Lowered goals for carbon dioxide emission in Europe’s iron and steel, cement, and refinery sectors cannot be achieved without the implementation of advanced technologies which lessen the presence of the gas, according to Chalmers University of Technology.
The university’s researchers came to the conclusion that a large technological overhaul was needed following a comprehensive study of the estimated outlook of the carbon-intensive industries for 2010-2050.
According to Johan Rootzén, who recently completed his doctoral thesis at Chalmers, for the target to be reached the practice of carbon capture and storage (CCS) must be implemented, as well as other technologies which lead to the lessening of carbon dioxide. Though he said the change will require a great amount of investment in primary production, Rootzén said the study suggests that funding will have minimal influence on the costs of a car or a house because the cost of the related materials represents a small portion of the cost of the final product.
Though much attention is paid to how much carbon dioxide is produced by electricity and transport, Rootzén said cement and steel production and oil refining in Sweden and the EU produces massive amounts of the gas.
“There is a lack of strategy from political actors about how emissions from these industries should be reduced, even though these industries are responsible for a tenth of emissions of carbon dioxide in Europe and nearly 20 percent in Sweden,” Rootzén said. “At the same time Sweden and the EU have a target in which emissions should be almost zero by 2050.”
A way to mitigate the carbon dioxide created by cement and steel production would be to slow down those processes. That is unlikely to happen, as Chalmers forecasts the need for steel and cement to remain due to continuing housing, infrastructure, and renewable energy projects.
Rootzén said that if the suggested improvements in technology are made, the processes which allow those changes to occur must start immediately because it takes a long time to assimilate the technologies into heavy industry infrastructures.
“There are only a few investment cycles left to year 2050,” he added. “If the EU is serious about reducing emissions by 80-90 percent by 2050, then the issue of how to finance the development and implementation of innovative process technology must be brought to the table now.”
Another issue is the uncertainty relating to how newly created carbon dioxide mitigating technologies can be assimilated into the industries. These questions need to be answered, especially as they pertain to the CCS chain. However, that indecisiveness isn’t enough reason to delay the implementation of the changes, according to Fllip Johnsson, a professor who has headed the emissions-related research at Chalmers.
There are indeed question marks concerning CCS, and large investments are required in CCS as well as in other measures. Yet, if society decides not to try then we limit the room for maneuvering in the future,” Johnsson reasoned. “Our research suggests that without a shift in technology then refineries, steel and cement industries alone are going to be the source of up to a quarter of the emissions in 2050.”
Rootzén concluded that the effect the technological improvements in Europe’s basic industries have on global development is limited. However, he said the change should be made because those in the area have an obligation to lead the improvements and develop measures that the rest of the world can follow.
Filed Under: Industrial automation