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GE Renews Ecomagination Initiative, Commits $25B to CleanTech R&D by 2020

GE has announced the renewal of its ecomagination commitment, the company’s sustainability initiative that seeks to find technology solutions that save money and reduce environmental impact for its customers and operations.

Since its 2005 launch, GE says ecomagination has generated more than $160 billion in revenue. The company’s own operations have seen a 34 percent reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions since 2004 and a 47 percent reduction in freshwater use since 2006, realizing $300 million in savings.

"Ecomagination is one of our most successful cross-company business initiatives,” said Jeff Immelt, chairman and CEO of GE. “Bold investments in ecomagination research and development have resulted in strong returns for shareholders and improved cost and emissions savings for our customers."

GE's new ecomagination commitments include:

1. Investing $10 billion in cleaner technology research and development by 2020. To date GE says it has invested $12 billion in ecomagination R&D, on track to meet the commitment of $15 billion through 2015. GE has announced the continuation of its R&D investment committing to $10 billion additional to reach a total investment of $25 billion by 2020.

The new investment will advance research in:

  • Natural Gas: develop alternative technologies to replace water in the hydraulic fracturing process
  • Renewable Energy: reduce the cost and increase the output of GE wind turbines to lower wind power generation costs
  • Power Plants: innovate and advance solutions to increase power plant efficiencies

2. Reducing GHG emissions, freshwater use and improving energy efficiency of GE operations. GE says it has reduced GHG emissions by 34 percent since 2004 and freshwater use by 47 percent since 2006. Building off this success, GE is committing to reduce GHG emissions and freshwater use by 20 percent, from the 2011 baseline, by 2020.

As part of the new ecomagination commitment to research and development, GE also announced two new collaborations that each address critical natural gas challenges:

  • Statoil and GE are working together to evaluate whether CO2 can be economically used as an alternative to water, potentially reducing the large amounts of water required for hydraulic fracturing. While the use of CO2 to fracture shale rock formations occurs today, it is not an economically viable option for large-scale use due to its high costs. The goal of GE and Statoil's new research collaboration is to evaluate whether a system can be designed to capture CO2 produced from emissions; reuse the CO2 to fracture rock formations; and then capture it again for reuse on the next well.
  • With the number of new oil and gas wells in remote areas increasing, many operators have been forced to flare unused natural gas as the infrastructure needed to capture and transport the gas economically is too far away. In a new collaboration between Ferus Natural Gas Fuels and GE — previously flared natural gas is captured and natural gas liquids, such as propane and butane, are removed to then be sold. The remaining methane is compressed using GE Oil & Gas' CNG In-a-Box system and loaded onto Ferus's specially designed compressed natural gas (CNG) storage trailers to be transported to the final point of use. There, the CNG can be used to power field operations on remote wells, thereby replacing higher-cost and higher-emissions diesel fuel. The first commercial application of the Last Mile Fueling system is currently at work with Statoil at a site in North Dakota.

    GE Power & Water announced in November it is developing a technology with South African chemical and energy company Sasol that cleans wastewater while producing biogas as a by-product. The technology, known as Anaerobic Membrane Bioreactor Technology (AnMBR), will be further developed at a new demonstration plant at Sasol's R&D Campus at its Sasol One Site in Sasolburg, the companies say.


Currently based in Washington, D.C, Mike Hower is a writer and strategic communicator helping to drive the conversation at the intersection of sustainable business and public policy. He has spent time working for the United States Congress in Washington, D.C.,… [Read more about Mike Hower]