Industrial Decarbonization: How Can Industries Accelerate Towards Zero Carbon


The industrial sector has massively contributed to the development and prosperity globally over the years. It has single-handedly been able to create several employments, generated one-quarter of GDP, and have produced materials and products that are part of people’s day-to-day lives. However, with climate change, the functionality of this sectors demands change.

A rough estimate suggests that the industrial sector has contributed to 28% of greenhouse gas emissions in 2014. Unless this sector introduces drastic change, the target of reducing global greenhouse gas (GHG) up to 80 to 95% under the Paris Agreement will fail. In this article, let us learn more about the fundamentals of industrial decarbonization.

Challenges to Implement Industrial Decarbonization

While the obvious solution of averting climate crisis and implementing decarbonization seems to be reducing CO2 emission, the technicality of doing so makes is quite difficult:

  • 45% of CO2 emission from the industrial sector comes from the feedstock. This number cannot be reduced by changing the fuel; it will require a change in the complete process.
  • 35% of the emission comes from the usage of fossil fuel, which is burnt at a high temperature, where in the process temperature goes up to 1600 degrees Celsius. While switching these processes to an alternative fuel like zero-carbon electricity is a great option, implementing them on a wide scale can be difficult as it will require a change of every furnace in these sectors.
  • With the industrial sector, every process is highly integrated with each other. Therefore, a change in one sector will have an effect on others as well, which will further cost a significant amount of money.

Solution for Industrial Decarbonization

Though bringing changes in the industrial sector might seem challenging, the focus sectors can easily bring down CO2 emissions almost to zero by implementing a combined approach for their processes. Improvements in energy efficiency, usage of zero-carbon electricity hydrogen for fuel, electrification of heat carbon capture and storage (CCS), and use of biomass as an energy source can help achieve industrial decarbonization.

Implementation of the alternative approach might vary from one facility to another, even in the same sector. Local factors might play a big role in determining whether the process is economical and practical. The important thing to consider in achieving decarbonization is the availability and cost determination of energy sources is that they are low carbon such as the production of biomass and renewable zero-carbon electricity.

  • Improvement in energy efficiency is a cost-effective process that can be used to reduce CO2 emissions by 15-20%. This would be a stepping stone towards achieving the target of reducing GHG that was set in the Paris agreement. As industries gradually implement this in different sectors, more and more enterprises can get these options.
  • For carbon storage sites, the minimal cost for decarbonization is CCS as compared to the present commodity price. When it comes to abating emissions from cement product, it is the only cost-effective option. With further technological advancements, electricity-powered production option can be implemented.
  • With the overall zero-carbon electricity not being more than $50 megawatt per hour, it will prove to be economical for industries as compared to CCS.
  • For newly built cement factories and steel plants, the option of biomass fuel can work wonders. Biomass can replace fossil fuel for ammonia and ethylene production.

Averting climate changes and its impact is a long process. Individuals, organizations, and governments must come together to find the right solution and implement them. The industrial sector being a major contributor to CO2, it is important that this section uses different approaches and technologies to reduce emission.

While the initial process might seem expensive, time-consuming, but in the later stage these changes, and investments will contribute to a better and more sustainable environment.

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