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The Race is on to Reduce Emissions Across the U.S. Industrial Sector

Sept. 21, 2022
The U.S. Department of Energy outlines four key pathways that will help the nation’s industrial sector collectively lower its carbon footprint.

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In June, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) began exploring ways to decarbonize the American industrial sector and move the U.S. toward net-zero carbon emissions. Earlier this month, it released the fruits of its labors in the new Industrial Carbonization Roadmap focused on decarbonizing and reducing emissions across the nation’s industrial sector.

The DOE also announced $104 million in funding that will be used for emission-reduction technologies and to build on the current administration’s climate agenda.

In its report, the DOE identifies four key pathways meant to reduce industrial emissions in American manufacturing. The roadmap emphasizes the urgency of dramatically cutting carbon emissions and pollution from the industrial sector, and presents a staged research, development and demonstration (RD&D) agenda for industry and government.

The $104 million in funding will go towards advancing industrial decarbonization technologies. “These announcements build on the historic boost to American manufacturing through President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law ($62 billion) and the Inflation Reduction Act,” the DOE points out, “while protecting fence line communities with new monitoring and screening near industrial facilities.”

Difficult to Decarbonize

As more governments, organizations and individuals set their sights on lowering their carbon footprints, the DOE says that the nation’s industrial sector has been among the “most difficult” to decarbonize.

In 2021, for example, the sector accounted for one third of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs)—more than the annual emissions of 631 million gasoline-fueled passenger vehicles.

DOE’s Industrial Decarbonization Roadmap focuses on five energy-intensive sectors where industrial decarbonization efforts can have the greatest impact. They are: iron and steel; cement and concrete; food and beverage; chemical manufacturing; and petroleum refining. Combined, these sectors account for over 50% of the energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the industrial sector.

4 Pathways to Lower Emissions

Here are the four pathways that the DOE plans to use to tackle the monumental job of reducing emissions across these and other industrial sectors:

1) Energy Efficiency: Energy efficiency is a foundational, crosscutting decarbonization strategy and is the most cost-effective option for GHG emission reductions in the near term. The related decarbonization efforts include:

  • Strategic energy management approaches to optimize performance of industrial processes at the system-level
  • Systems management and optimization of thermal heat from manufacturing process heating, boiler, and combined heat and power (CHP) sources
  • Smart manufacturing and advanced data analytics to increase energy productivity in manufacturing processes

2) Industrial Electrification: Leveraging advancements in low-carbon electricity from both grid and onsite renewable generation sources will be critical to decarbonization efforts. The DOE plans to achieve this through:

  • Electrification of process heat using induction, radiative heating or advanced heat pumps
  • Electrification of high-temperature range processes such as those found in iron, steel and cement making
  • Replacing thermally-driven processes with electrochemical ones

3) Low-Carbon Fuels, Feedstocks, and Energy Sources (LCFFES): Substituting low-and no-carbon fuel and feedstocks reduces combustion associated emissions for industrial processes. The decarbonization efforts for this pathway include:

  • Developing fuel-flexible processes
  • Integrating hydrogen fuels and feedstocks into industrial applications
  • The use of biofuels and bio feedstocks

4) Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage (CCUS): CCUS refers to the multi-component strategy of capturing generated CO2 from a point source and utilizing the captured CO2 to make value added products or storing it long-term to avoid release. The DOE’s decarbonization efforts will include:

  • Post-combustion chemical absorption of CO2
  • Development and manufacturing optimization of advanced CO2 capture materials that improve efficiency and lower cost of capture
  • Development of processes to utilize captured CO2 to manufacture new materials

How to Get Involved

The DOE is currently accepting concept papers related to the new emissions-reduction initiative and full applications are due by Dec. 20, 2022. To apply for the funding opportunity announcement (FOA), applicants must register with and submit application materials through EERE Exchange.

“This FOA will advance the Biden Administration’s goals to achieve carbon pollution-free electricity by 2035,” the DOE says, “and to deliver an equitable, clean energy future, and put the United States on a path to achieve net-zero emissions, economy-wide, by no later than 2050 to the benefit of all Americans.”

The projects selected under this FOA are expected to contribute to the Justice40 Initiative, the DOE says, which set a goal that 40% of the overall benefits of the government’s climate and clean energy investments will flow to disadvantaged communities.

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About the Author

Bridget McCrea | Contributing Writer | Supply Chain Connect

Bridget McCrea is a freelance writer who covers business and technology for various publications.