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Page added on May 31, 2018

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Decarbonising Heavy Industry

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I was fortunate to attend part of the 9th Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM) meeting in Copenhagen and participate in a panel focussed on the steps required to decarbonise the industrial sector. It is good to see that the CEM is bringing much needed focus to this area, given that industrial emissions make up about a fifth of global energy system emissions, without including process CO2, such as from the cement industry.

Shell recently released the Sky scenario, which tackles the challenge of meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement. In Sky, as power sector emissions decline with natural gas replacing coal and rapid deployment of renewables, industrial emissions become increasingly important. By 2040 in Sky, when global emissions have declined by nearly 20%, heavy industry emissions have actually increased. This is the result of continued development and urbanization which increases the demand for materials such as cement, ferrous and non-ferrous metals and a broad range of chemicals.

The solution for industry in Sky, which aligns with the discussions held in Copenhagen, includes a number of different directions, all of which require significant action. In Sky, the shift in industry required for net-zero emissions follows an incremental path, largely driven by the progressive implementation of government carbon-pricing systems and the ratcheting up of the resultant price that occurs as governments respond to the Paris Agreement. The transformation is profound and follows three distinct routes:

  • Efficiency improves continuously, with most industrial processes approaching thermodynamic and mechanical efficiency limits by the 2050s.
  • Some processes shift towards electricity, particularly for light industry, where electricity use doubles from 2020 to 2040. Hydrogen also emerges as an important fuel for light industry by 2050 as natural gas use declines. But a similar change for heavy industry doesn’t emerge until after 2050, with hydrogen, biomass, and electricity substituting for natural gas and some coal use.
  • Coal remains important in the metallurgical sector and some other processes right through the century, but with government-implemented carbon prices rising, carbon capture and storage (CCS) emerges as the solution.

Industry also benefits from an increased focus on the circular economy, which sees large-scale recycling expand throughout the century, to the extent that some resource extraction declines as a result.

For heavy industry, which was the focus of discussions in Copenhagen, the Sky decarbonisation pathway is illustrated below.

Although electricity and biomass use grow in Sky, the first major change is the application of CCS from the late 2020s, just a decade away. In the 2030s some 500 major heavy industry CCS projects emerge (1 million tonnes stored CO2 per annum per project), with that rate of uptake more than doubling into the 2040s. By the time net-zero emissions is achieved globally for the energy system, over 2.5 Gt of CO2 is being captured and stored from energy use in heavy industry. In addition, there will be further use of CCS capturing CO2 from limestone calcining in the cement industry.

After 2050, hydrogen emerges as an alternative energy source for heavy industry and its growth eventually begins to reduce the need for CCS, which declines from the mid-2070s. Today the use of hydrogen in heavy industry is in the earliest stages of development, with a pilot plant proposed for hydrogen based iron ore smelting in Sweden. Given progress to date, it is unlikely that this technology will emerge at scale prior to mid-century. Large facilities may exist by then, but probably not numerous enough to make a material difference to emissions.

With electrification of some sectors, along with hydrogen use in others, fossil fuel use in heavy industry falls rapidly in Sky from the early 2050s. By 2100, heavy industry emissions have fallen from a peak of 4.6 Gt per year in 2040, to less than a tenth of that. Remaining emissions are offset by atmospheric drawdown via BECCS.

As was highlighted in the Copenhagen meeting, for such a pathway to succeed, much needs to be put in place throughout the 2020s. CCS in industry must be catalysed, process technologies using electricity and hydrogen require research, development and commercialisation and a more aggressive focus on efficiency needs to be encouraged and incentivised.

And to kick-start that process in earnest, the Clean Energy Ministerial offered an opportunity to announce a fresh initiative aimed at boosting the progress on CCS. The Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage (CCUS) Initiative will focus on strengthening the framework for building collaborative partnerships on CCUS between the public and private sectors. It will also bolster and complement existing CCUS efforts led by the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum, the International Energy Agency (IEA), the IEA’s Greenhouse Gas R&D Programme, Mission Innovation, and the Global CCS Institute.

Led by the United States, Norway, and Saudi Arabia, other international partners that have joined this initiative include Canada, China, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom; as well as the European Commission.

15 Comments on "Decarbonising Heavy Industry"

  1. dave thompson on Thu, 31st May 2018 3:38 pm for all of your magical thinking needs of the future.

  2. Davy on Thu, 31st May 2018 3:41 pm 

    The usual problems of scale, cost, and yet proven technology at scale and cost. I am all for it but my view is for much more modest result from technology. Let’s change behaviors instead of enabling bad behaviors through more technology. We could make significant changes over time and it would be real and proven. We already know what good behavior is for the most part via honest science.

  3. Cloggie on Thu, 31st May 2018 3:58 pm 

    CCUS is a detour and a new lease on life for the fossil fuel industry. That’s why Shell supports it.

    CCUS money should be used to help eliminate carbon burning in the first place.

  4. Harquebus on Thu, 31st May 2018 5:31 pm 

    This article is, from breakfast through to arsehole, all bullshit.

    “The plausibility of the Paris Climate Agreement’s goals rested on what was lurking in the UN report’s fine print: massive negative emissions achieved primarily through BECCS—an unproven concept to put it mildly.”
    “BECCS (Bio-energy with carbon capture and storage) is a conceptual tool, not an actual technology that anyone in the engineering world (apart from a few outliers like Karlsson) is championing.”

    “hydrogen boils off within a week since it is the smallest element and can escape through atomic scale imperfections. It is not an energy source, it’s an energy sink from start to finish.”

  5. LetStupidPeopleDie on Thu, 31st May 2018 5:52 pm 

    I have to agree with dave thompson. It is almost like if shell admit that peak oil exist without saying it explicitly. It is almost like all governments of the world are aware of peak oil but instead of telling the people the truth, they prefer to use global warming as a way to push renewable instead of using peak oil as a way to push renewable

  6. MASTERMIND on Thu, 31st May 2018 6:11 pm 


    That is exactly what the world governments are trying. they know we dont have enough fossil fuels to reach the high estimates of the IPCC..Dr Hirsch said that when he got done with his study..That someone in the government needed to come right out and address the issue..And say this is what we are going to do about it..But nobody has the courage and wants to..I think the elites know when the oil starts to run out it will cause a collapse..And since there is no way to avoid it..they are just denying and ignoring it until that horrible day hits..And it will be here in the next 1-5 years for sure..

    Sleepwalking Into The Next Oil Crisis

    According to the German Army leaked study. When the oil shortages hit, Wall street will crash, the public will lose all faith/trust in their institutions, and the global economy and world governments will collapse..

  7. MASTERMIND on Thu, 31st May 2018 6:54 pm 


    Peak oil is a liquid fuels issue..Not an electricity issue that solar or wind can solve..Oil is used for 90 percent of the world transportation..And its what powers globalism..trucks, ships, planes,…

  8. MASTERMIND on Thu, 31st May 2018 6:58 pm 

    We live in frightening times. It’s my belief that “you personally” will most likely die of starvation or conflict between 2020 to 2050.

    You will experience a collapse of human civilization, a die-off of humans, a destruction of the ecosystem, a loss of access to mined and drilled resources, and a dark age from which your descendent’s will not reemerge.

    Simple really….when the World Economy Collapses everything shuts down…the end… We’re talking about grids down all over the world and 7.5B people dropping like f*** flies in short order. The collapse will be absolutely horrible..There is no collapse or horror movie ever produced that has even come close to imagining what the collapse of BAU might look like. I’m talking about every corporation and every social program going bankrupt at once. I’m talking about people eating people. I’m talking about the Worst Catastrophe to ever happen in the history of mankind. Nothing has ever, or will ever come close…

    Sleepwalking Into The Next Oil Crisis

    According to the German Army leaked study. When the oil shortages hit, Wall street will crash, the public will lose all faith/trust in their institutions, and the global economy and world governments will collapse..

    Scientific American: Apocalypse Soon: Has Civilization Passed the Environmental Point of No Return?

    Inside the new economic science of capitalism’s slow-burn energy collapse (Ahmed, 2017)

    Peer Reviewed Study: Society Could Collapse In A Decade, Predicts Historian (Turchin, 2010)

    NASA Peer Reviewed Study: Industrial Civilization is Headed for Irreversible Collapse (Motesharrei, 2014)

    The Royal Society: Peer Reviewed Study, Now for the First Time A Global Collapse Appears Likely (Ehrlich, 2013)

    Peer Reviewed Study: Limits to Growth was Right. Research Shows We’re Nearing Global Collapse (Turner, 2014)

    Peer Reviewed Study: Financial System Supply-Chain Cross-Contagion: Global Systemic Collapse (Korowicz, 2012)

  9. jawagord on Thu, 31st May 2018 7:00 pm 

    This article is a joke, like American wind power!

    “With its newest project, MidAmerican will have invested about $12.3 billion in wind generation in Iowa since 2004.

    MidAmerican will receive about $10 billion in federal production tax credits for the investment, covering the capital costs needed to build the wind farms.

    Even though the production tax credits are being phased out, MidAmerican said this newest project will qualify for the full amount of credits.

    Wright said about half of the electricity MidAmerican generated last year came from wind, with the remainder of energy coming from natural gas, nuclear and coal-fired plants.”

  10. MASTERMIND on Thu, 31st May 2018 7:14 pm 

    Children of immigrants being caged like dogs at ICE detention centers

  11. Manila1 on Fri, 1st Jun 2018 8:02 am 

    “The report, from the World Health Organization (WHO), reveals Chinese newborns could experience 68.7-years of healthy life ahead of them, compared to just 68.5-years for American babies. While the margin between healthy life for both countries is minuscule, the crossover represents the understanding that America is in decline.”

    Slip slidin’…

  12. Antius on Fri, 1st Jun 2018 9:33 am 

    Given that carbon capture and storage increases plant capital costs (and fuel consumption)it is difficult to see it becoming popular on the back of altruistic sentiment over ‘carbon emissions’. High minded environmental efforts like this tend to hit a brick wall as soon as a major recession arrives. We will be entering the worst recession in living memory in the near future. How many governments are going to have an appetite for a technology that increases energy costs without providing any local benefits to consumers?

  13. fmr-paultard on Fri, 1st Jun 2018 10:28 am 

    i’m a former paultard and i do basic research. i alone observed that supertard’s wind infrastructure in tx is highly sun dependent. i alone said puerto rico has virtually no wind energy because the electrode (the land) is too small. for a “battery” to store large amount of energy, both electrodes have to be roughly equally sized.

    thus wind power is approximate replacement for solar panels

  14. fmr-paultard on Fri, 1st Jun 2018 10:30 am 

    which is to say “not much”…i’m afraid we’ll have to sit pretty for eurotard’s electric powered warplanes to bomb us but they never arrive

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