2020 The Year of Sustainability

This will be the year for sustainability. The question is how can we change an unsustainable industry like ours into a sustainable one? When we look at the drastic plans of governments demanding us to be hydrocarbon free within 10 years from now, we must work together to phase out the transport, storage and use of hydrocarbon based products and replace them with non toxic, non CO2 emitting substances. When we look closely we all know that our storage and transport industry is unsustainable in its current form for the long term. But how can storage terminals which depend on the storage and distribution of oil, gas and chemicals survive when its business model will be rendered obsolete within 10 years? There is a saying which I find very appropriate: ‘You can’t have your cake and eat it too’. This means that we have to make a choice and ask ourselves in which direction will our industry be heading? If we can’t ship, store or pump environmentally harmful products any longer, we have to start phasing them out and replace them non harmful ones. From history we can learn that centrally planned goals such as no emissions or the United Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDG’s) won’t be achieved, because they do not allow real time correction, or adaptation. We have seen this for example with the Millennium Goals 20 years ago.
Fact is that a young generation is on the barricades. The expectation is that they will buy, use and burn less toxic products, drive electric or hydrogen or solar powered cars. They will not buy plastic products anymore which end up in rivers, seas and oceans. The question you and me have to ask ourselves is; what is our plan? I believe that a sustainability thinktank, for example ‘sustainable storage’ needs to be formed, to research new ways and new applications for our industry. A couple of years ago I suggested that our terminals could be converted into drinking water storage facilities. The availability of clean, fresh, potable water is a global problem. Let’s think about this for a moment. Water can become the next commodity. Entire countries in Africa and Asia now depend on bottled water. They don’t have a drinking water supply network in cities and villages. Water is needed to grow crops, improve health or sanitation. To ensure water is available for everyone, a price can be asked to store, distribute and provide it, because the ability of the governments and people to pay for that service increases. This is just one idea, but we have to start thinking very hard. In physics we talk about a ‘wicked’ problem and that is why TTT offers a sustainability training course for tank terminals and refineries where one can learn how to solve such complex problems. So as I always tell my students: ‘a wise man comes prepared’. See you at StocExpo in Rotterdam where we will discuss Sustainability for Tank Storage Industry at the conference.


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