Findlay, Ohio-based Cooper Tire and Rubber Company has reduced its energy usage intensity by 18% since 2009 and usage intensity has declined, according to the company’s 2016 CSR and sustainability report published today.
Cooper is the parent of a global family of companies specializing in tires for passenger cars, light trucks, medium trucks, motorcycles, and racing. Headquartered in Ohio, the company has operations in more than a dozen countries. The energy used for tire production goes toward powering equipment, generating, steam, heating, cooling, and transporting materials as well as lighting and controlling the climates in occupied spaces.
After establishing an initial benchmark in 2009, Cooper has been working to reduce energy usage directly at its plants and indirectly at upstream electricity and steam generating locations, the report says. In 2013, energy usage intensity spiked back up to 2010 levels. The company attributed the rise to reduced production levels that year. However, the trend reversed in 2014 and for 2016 usage dipped back down to 2012 levels — the lowest since the benchmark. Greenhouse gas emission intensity levels followed a similar trajectory with an overall reduction in emission intensity of 12% since 2009.
The report highlights lighting projects in two plants. In Serbia, LEDs replaced approximately 550 mercury vapor light fittings, providing 80% in energy savings and better quality illumination for the workers. Around 2,800 new LED fixtures were installed in the Texarkana facility, reducing energy consumption by 4.7 million kilowatt-hours annually, the company says. The Texarkana facility received Gold level certification from the DOE in 2012 for its energy savings improvement.
Beyond energy, Cooper reported a 7% reduction in water energy usage intensity and a 30% decrease in landfill usage intensity since 2009. They also recently completed work on a five-year $6.9 million grant to develop the guayule plant, a cactus requiring very little water that the tire industry is eyeing as an alternative to natural and synthetic rubber. Tire companies, including Pirelli, are interested in the plant’s potential.
The grant set up a public-private sector consortium that included Clemson University, Cornell University, PanAridus, and the Agricultural Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. As the lead entity in the grant, Cooper studied the feasibility of using guayule in tires instead of the Hevea natural rubber the industry currently uses. Cooper’s guayule-based concept tires had 6 to 30% lower emissions in 10 different life cycle environmental and energy impact categories compared to a conventional tire.