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Harmonisation of carbon footprint calculations urged

Harmonisation of carbon footprint calculations urged
Inga Herrmann

Sustainability is top of mind for business executives right now with a challenging regulatory landscape and customers seeking lower and carbon-neutral products. 

The lubricants industry is already contributing significantly to emissions reduction through the mitigation of erosion and wear. The problem is “nobody outside of our bubble is aware of our contribution to bringing down emissions,” says Inga Herrmann, head of the lubricant department of Verband Schmierstoff-Industrie e.V. (German Lubricant Manufacturers Association).

Carbon counting is the first step in the energy transition, says Hermann. It plays a key role in giving the general public confidence about the sustainability of the lubricants industry. However, without comparable carbon footprints, there is no level playing field. In the past, there has been no clear methodology in place and therefore results couldn’t be compared.

During the Asian Lubricants Industry Association (ALIA) Annual Meeting at the Four Seasons Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on June 12, 2023, Hermann spoke of the “great need for harmonisation” of product carbon footprints (PCF).     

The VSI representative detailed recent successes in the development of lubricant carbon footprint measurements. Established methodologies are available for Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) and carbon footprints of products from the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO). Although the American Petroleum Institute (API) has previously noted that these assessments still require significant decisions that can dramatically impact the outcome. 

The chemicals industry published the new TfS PCF Guideline last year with cradle-to-gate methodology. Hermann noted that the widespread nature of the chemicals industry means this approach is not suitable for adoption in the lubricants industry.

Harmonisation of carbon footprint calculations urged
Dennis Bachelder (right) and Mathias Woydt (left)

On May 4, 2023, API Technical Report (TR) 1533, Lubricants Life Cycle Assessment and Carbon Footprinting – Methodology and Best Practice was published, which defines the PCF for a lubricant product on a cradle-to-grave basis. However, Dennis Bachelder, senior engineer, EOLCS, American Petroleum Institute (API), told delegates during the ALIA Annual Meeting that the “work is not done.” A second version of TR 1533 is currently under development which will include amendments based on comments received during the balloting and review process, as well as more detailed descriptions, design examples and common challenges. 

VSI is actively involved in the development of methodology to calculate and report PCFs for lubricants, greases and specialties across the European Union, in collaboration with the Union of the European Lubricants Industry (UEIL), the United Kingdom Lubricants Association (UKLA) and the Technical Association of the European Lubricants Industry (ATIEL). The target is small- and medium-sized lubricant manufacturers, says Hermann. The working group aims to publish the methodology in the second half of 2023.

Hermann noted that the cradle-to-gate approach excludes packaging and transport to customers. Packaging and transportation are very customer driven and we believe comparable data is only possible at the manufacturer’s first-step, she says.