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Worley, global construction and project management firm, looks toward net-zero with Princeton

June 10, 2021

By Molly A. Seltzer

Worley, a global provider of engineering, procurement and construction services, has joined Princeton E-ffiliates Partnership as a charter member of the corporate membership program of the Andlinger Center, with a desire to help move the world to carbon neutrality through its vision for sustainable projects and operations.

The company, headquartered in Australia, has a large global footprint and provides services to private and public asset owners and operators in the energy, chemicals, and resources sectors in the United States and around the world. Worley executives said their interest in joining E-ffiliates arose after Princeton released its Net-Zero America (NZA) study in December 2020, which laid out technological pathways by which the entire U.S. could stop contributing to a build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by 2050, an achievement known as net-zero emissions. Through its E-ffiliates membership, Worley is seeking to improve project delivery approaches to accelerate the energy transition and, to achieve this, is supporting a new Net-Zero Australia (NZAu) study.

Operating in 48 countries with 50,000 employees, Worley has worked on over 21,000 projects, many of which had sustainability as a goal. The company builds, consults on, provides the technology behind, and helps maintain chemical plants, solar farms, pipelines, and other energy and non-energy infrastructure. NZAu aims to identify how a net-zero transition could take place in Australia, and how industry could accelerate that transition. Chris Ashton, chief executive officer at Worley, said Worley is committed to working with new and diverse partners to support breakthrough thinking, and he expects this study will be an influential piece of work in the Australian context.

“This is exactly the type of company we want to work with,” said Barry Rand, associate director for external partnerships at the Andlinger Center. “They have boots on the ground and the practical knowledge to inform our understanding of the constraints to achieving net-zero emissions in practice, which makes our applied research even stronger with real-world impact,” said Rand, who is also an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment.

NZAu is being led by the University of Queensland (UQ) and the University of Melbourne in collaboration with Princeton experts from the NZA study, including Chris Greig, the Theodora D. ’78 & William H. Walton III ’74 Senior Research Scientist at the Andlinger Center. Greig, one of the NZAu principal investigators, is the former Dow Chair and director of the Dow Centre for Sustainable Engineering Innovation at the University of Queensland, and serves as a link between the Australian and U.S. researchers. Eric Larson, senior research engineer at the Andlinger Center, and Jesse Jenkins, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, are also collaborators on the project.

“We are excited by the opportunity to marry the research and analysis of the Andlinger Center with Worley’s experience providing solutions to the sustainability challenges facing the energy, chemicals and resources sectors,” said Ashton.

Greig said part of the innovation and uniqueness of NZA is the level of granularity presented in the roadmaps – where solar and wind farms could be sited, along with high-voltage transmission lines, CO2 pipelines and land for biofuels, among other assets. Princeton researchers developed algorithms highlighting where tens of thousands of energy assets could be most cost-effectively sited over time. The report identifies places to locate all of these assets, and then derives implications for incumbent industries, employment, land-use change and air pollution effects in these specific areas as a result. Greig noted that the NZA methods, knowledge, and skill sets will be useful for doing the same for Australia, which is geographically and economically very different from the United States. The country exports more than two-thirds of its primary energy produced, and also relies on coal for the majority of its electricity generation.

“The advantage for the Australian partners in working with Princeton is that they go into the project with a clear blueprint ahead. It’s not as though you press a button and it rolls out a net-zero roadmap for Australia. There are data availability issues and characteristics unique to Australia, but there is huge merit in having someone who has run the course before on the team,” said Greig.

The Princeton team is excited to have an opportunity to extend the NZA methodology and Rapid Switch framework, which focuses on identifying bottlenecks in the pathways, to a new region. Greig said there is a huge amount of uncertainty about how these pathways could actually unfold in reality and where roadblocks will arise. He said it’s important to be able to test and understand – in a variety of settings – how capital will be mobilized, what pitfalls will arise in the process, and what siting limitations and constraints will come to bear.

“While Worley benefits from our research, we learn a tremendous amount by working with them. The company provides feedback based on their experience delivering projects, and that improves our modeling and analysis, which in turn, makes our results even more helpful in the company’s planning processes,” said Greig.

For more details on Net-Zero America, download the NZA report, explore the data or see media coverage of the study. For more details on Net-Zero Australia, see the announcement from partners in Australia.

Corporations and Industry in the Race to Net-Zero Emissions: The Andlinger Center 2021 Annual Meeting will be held on Wednesday, October 27, 2021 from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.Register now
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