According to a recent study conducted by the University of Leeds as part of the UK Energy Research Center (UKERC), it is technically possible to reduce harmful emissions from the industrial sector by up to 85% globally. The industrial sector, which includes iron and steel, chemicals, cement, food and drink, is responsible for approximately a quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which contribute to climate change and extreme weather events.
Mature technologies, such as carbon capture and storage, and fuel switching to hydrogen or biomass, can save nearly 85% of emissions across most industrial sectors. Furthermore, low-maturity electric technologies, like electric steam crackers, can theoretically decarbonize between 40% and 100% of the sector’s direct emissions. This opens up new possibilities for reducing emissions in energy-intensive processes such as steel, cement, and ceramics.
The study’s findings provide a significant advancement in designing strategies for industrial decarbonization, which is crucial in the effort to limit global warming. The United Kingdom has already committed to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. To meet this goal, it is essential to remove as much harmful gases from the atmosphere as are emitted. The research, published in the journal Joule, explores ways to achieve this for the industrial sector.
Some of the results from this study have already been incorporated into a consultation on industrial electrification by the UK’s Department of Energy Security and Net Zero. This demonstrates that the research has practical implications and can guide policy decisions.
Industries such as steel, chemicals, and cement are widely used in the global economy, and their production and demand have significantly increased in recent decades. Consequently, energy consumption and GHG emissions have also risen. However, meeting the climate change targets set by the Paris Agreement requires almost eliminating global industrial emissions.
Peter Taylor, a co-author of the study and Professor of Sustainable Energy Systems at Leeds’ Schools of Earth and Environment and Chemical and Process Engineering, emphasizes that decarbonizing the industrial sector is challenging but achievable. To succeed, evidence-based strategies are necessary, supporting the development of new technologies, promoting investment in related infrastructure, and removing other barriers that hinder companies from taking action.
Taylor also highlights the importance of industrial decarbonization for the UK’s climate change goals. Failing to decarbonize the industry will hinder the country’s ability to meet its targets, and companies may relocate to regions with cleaner and greener production methods. Consequently, the UK would risk becoming an obsolete player in the industry.
In conclusion, the study provides optimism regarding the future of industrial decarbonization. With a combination of mature and emerging technologies, it is feasible to significantly reduce emissions from the industrial sector. This research contributes to the development of evidence-based strategies and provides guidance for policymakers and industry leaders, ultimately leading to a cleaner and more sustainable future.
1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it