This week is the second part of a series that I am doing looking into net zero carbon and how this can be achieved by 2050.
There was a report that came out in October 2020 called “Fit for Net-Zero: 55 Tech Quests to Accelerate Europe’s Recovery and Pave the Way to Climate Neutrality.” I thought the report was really good, so over the next couple of weeks I will be picking out my personal highlights from the different sections that made up the report.
Net Zero Carbon – Industrial Solutions
Within the EU, industry is responsible for 30% or 1,201 MtCO of greenhouse gas emissions. This is generated by energy use, such as burning fossil fuels to obtain high-grade or low-grade heat or using non-renewable electricity. There are other direct emissions from processes, such as the chemical reaction involved with cement production, which generates CO₂ as a by-product.
Achieving a low carbon industry is of paramount importance if the EU wants to make a successful response to tackling climate change.
The first solution that stood out was to reduce the need for concrete thanks to better design and alternative concrete for equivalent usages. Cement production accounts for around 2% of global CO₂ emissions. Low-carbon alternatives exist but thus far have not broken out and penetrated major markets yet.
The solution proposed is to boost the use of biobased concrete, starting with 10,000 tons in 2030. The impact of this would be to avoid 5.9 MtCO₂e by 2050 and create 126,000 jobs by the same time period.
The next solution to stand out was another cement solution. This was to replace the use of concrete with carbon sink materials in new buildings. The construction of new buildings can be a carbon intensive process, with high carbon materials and high energy needs for transportation and operation of plant and equipment.
The solution is to upscale alternative comprehensive construction materials and approaches, using electric equipment, geothermal energy and green areas. The aim is to build 500 buildings in each European country by 2025 using low GHG-intensity materials and construction methods, with construction materials split between wood and low-GHG emitting cement. This solution has the potential to avoid 42.8 MtCO₂e by 250 and create 3,753,000 jobs over the same time period.
Next to stand out was another cement focussed solution, highlighting the importance of decarbonising this industry. This is to reduce the share of portland clinker in cement and develop new alternative clinkers.
As already mentioned, cement production accounts for 2% of EU CO₂ emissions, and processes (excluding energy emissions) from clinker production alone are responsible for 66% of those emissions.
This solution involves replacing clinker with substitutes (less clinker per unit of cement), which can reduce emissions by 18%. There are also alternative clinkers (to replace the classic Portland clinker) which can achieve a 17% cut in CO₂ emissions. This solution could have a big impact, by helping to avoid 6.8 MtCO₂e and create 78,000 jobs by 2030.
Next up was another cement focussed solution. This involves industrializing the use of carbon capture and usage to deliver ultra-low carbon cement production.
The calcination phase in the cement industry is responsible for 66% of cement emissions. This solution involves capturing unavoidable process emissions and reusing the CO₂ in industries such as concrete or petrochemicals.
The aim is to scale up and industrialize carbon capture at cement kilns and CO₂ usage in the cement and concrete industry to capture 14% of cement production emissions by 2030 and 56% by 2050. This could also have big impact, by helping to avoid 4.9 MtCO₂e and create 16,000 jobs in 2030.
The next solution which stood out related to refrigerants. This involves reducing the GHG impact of refrigerants.
The issue is that to achieve the phase-out of EU HFC (hexafluorocarbons) by 2030 requires further support, especially in the development of alternative refrigerants. To solve this problem requires a program to support industries to use new low-GHG refrigerants.
If acted upon, this could have a significant impact, in helping to avoid 87.1 MtCO₂e by 2050 and create 53,000 jobs by 2050.
What you need to know
This article was the second part in a series looking into the top breakthrough technologies from the recently released Fit For Net Zero report. This week was the turn of looking into the industrial solutions.
As we can see, the cement industry is a real hotspot of carbon emissions. But it is positive to see a lot of solutions coming to the forefront to help to reduce the carbon intensity of this sector.
Then refrigeration is also a significant hotspot of carbon emissions and more work is required to reduce the carbon intensity of this activity.
Thank you for reading,
By Barnaby Nash
Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to me on social media. What do you think needs to be done to make net zero 2050 a reality?