Decarbonisation in industry: the importance of energy optimisation and decarbonisation of the energy mix
The importance of decarbonisation and energy optimisation in industry cannot be underestimated. As we face unprecedented environmental challenges, it’s imperative that companies look for ways to reduce their carbon footprint and improve energy efficiency.
In this article, we’ll explore the strategies and challenges of industrial decarbonisation, as well as the reasons why decarbonisation and energy optimisation are essential in today’s industrial context. We’ll also look at the economic benefits that flow from these sustainable practices and present some concrete examples of energy transition.
Understanding industrial decarbonisation
Industrial decarbonisation is a process aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the industrial sector, particularly those linked to energy production and use.
To achieve this, several key concepts are often put forward: energy efficiency, decarbonisation of the energy mix, and process efficiency with regard to greenhouse gas emissions.
Energy efficiency aims to maximize the effective use of energy in industrial processes. This involves identifying sources of energy waste and implementing measures to minimize them.
Decarbonising the energy mix involves reducing or completely eliminating carbon emissions by using energies with a low carbon footprint (hydroelectricity, nuclear power, gas from methanation, biomass, etc.).
Finally, we can work on the efficiency of processes in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, whether upstream by changing raw material supply channels (biosourced, from green chemistry, from recycling, etc.) or in our own processes by implementing innovative industrial processes that emit fewer greenhouse gases.
A systemic approach is essential if industry is to be decarbonised effectively. This means taking into account not only technical and economic aspects, but also understanding the interactions between these different fields. By integrating physics to understand the mechanisms underlying industrial processes, economics to assess the costs and benefits of different solutions, and engineering to implement the necessary changes, it is possible to develop coherent and effective strategies for reducing industry’s carbon footprint.
First steps towards energy transition: understanding and modeling industrial processes
In the transition to a more sustainable and environmentally friendly industry, data collection plays a crucial role in the modeling and optimisation of industrial processes. Indeed, to implement more virtuous practices, it is essential to have an in-depth understanding of energy flows and greenhouse gas emissions linked to industrial activities and their consumption of energy and raw materials.
Data collection provides precise information on the various stages of the manufacturing process, from raw materials to finished product. This data is then used to model energy flows and identify opportunities for optimisation and improvement.
It should be emphasized that optimizing existing processes should not be overlooked in favor of introducing new technologies. Indeed, before considering the adoption of more advanced technological solutions, it is important to identify inefficiencies and opportunities for improvement, which are often accessible more quickly and at lower cost.
How to decarbonize an industry?
Energy efficiency: a must
Energy efficiency means reducing energy consumption per unit of output. This can be achieved either through better control of production processes, by changing the technology of the production tool for a more efficient one, or by rethinking the process itself to make it more efficient.
For example, this may involve improving heating systems (in-line microwave heating, resistive heating, etc.) or cooling systems (high-efficiency chillers, etc.). It can also involve optimizing energy flow recovery using PINCH-type methods or adopting more efficient technologies.
Electrification of existing processes
Process electrification is one of the strategies for decarbonizing the energy mix. It involves replacing fossil energy sources with cleaner, more efficient electrical solutions.
A concrete example of this approach is the use of electric boilers in industries that consume steam or hot water. Replacing fossil-fired boilers (gas, oil, etc.) with electric boilers not only reduces greenhouse gas emissions, but also offers the opportunity to improve the system’s energy efficiency.
Decarbonising the energy mix
It is now possible for manufacturers to optimise their energy purchases and set up supply contracts guaranteeing a reduced carbon footprint, whether for gas or electricity supplies. This may come at a cost, which can be offset by a long-term supply commitment or the introduction of products with low CO2 emissions that are better valued on the market.
It is also possible to replace fossil fuels with renewable fuels for the production of heat (steam, hot water, etc.). For example, by investing in biomass-fired boilers or cogeneration units.
Making the most of energy flexibility
Network services play a key role in this process. They enable companies to adjust their energy consumption according to the needs of the power grid. For example, during periods of high demand and higher prices, industries can reduce their consumption or use alternative energy sources to avoid a significant rise in their costs.
In addition, flexibility markets also offer an opportunity for industries to make the most of their energy flexibility. These markets enable companies to sell their ability to adjust consumption or to provide services linked to power grid management. This can generate additional income for companies, while contributing to the stability and efficiency of the overall power system.
One example of how this can be put to good use in steel mills is by exploiting the flexibility of furnaces. Steel mills are often confronted with variations in energy prices, and need to adapt quickly to keep costs under control. Setting up dual-energy systems (gas and electricity, for example) enables them to switch between different energy sources according to production planning and market prices. This enables them to optimize costs, reduce their carbon footprint and maintain efficient production.
Reducing the raw materials footprint through recycling
Recycling is also a way of decarbonizing. By promoting the use of recycled raw materials, manufacturers can reduce the need to produce new raw materials from natural resources, saving a considerable amount of energy and therefore reducing emissions. In heavy industry, this is a major source of greenhouse gas emission reduction.
Collaboration: key to the success of industrial energy transition
The importance of internal and external collaboration is crucial to decarbonisation. To succeed in reducing our carbon emissions and combating climate change, it is essential to create an ecosystem that involves all the players concerned. This includes companies, governments, energy and equipment suppliers.
Internal collaboration between different corporate teams is necessary to implement effective strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Efforts must be coordinated and aligned in order to optimize the use of resources and achieve set targets.
In addition, external collaboration with governments is essential to develop coherent environmental policies conducive to decarbonisation. They can encourage companies to adopt clean technologies, provide tax incentives or financing to encourage green investment and promote a transition to a low-carbon economy.
Finally, collaboration with suppliers of energy, raw materials and equipment plays a key role in the transition to a low-carbon economy. These players can provide companies with the solutions they need to reduce their carbon footprint, such as the use of renewable energy sources, recycled or bio based raw materials, or the adoption of more efficient technologies.
In short, decarbonisation can only be achieved through close collaboration between all the players involved. By working together in a well-orchestrated ecosystem, we will be able to meet the challenge of climate change effectively and sustainably.