Decarbonising the energy intensive basic materials industry through electrification - implications for future EU electricity demand

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The need for low-carbon transitions in the industrial sector is increasingly recognised by governments and industry. However, radical pathways for reaching near-zero emissions in the energy intensive basic materials industry are still relatively unexplored. Most studies focus on mitigation options that lead to marginal emission reductions, e.g., energy and materials efficiency improvements and some fuel switching, or they rely on carbon capture and storage that allows continued use of existing processes and feedstock. In light of the vast future potential for primary renewable electricity we explore as a what-if thought-experiment the implications of electrifying a stable basic materials production in the EU. A quantitative technical scenario analysis of potential future electricity demand in the production of the most energy and carbon intensive basic materials, i.e., steel, cement, glass, lime, olefins, chlorine and ammonia, is presented for EU28. Production of these seven basic materials resulted in directly and indirectly energy related CO2 emissions of about 457 Mton in 2010, equivalent to almost 13 % of all energy related GHG in EU28. Their production in 2010 required 125 TWh of electricity and 1432 TWh of fossil fuels and feedstock. A complete shift to electricity would result in an electricity demand of 1600 TWh, about 1100 TWh of which would be for producing hydrogen and hydrocarbon feedstock. We assume closed loops for carbon dioxide through recovery from waste incineration and biogenic sources. With increased materials efficiency and some share of bio-based materials and biofuels the electricity demand can be much lower. Our analysis shows that near-zero emissions could in principle be reached without relying on CCS (except for limestone related emissions) and suggests that a circular economy powered by renewable electricity may indeed be possible, at least from an energy resource and technology point of view.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSDEWES 2015
Number of pages16
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2015
EventSDEWES 2015 - Dubrovnik, Croatia
Duration: 0001 Jan 2 → …


ConferenceSDEWES 2015
Period0001/01/02 → …

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Energy Systems

Free keywords

  • Industry
  • electrification


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