What are Industrial Solutions?
Industrial solutions are solutions that help industrial processes release less greenhouse gas emissions. Industrial processes accounted for 22%, over one fifth, of all greenhouse gas emissions in 2018. Therefore, it is very important to lessen the quantity of greenhouse gases emitted by these processes.
Industry includes all manufacturing and food processing plants, mining operations, and construction, among others. A large portion of the solutions is to make the processes more efficient and to reduce material waste.
Possible Industrial Solutions
Emissions efficiency is the act of reducing emissions intensity—the emissions that arise from the operations themselves. Process emissions are emissions that come from operations not necessarily involving energy usage, such as methane leaks.
Oil and gas mining operations are the United States' largest source of methane, which is the second-biggest driver of climate change. Methane can leak from pipelines or can be intentionally vented into the atmosphere to get rid of it. In order to effectively monitor and prevent leakage, in 2016 the Obama Administration published a set of rules for the EPA and for companies, collectively referred to as the methane rules. The methane rules required operators of mining projects to survey their equipment for leakage and then fix those leaks. It also required operators to capture methane that came from gas wells, as well as limiting these emissions by using newly improved pneumatic pumps. The Trump Administration EPA worked to remove these regulations in 2019, so it is imperative to institute them again, as they are the first step to greater emissions efficiency.
Emissions Efficiency: Process Emissions
Emissions Efficiency: Output Emissions
Output emissions are the direct, on-site emissions that arise due to industrial processes, such as generators, equipment, and chemical reactions, among others. They are different from process emissions because output emissions come directly from the equipment, instead of leakages.
The steel industry is responsible for 7% of the world's carbon dioxide emissions. That is because steel requires coke, the dirtiest fossil fuel. Coke makes up 85 to 90% of the steel industry's emissions. Removing coke from the reaction is imperative in order to cut down steel, and therefore industrial, emissions. Some European companies are working on replacing coke with hydrogen and electricity, moving towards a no-carbon future for steel.
In 2016, Vattenfield, SSAB, and LKAB (Sweedish companies that are the leading iron ore producers of the EU) started a project called HYBRIT. HYBRIT's goal is to perfect a process to manufacture steel with limited or no carbon dioxide emissions/fossil fuel usage. The program is attempting to replace coke with hydrogen. Coke's role is that it helps break down the iron oxides, and other fossil fuels heat blast furnaces. Hydrogen would break down the iron oxides instead of coke, and, in HYBRIT's design, electricity would power the furnaces. A pilot for this program is expected to go online between 2021 and 2024, half funded by the Sweedish Energy Agency.
Innovation like HYBRIT is an essential part of cutting down on industrial emissions. Industrial practices are so deeply ingrained in our society—they were the start of the Industrial Revolution—making them hard and expensive to change. The HYBRIT project estimates that their steel will cost 20 to 30% more than normal steel when taking in to account the cost of electricity versus coke. However, it is important to take into account that we are running out of fossil fuels, so soon coke and other fossil fuels will become much more expensive as they become scarce across the world.
The cement industry accounted for 8% of global emissions in 2016—2.2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide. Cement is in a critical place in the economy; it is the key component of concrete, which is the basis of the world's infrastructure. In order to cut down on emissions, we have to reduce clinker usage (the primary source of emissions) and develop innovative new ways to change how technology is used.
In order to produce clinker, the primary component of cement, carbon has to be removed from limestone by heating it in a kiln, which releases carbon dioxide. A major part of reducing emissions is reducing the amount of clinker. Right now, Indian companies are the only in the sector with significantly less clinker, mainly due to access to other waste such as fly ash or slag.
Currently available technologies can reduce emissions by 50%, according to the World Cement Association. However, these technologies are spreading too slowly to comply with the Paris Climate Agreement. In order to effectively cut down on emissions, these practices must be employed: the reduction of clinker usage through innovative practices; the efficient use of cement in processes, effectively cutting down on need (material efficiency); use of waste energy to power plants; and finally innovative technologies such as carbon capture and storage and new types of cement/binders.
While that is a long list, the cement industry is one of the most powerful industries in the world. Currently, it only gives 6% of revenue to research and development, on average, a small number. If innovation is given more attention, these goals can be met and a significant portion of the world's greenhouse gases can be cut.
Energy efficiency when referring to industrial processes is the reduction of energy intensity—the amount of energy used, both from the centralized grid and also from direct on-site combustion of fossil fuels. Energy efficiency reduces the number of emissions from energy use and can be combined with emissions efficiency techniques (see Solutions 1 and 2).
A major part of manufacturing is pumping systems. Pumping systems are used to cool and lubricate machines, transfer fluids, and power hydraulic systems. Making the pipe system more efficient is essential to making the manufacturing process less energy-intensive. Designers should determine the optimal pipe size for products, maximize pressure drops with a piping system layout, and engineer the piping so that they lose less energy en route (low-loss piping).
Compressed air is another major part of manufacturing operations. Leaks can waste 20 to 30% of all input energy. Compressed air systems should be checked for leaks. Operators can also lower the air pressure of systems in order to lower the flow rate, which leads to fewer leaks.
Motors are a also very important part of manufacturing operations. In order to improve their efficiency, operators should install a device that automatically adjusts the speed of the motor. By doing so, the motor will operate at an optimal speed. As a result, the system will be more reliable and be more controllable, resulting in higher efficiencies.
Waste heat is heat that escapes before being used and represents 20 to 50% of all input energy. In order to improve efficiency, waste heat recovery technologies should be employed, with possible efficiency improvements of 50%. One such strategy is "reusing" the waste heat to heat other processes. Recuperators can achieve this through either radiation, convection, or a combination of the two. In general, however, they take the heated waste air and use it to heat other air to use in processes. Similarly, furnace regenerators absorb the combustion exhaust into the brickwork, increasing the temperature of the furnace. Furnace regenerators are often used in glass melting (see below) and coke ovens (see Solution 2, steel). Another type of regenerator is a rotary regenerator, which stores the waste heat in a porous medium. Rotary regenerators rotate the porous medium and combine the waste heat gas with cold gas. Finally, waste heat can be captured and then cooled in order to prevent it from escaping to the atmosphere and then to reuse it.
While these technologies do not directly decrease the emissions from manufacturing, by decreasing the amount of energy they use there is less on-site and electrical burning of fossil fuels, which does cut down on emissions.
Glass accounts for just under 2% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions—60 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. Glass emissions arise from the melting process, a very energy-intensive process. Five possible solutions are discussed here to improve glass melting: oscillating combustion, plasma melters, submerged combustion melting, porous burners, and microwave heating.
Oscillating combustion increases fuel efficiency by forcing fuel to make back-and-forth movements (oscillations) in the furnace. These oscillations cause the fuel to produce more heat and reduce the production of ozone-creator nitrous oxide (30 to 50% fewer emissions of NOx). By producing more heat, less fuel is required. As a result, fuel oscillation can reduce fuel by 2 to 27% and can have an overall efficiency improvement of 6%. These improvements mean that the processes will release less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Furthermore, oscillating combustion technologies can be implemented into already-existing furnaces, without retrofitting them.
Plasma melters help with the thermodynamic (heat) efficiency of glass melting. Plasma has a very high heat content (high enthalpy), meaning that they can produce high temperatures quickly. This is because the energy of plasma melting is denser than conventional melting methods. As a result, energy efficiency can improve by 50 to 70%.
In-flight melters disperse the input materials so that they are in direct contact with the flame, allowing rapid heat transfer. Byproduct gases are removed, meaning that emissions are reduced, and it makes the transfer go smoother, leading to greater energy efficiency. In addition, in-flight melters increase the yield of the furnaces, meaning that they could save energy while increasing productivity.
Microwave heating for industrial melting uses the same principles as widespread commercial microwaves. Microwave heating allows the glass to be melted at higher rates but at lower temperatures. Microwave heating can also cut down on direct emissions by using electricity to power them, unlike conventional furnaces. Researchers are currently studying how to implement this technology into large-scale industrial applications. By doing so, a study estimates that it will half the energy intensity (double the energy efficiency) of conventional furnaces.
These glass solutions can be combined with each other to multiply energy savings. For instance, in-flight melters can be operating in a plasma melter furnace that employs oscillation combustion. The glass industry is one of the easiest industries to cut emissions, so it is important that these technologies are employed.
A carbon or emissions tax charges corporations for their emissions. It gives industries incentives to innovate their processes with the solutions listed in Solutions 1 to 3. Putting a tax on emissions also shows the world that the government is committed to fighting climate change. The private sector has notoriously under invested in innovation, mainly because their established methods are churning in profit. A carbon tax forces companies to invest in this innovation. In other words, a carbon tax is a way to promote private sector innovation to combat climate change.
“The EPA Aims to Gut Rules That Protect You from Methane Pollution.” Environmental Defense Fund. Accessed June 11, 2020.
“Controlling Industrial Greenhouse Gas Emissions.” Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, April 17, 2020.
Laconde, Thibault. Reducing Industrial Emissions: a Strategic and Complex Objective. In: 2018 Annual Report: Global Observatory on Non-State Climate Actions. Climate Chance, 2018, 242-253.
Rodgers, Lucy. “Climate Change: The Massive CO2 Emitter You May Not Know About.” BBC News. BBC, December 17, 2018.
Landberg, Reed, and Jeremy Hodges. “What Decarbonization Means for Cows, Steel and Cement.” Bloomberg News. Bloomberg, October 1, 2019.
IEA. Rep. Tracking Industry 2019. IEA. Paris: 2019.
Fischedick M., et al. Chapter 5: Industry. In: Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change. Contribution of Working Group III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Edenhofer, O., et al. (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA.
O’Rielly, K., and J. Jeswiet. “Strategies to Improve Industrial Energy Efficiency.” Procedia CIRP 15 (2014): 325–30.
BCS, Incorporated. Rep. Waste Heat Recovery: Technology and Opportunities in U.S. Industry. Department of Energy, 2008.
Springer, Cecilia, and Ali Hasanbeigi. Rep. Emerging Energy Efficiency and Carbon Dioxide Emissions Reduction Technologies for the Glass Industry. China Energy Group, July 2017.
Hasanbeigi, Ali. “Glass Industry: 16 Emerging Technologies for Energy-Efficiency and GHG Emissions Reduction.” Global Efficiency Intelligence. Global Efficiency Intelligence, June 19, 2018.