habitat management program that included stakeholder engagement, a youth educational opportunity, and the improvement of the local waterfowl population. The goal was to improve the local wood duck population through partnering with Mr. Ryan Crews’ Agriscience Program at  Citronelle High School. The students constructed nesting boxes and the AM/NS Calvert team provided a lunch and learn opportunity for the students, and went on to install the nesting boxes in and around the protected wetlands.

Once the waterfowl occupy the boxes next February, the wood ducks will move throughout the wetlands foraging for food and trans-pollinating new plants and animal species, which create favorable conditions for cultivating new plant and animal communities within the wetland areas.

BASF - Innovative Floating Solar Panels for Renewable Energy

BASF in McIntosh, Alabama produces chemicals vital to our economy’s sustainability and quality of life. Climate protection is a key pillar of BASF’s sustainability efforts, with a goal to achieve net zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 and reduce absolute carbon dioxide emissions by 25% by 2030.

As part of this ambitious sustainability goal, BASF has installed an innovative proof-of-concept floating solar system at its McIntosh, Alabama manufacturing site. BASF’s plastic additives business collaborated with Noria Energy to develop a highly reliable, entirely new floating solar pontoon racking system and installed the first pilot in BASF’s McIntosh, Alabama site. Floating solar panels are quickly becoming a major contributor to the renewable energy market worldwide, mainly due to the number of benefits they offer when compared to conventional land-based solar systems. This close collaboration allowed them to develop an innovative pontoon design at a lower cost in less than 12 months.  

The impact of this local, innovative project by the employees at the BASF McIntosh facility, is the elimination of approximately 2 metric tons of CO2 per year and the total install capacity of the pilot is the amount of energy needed to fully charge nearly 2.9 million smartphones

Evonik - Optimizing Shipping to Reduce Carbon Footprint

Evonik is a world leader in specialty chemicals, with more than 20 individual production units across their plant site in Mobile, Alabama. Evonik is a a leader in specialty chemicals used in the production of coatings for windmill blades, foams for aircraft, catalysts in biodiesel production, amino acids for optimized livestock performance, and many more. Evonik’s Energy and Utilities Unit implemented digital tools to reduce energy input for steam, chilled water, and compressed air production.

The Evonik site currently requires delivery of 40-50 barges per year to support production. Only 90% of a barge’s capacity can be offloaded due to Evonik’s limited storage capacity onsite. Evonik invested in and installed an additional caustic storage vessel that will allow the site to fully utilize loading and unloading a full barge. This means less barge traffic over the course of the year and a 10% reduction in barge deliveries. This equates to a significantly lower shipping CO2 footprint by nearly 50 metric tons per year. Evonik’s new caustic storage tank illustrates its commitment to reducing its carbon footprint by finding solutions that optimize its processes at the Mobile site. 

Outokumpu Stainless- Process Improvements Reduce Water Waste and Air Emissions

Outokumpu is a recognized leader in the stainless steel industry. Their state-of-the-art mill in Calvert, Alabama, turns raw materials into stainless steel using the most progressive steel-making technologies. Outokumpu integrates sustainability through their operations, activities and decision-making at the Calvert, Alabama mill. 

Outokumpu believes in taking care of the environment and strives to be the customer’s first choice in sustainable stainless steel. As part of their sustainability initiative, they identified an opportunity to significantly reduce water consumption in their Melt Shop. The Calvert site replaced reverse osmosis filtration with a softened make-up water system. This saved more than five million gallons of water in 2022 and achieved a 14% reduction in water consumption at the Melt Shop. 

The Calvert site also committed to reducing its CO2 impact by transporting 25% of all goods to customers by rail. By year-end, Outokumpu had reduced its CO2 impact by more than 27,000 tons and realized financial savings of more than $3 million.

Thompson Engineering - Stabilization and Restoration of Fish River Tributary

Thompson Engineering is a proven leader in the planning, designing, and construction of major transportation, economic development, and waterfront projects across the Southeast. 

Through funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Thompson Engineering was contracted by the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program to perform restoration services on a highly eroded tributary to Fish River in the Marlow area of Baldwin County. The property of homeowners on each side of the tributary – locally known as Spring Branch – was threatened by erosion. Erosion and head-cutting also jeopardized the upstream roadway at County Road 9. Baldwin County leaders sought solutions and needed one quickly. Hurricane Sally had exacerbated the erosion, and a solution needed to be in place before another storm event. The stabilization and restoration of the tributary created a healthier watershed by improving ecosystem function, shrinking streambank and floodplain erosion, and reducing pollutants running into Fish River, including an estimated 548,000 lbs. of sediment, 822 lbs. of phosphorus and 6,128 lbs. of nitrogen

Vertex Energy, Hargrove Engineers + Constructors and Turner Industries - Transforming a Mobile Refinery for Renewable Diesel

Vertex and construction partner Hargrove Engineers & Constructors joined forces with Turner Industries on an innovative and ambitious $100+ million project to transform a small refinery in Saraland into a renewable diesel production facility. In 2021, Vertex acquired Shell’s Mobile refinery, originally set for closure due to the company’s consolidation plans. Vertex will use RBD Soybean oil to produce an anticipated 8-10k barrels-per-day of renewable diesel, with Phase II plans of producing up to 14k barrels-per-day. The project was designed to accommodate potential feedstock optionality of vegetable oils, and other organic waste-based oils. The project involved constructing a feed unit and converting an olefins hydrotreater and storage tanks for the purpose of storing, transferring, and refining organic feedstocks for the production of renewable diesel.

Throughout the construction process, the site employed various waste reduction strategies, showcasing a steadfast commitment to environmental stewardship. Metal recovered from demolition and construction efforts was carefully cleaned and reintroduced into the metals market, amounting to approximately 500 tons of usable scrap metal. The old catalysts from the converted hydrotreater were sent for metal recovery, averting landfill disposal. Additionally, around 99% of excavation spoils were resourcefully repurposed across the site for different spot projects, eliminating the need for additional dirt and rock imports and minimizing the project’s environmental footprint. This mindful approach highlights the team’s dedication to sustainable practices and its ongoing pursuit of environmental excellence.

Community Partner Award - Tom Hutchings

Each year, the PEP Board of Directors honors a Community Partner, an entity or individual that has truly impacted Coastal Alabama’s sustainability and resiliency. PEP’s 2023 Community Partner Award goes to Tom Hutchings, the President, Owner and Manager of EcoSolutions, Inc. 

Tom has over 30 years of experience providing innovative solutions to complex environmental issues along the Gulf Coast. Tom was the first Executive Director of the newly formed Alabama Coastal Foundation. Tom has always stressed the benefits of environmental education, the importance of developing an open dialogue to discuss the facts and taking an optimistic approach to address and solve our Coastal Alabama environmental and conservation issues. Tom is also the Co-Founder of the Coastal Kids Quiz, a fun online program open to every 5th-grade teacher–public or private–in the State of Alabama. The program helps teachers help their students learn about Alabama’s precious coastal environment.  Tom is extremely dedicated and has the vision to anticipate, see, and analyze environmental situations, regulations, and the effect of projects on the environment. Tom is truly an environmental problem solver!

Environmental Impact

PEP is calculating the total greenhouse gas reductions as a result of the projects selected for the 2023 Environmental Stewardship Awards. These award-winning projects combined resulted in a decrease of 28,066 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions last year. According to EPA calculations, this is equivalent to the energy needed to fully charge nearly 3.4 million smartphones.

Read more about PEP’s Environmental Stewardship Awards. You can also learn more about the award criteria and application process for 2024.

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