Innovation Gaps

Key long-term technology challenges for research, development and demonstration

Industry

Innovation efforts are currently under way to avoid CO2 emissions in industry, such as through low-carbon, hydrogen-based production of steel and chemicals; using alternative, lower-carbon binding materials in cement; and employing inert anodes for primary aluminium production. Other efforts focus on CCUS, particularly in the iron and steel, chemical and cement subsectors. While recent progress has been promising, acceleration is needed on key innovation gaps.

Cement

Technology innovation will be crucial to reduce cement subsector emissions, particularly process emissions for which commercially available mitigation options are relatively limited. CCUS can play a key role, with post-combustion chemical absorption carbon capture currently the most advanced technology. Other capture options under development include oxy-fuel capture, membrane COseparation and calcium looping.

Processes are also being developed to utilise captured CO2 for inert carbonate materials in concrete aggregates. Alternative cement constituents, which can be blended into cement to replace a portion of the clinker, require further deployment. R&D is needed on alternative binding materials that rely on raw materials or mixes different from those of OPC clinker, and in many cases result in lower emissions.

Of the various alternative binding materials under development, belite calcium sulphoaluminate (BCSA) shows particular promise in terms of a reasonable balance between remaining technical hurdles and CO2 emissions reduction potential.

Why is this gap important?

  • Including a larger proportion of alternative constituents in cement (likely possible in the 15‑35% mass range – and potentially even up to 50%) reduces the quantity of clinker required as well as the process and energy-related CO2 emissions associated with clinker production.
  • Using newer alternative cement constituents, such as ground limestone, calcined clay, volcanic ash, rice husk ash, and silica fume, will be increasingly important in the future because fly ash from coal power plants and granulated blast furnace slag from steel production – currently commonly used as alternative cement constituents – will likely become less available.

Technology principles: Clinker is the main active ingredient in cement, and producing it is the most emissions-intensive step of cement production. Alternative constituents are materials that can replace a portion of it while conserving the required performance properties of the cement. The resulting cement is commonly referred to as blended cement.

Technology solutions

Current status: Alternative cement constituents are currently being used to varying degrees by a number of cement producers in commercial projects around the world. Deployment remains confined to a limited number of key initiatives, however. The use of natural pozzolanas is most common in Europe, whereas calcined clay is most common in Brazil, but it is used in low proportions.

Key challenges include regional availability of raw materials; the distance between sources of materials and cement or concrete plants, which can affect economic viability; building standards in some regions that may limit or prohibit the use of blended cements in construction; and the reluctance of some contractors and consumers to choose blended cements over OPC clinker-based ones, due to a lack of awareness and training.

What are the leading initiatives?

Limestone calcined clay cement has been developed by a collaboration of researchers from the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland, the University of Las Villas in Cuba and three Indian Institutes of Technology – IIT Delhi, IIT Madras and IIT Bombay.

Recommended actions

  • Industrial producers should in the next five years raise contractor and customer awareness and training on blended cements to increase acceptance and stimulate market uptake; in the next 5 to 10 years develop, test and verify, for a greater number of applications, cement mixes that contain alternative cement constituents and achieve necessary performance properties (such as resilience, compressive strength, durability and workability); by 2030, expand use of alternative cement constituents in both the quantity per unit of blended cement and the types of applications. Reach a global clinker-to-cement ratio of 0.64 by 2030 and 0.60, and by 2050 reach a global clinker-to-cement ratio of 0.60 by 2050.
  • Researchers should in the next five years, in partnership with industry, increase understanding of global alternative material availability and properties.
  • Building and infrastructure regulatory bodies should in the next 5 years shift from prescriptive to performance-based design standards for buildings and infrastructure to allow uptake of blended cements in construction.
  • Finance/economy ministries should in the next 5 years provide funding for research on alternative cement constituents that show good potential in terms of raw material availability and ability to deliver necessary performance characteristics.
  • Environment, energy and resource ministries should in the next 10 years set country-level targets for clinker-to-cement ratio reductions to encourage development and deployment of blended cements.


Why is this gap important?

CO2 capture could produce capture yields of up to 95%, and widespread application would reduce clinker production process emissions, for which reduction options are limited.

Technology principles: 

  • A number of CCS technologies are available for application in the cement sector, with the two most advanced being chemcial absorption post-combustion and oxy-fuel capture.
  • In chemical absorption post-combustion capture, CO2 is separated from the clinker kiln exhaust gases using a chemical sorbent at the end of the production process. Due to high sorbent costs, however, additional thermal energy is required to regenerate the saturated sorbent to make it reusable, and electricity is also needed to operate the capture unit.
  • In oxy-fuel capture, oxygen is separated from air prior to combustion, so that flue-gases are composed of mainly CO2 and water, making capture easier. 

Technology solutions

Current status: 

  • Chemical absorption post-combustion capture is currently at TRL 7‑8 (demonstration system/first-of-a-kind commercial system). Up to 95% of the CO2 can be captured, but this leads to an estimated thermal energy demand increase of 1 GJ to 3.5 GJ per tonne of clinker, and boosts electricity demand by 50 kWh to 90 kWh per tonne of clinker (ECRA, 2017). Sorbent replacement ranges between 0.001 kg and 0.004 kg per kg of clinker, and new installation costs EUR 100 million to EUR 300 million for a 2‑Mt of clinker per year plant capacity.
  • Oxy-fuel capture is currently at TRL5, with one smaller-scale pilot project successfully in operation.

Key challenges to overcome for chemical absorption post-combustion capture (across all sectors, not just cement) include reducing the additional energy footprint of the capture unit, improving sorbents to minimise degradation and decrease costs, and co‑ordinating efforts with initiatives focused on developing CO2 transport infrastructure and the identification of storage sites. For oxy-fuel, scale-up to demonstration is required.

What are the leading initiatives?

  • A cement plant with a mobile carbon capture test unit in Brevik, Norway, undertook successful chemical absorption trials using amine-based sorbents between 2013 and 2016, with around 8 000 hours of operational experience and total CO2 capture of 2 kilotonnes (kt). The cement plant is operated by Norcem, and the carbon capture technology was developed by engineering company Aker Solutions.
  • In 2015, a plant started operations in Texas to chemically capture 75 ktCO2/yr from a cement plant and transform it into sodium bicarbonate, bleach and hydrochloric acid. As these products can be sold, the saturated sorbents do not need to be regenerated. The project is operated by Skyonic Corporation and received funding from the US Department of Energy.
  • A successful pilot test of oxy-fuel capture has been undertaken in a cement kiln pre-calciner in Dania, Denmark, by FLSmidth, Lafarge and Air Liquide. The results of the project were released in 2014. 
  • The CEMCAP project aims to lay the groundwork for large-scale CO2 capture in the European cement industry. It is funded by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme, and participants include VDZ, SINTEF Energy Research, Politecnico di Milano, ETH Zurich, Italcementi and TNO.

Recommended actions

Industrial producers should over the next 5 years develop collaborative research programmes or networks among companies, equipment suppliers, research institutes and governments to pool technical and financial resources for RD&D on CCUS, including through private-public partnerships, and by 2030 commercially deploy CCUS technologies.

Finance/economy ministries should in the next 5 years mitigate risks of investing in CCUS through investment stimulus mechanisms that leverage private funding for innovative low-carbon technologies and through promoting private-public partnerships.

Environment, energy and resource ministries should in the next 5 years harmonise approaches for safe site selection, operations, maintenance, monitoring and verification of permanent CO2 storage, in the next 10 years develop and expand internationally co-ordinated regulatory frameworks for CCUS and collaborate with industry to expand efforts to educate and inform the public and key stakeholders about carbon storage to build social acceptance; and by 2030: co-ordinate identification and demonstration of CO2 transport networks at regional, national and international levels to optimise infrastructure development, and reduce costs by collaborating with industry to investigate links with existing or integrated networks and opportunities for cluster activities in industrial zones.

Multilateral development agencies should in the next 10 years promote alternative sources of funding for innovative low-carbon technologies in the cement industry, including export credit agencies and multilateral development banks.

NGOs and think tanks should in the next 5 years raise awareness of the longer-term need for CCS to reduce emissions in hard-to-decarbonise industry sectors, including process emissions with limited alternative mitigation options.

Why is this gap important?

Using belite calcium sulphoaluminate (BCSA) clinker can result in process CO2 emissions 20‑30% lower than those of Ordinary Portland Cement (OPC) clinker.

Technology principles: Clinker is the main active ingredient in cement. During its production, calcination results in process emissions, which account for about two-thirds of cement production emissions. Using alternative binding materials that rely on raw materials or mixes different from OPC clinker can help reduce process emissions.

Technology solutions

Current status: TRL 7. BCSA clinker is not yet being commercially produced. Specific norms for this type of clinker do not currently exist, except for the BCSA clinker compositions that fall within Chinese norms for calcium sulphoaluminate (CSA) clinkers. Small-batch production currently occurs on a limited basis only – including in China for structural and non-structural applications, and in Europe only after technical approval for well-defined applications.

Key challenges include developing more cost-competitive formulations and ensuring long-term durability.

Recommended actions

  • Industrial producers should in the next 5 years further research and testing to develop better clinker formulations, especially for cost-competitiveness, and expand application and increase experience to verify strength development and durability.
  • Researchers should in the next 5 years, in partnership with industry, conduct further research to develop better clinker formulations, especially for cost-competitiveness.
  • Building and infrastructure regulatory bodies should in the next 5 years shift from prescriptive to performance-based design standards for buildings and infrastructure to allow uptake of alternative binding materials when available.
  • Finance/economy ministries should in the next 5 years provide funding for research on BCSA clinker to facilitate development of better clinker formulations.
  • Environment, energy and resource ministries should in the next 10 years set country-level targets for reducing cement production CO2 emissions intensity to encourage development and deployment of alternative binding materials.


Chemicals

Developing and deploying innovative technologies and process routes is crucial for chemical and petrochemical sector decarbonisation.

Key new and emerging low-carbon processes involve replacing fossil fuel feedstocks with electrolytic hydrogen, bio-based feedstocks, electricity as a feedstock and captured CO2. Further development of carbon capture, utilisation, transportation and storage technologies will also be important for decarbonisation.

Why is this gap important?

This process route could avoid generating CO2 emissions in ammonia production if renewable electricity is used for hydrogen production.

Technology principles: Ammonia production involves combining nitrogen with hydrogen in the Haber-Bosch process. Hydrogen can be produced either through steam reforming (with natural gas as the feedstock) or through electrolysis (with electricity as the feedstock). Hydrogen produced by electrolysis is often referred to as electrolytic hydrogen.

Technology solutions

Individual technologies for the process are available (TRL 7‑8), but full system integration of the technologies needs to be demonstrated at commercial scale. The key challenges are to procure low-cost electricity from renewable sources in areas where production will take place, to reduce costs and raise the efficiency of electrolysis technology, and to integrate either economical buffer storage or flexibility in the synthesis step to accommodate variable electricity input.

Recommended actions

  • Industrial producers should by 2021 develop and demonstrate at commercial scale a fully integrated electrolytic hydrogen system for ammonia production; in the next 5 years optimise process system integration of electrolytic hydrogen-based ammonia plants with subsequent urea synthesis; in the next 5 to 10 years improve performance of electrolytic hydrogen production and reduce costs and work towards large-scale generation of hydrogen from renewable electricity; and in the next 10 years investigate hybrid concepts with flexible operations based on both electricity and natural gas.
  • Finance/economy ministries should in the next 5 to 10 years collaborate with industry to help fund demonstration efforts.
  • Environment, energy and resource ministries should in the next 5 years adopt or increase the stringency of policies that promote renewable electricity generation.

Why is this gap important?

Carbon capture is needed to enable chemical production methods that use CO2 as a feedstock. Combined with permanent storage, it could drastically reduce CO2 emissions and even create negative emissions if combined with biomass-based production methods.

Technology solutions

Two chemical sector pilot projects are operating successfully (TRL 8), and experience has also been gained in operating large-scale plants in the power sector. However, key challenges are low levels of public acceptance in certain regions (for CO2 storage) and the high cost of transporting and storing CO2 due to the absences of integrated networks and clustered industrial zones.

What are the leading initiatives?

Feasibility studies from 2016 demonstrated a flexible CCS chain from industrial CO2 sources in Norway. Instead of transporting CO2 by pipeline to a storage site, it would be transported by ship to a connection point linked with the storage facility.

Since 2016 Covestro has been using CO2 to manufacture polyols, which are used to produce foam for mattresses and other products, at its Dormagen site in Germany. CO2 has replaced 20% of the crude oil the plant was using.

Recommended actions

  • Industrial producers should by 2021 scale-up technology to large-scale demonstration; in the next 5 years continue development to improve economics, thus enabling broader application and develop collaborative research programmes and networks among companies, equipment suppliers, research institutes and governments to pool technical and financial resources for RD&D on CCUS, and to form private-public partnerships.
  • Finance/economy ministries should in the next 5 yearsmitigate risks of investing in CCUS through investment stimulus mechanisms that leverage private funding for innovative low-carbon technologies and through promoting private-public partnerships.
  • Environment, energy and resource ministries should in the next 5 years harmonise approaches for safe site selection, operations, maintenance, monitoring and verification of permanent CO2 storage and make CO2 a tradeable commodity and allow import/export; in the next 10 years develop and expand internationally co-ordinated regulatory frameworks for CCUS and collaborate with industry to expand efforts to educate and inform the public and key stakeholders about carbon storage to build social acceptance; and by 2030 co-ordinate identification and demonstration of CO2 transport networks at regional, national and international levels to optimise infrastructure development, and reduce costs by collaborating with industry to investigate links with existing or integrated networks and opportunities to cluster activities in industrial zones.
  • Multilateral development agencies should in the next 5 years promote alternative sources of funding for innovative low-carbon technologies in energy-intensive industries, including export credit agencies and multilateral development banks.
  •  NGOs and think tanks should in the next 5 yearsraise awareness of the longer-term need for CCS to reduce emissions in hard-to-decarbonise industry sectors, including addressing process emissions with limited alternative mitigation options.


Why is this gap important?

This production route could avoid direct fossil fuel use in methanol production if renewable electricity is employed for hydrogen production and CO2 can be obtained from either biogenic sources or unavoidable industrial sources. In the short to medium term, fossil-based and otherwise avoidable emissions can also be used. In a strong decarbonisation scenario, unavoidable CO2 emissions from fossil-based industrial by-products would become scarce in the long term, so extracting it from the atmosphere through biomass cultivation or air capture would become increasingly important.

Technology principles: Methanol production requires creation of a syngas composed of CO, CO2 and hydrogen gas. A wide variety of feedstocks can be used to produce the syngas: natural gas and coal are currently the most common, but biomass and waste can also be used. It can also be made from a combination of hydrogen (produced by natural gas-based steam reforming or electricity-based electrolysis) and waste CO2 from industrial processes.

Technology solutions

Several pilot projects are currently in operation, and catalysts are commercially available for the hydrogenation of pure CO2 to methanol. As with ammonia production that uses electrolytic hydrogen, full industrial-scale system integration of the technologies needs to be completed. Key challenges are to procure low-cost electricity from renewable sources in areas where production will take place, to reduce the costs and raise the efficiency of electrolyser technology, and to integrate either economical buffer storage or flexibility in the synthesis step to accommodate variable electricity input.

What are the leading initiatives?

The pilot-scale George Olah Renewable Methanol Plant in Iceland was commissioned by Carbon Recycling International in 2011 and designed for a 4‑kilotonne per year (kt/yr) capacity at a cost of EUR 7.1 million. There are plans to scale this plant up to 40 kt/yr.

Recommended actions

  • Industrial producers should by 2021 develop and demonstrate at commercial scale a fully integrated electrolytic hydrogen system for methanol production; by 2025 scale up demonstration plants and develop operational experience and improve productivity and reduce costs; in the next 5 to 10 years develop novel catalysts less sensitive to inhibition by high concentrations of CO2 and H2O and work towards large-scale generation of hydrogen from renewable electricity; and in the next 10 years explore smart-system balancing with the power grid. For instance, couple production to biogas plants with fast start-up/shut-down operations.
  • Finance/economy ministries should in the next 5 to 10 years collaborate with industry to help fund demonstration efforts.
  • Environment, energy and resource ministries should in the next 5 years adopt or increase the stringency of policies that promote renewable electricity generation; and in the next 5 to 10 years support development of hydrogen production infrastructure and set medium- to long-term carbon intensity reduction targets for methanol production to encourage development of low-carbon production technologies.


Why is this gap important?

This process route could replace fossil fuel feedstocks with low-carbon methanol to produce aromatics using conventional naphtha steam crackers, if low-carbon methanol were available. The method currently being explored uses technology similar to what has already been commercialised for methanol-to-olefin production, which employs a silver-impregnated zeolite catalyst.

Technology solutions

Individual technologies for the process are available (TRL 7), but full system integration of the technologies needs to be completed. The key challenge is to develop the technology at scale while maintaining the integrity of the catalyst and obtaining high selectivity. For this route to compete with alternatives, low-cost methanol with a low CO2 emissions intensity is a necessity.

What are the leading initiatives?

China’s Huadian Yulin successfully conducted pilot-scale trials in 2013, and plans are under way to construct a 500‑kt/yr methanol-to-aromatics demonstration project.

Recommended actions

  • Industrial producers should by 2021 develop and demonstrate at commercial scale a fully integrated system for aromatic production from methanol; in the next 5 years develop catalysts to improve aromatic process yields and benzene, toluene and mixed xylenes selectivity; in the next 5 to 10 years develop and deploy low-carbon methanol production; and in the next 10 years improve process optimisation and scale up deployment.
  • Finance/economy ministries should in the next 5 to 10 years collaborate with industry to help fund demonstration efforts.
  • Environment, energy and resource ministries should in the next 5 to 10 years set medium- to long-term carbon intensity reduction targets for methanol and aromatics production to encourage development of low-carbon production technologies.
Pulp & paper

Fuel switching and energy efficiency will be the primary mechanisms to cut CO2 emissions in the pulp and paper subsector. Innovation is also important, however.

Several technologies still in the relatively early stages of development (TRL 3‑4), including deep eutectic solvents and alternative drying and forming processes, could help raise energy efficiency considerably.

Black liquor gasification, which can produce carbon-neutral energy products for use in pulp and paper as well as other sectors, has already reached the initial stages of commercialisation but still requires further development and deployment.

Lignin extraction, which has been pilot-tested at commercial scale, could make lignin available for use as a biofuel or for new industrial products.

Why is this gap important?

Gasification of black liquor can produce carbon-neutral energy products such as electricity and steam for use in pulping plants, and liquid biofuels for use in transport.

Technology principles: Black liquor is a biomass-based by-product of chemical pulping. It can be combusted as a fuel in on-site utilities to generate steam and electricity, or it can be upgraded through gasification to create syngas.

Technology solutions

Current status: Two key designs are under investigation: a low-temperature steam reforming process, which is at the TRL 8 (initial commercial system) stage, and a high-temperature entrained flow reactor, which is at the TRL 7 (large-scale demonstration) stage.

Key challenges include the need to reduce costs and improve processes to enable full-scale commercialisation.

What are the leading initiatives?

  • Two commercial plants equipped with steam reforming technology are in operation: a Norampac containerboard mill in Canada and a Georgia-Pacific mill in the United States. The technology was developed by Thermochem Recovery International.
  • Demonstration of entrained flow reactor technology has been undertaken in two plants, one in the United States and one in Sweden (the latter was shut down due to lack of funding). This technology was developed by the Swedish company Chemrec.

Recommended actions

  • Industrial producers should in the next 5 years continue development to reduce costs and improve processes to enable full-scale commercialisation.
  • Environment, energy and resource ministries should by 2025 adopt regulations for increased use of advanced biofuels to help generate demand for the products of black liquor gasification.

Why is this gap important?

The process could use significantly less energy for pulping than the traditional chemical pulping processes because deep eutectic solvents enable pulp production at low temperatures and at atmospheric pressure. This process could also add value for the pulp industry by producing pure lignin that can be sold as a fuel or a material.

Technology principles: Deep eutectic solvents function by dissolving wood into lignin, hemicellulose and cellulose.

Technology solutions

Current status: TRL 4. The process has been proven at laboratory scale.

Key challenges include further developing the process and validating associated processes such as chemical recovery.

What are the leading initiatives?

The Netherlands-based Institute for Sustainable Process Technology is co‑ordinating a Europe-wide project to research and develop deep eutectic solvents, with 27 participants including paper companies, universities and research institutes. The technology was initially developed by a researcher at Eindhoven University of Technology through the Confederation of European Paper Industries’ (CEPI) Two Team Project, with funding from Horizon 2020.

Recommended actions

  • Industrial producers should in the next 5 to 10 years pursue research to further develop the process and to validate associated processes such as chemical recovery and by 2025 conduct the first feasibility and pilot tests.
  • Finance/economy ministries should in the next 10 years provide funding for continued deep eutectic solvent research, development and demonstration.
CCUS in industry & transformation

In certain industry subsectors, notably iron and steel, cement and chemicals, commercially available mitigation options that would enable deep decarbonisation, are limited. CCUS can play a key role to reduce emissions from these subsectors, with innovation needed in several areas, including improving post-combustion capture technologies, reducing the additional energy footprint of capture units, optimising use of captured CO2 for chemical, fuel and concrete aggregate production, and reducing the cost of CO2 transport and storage.

Why is this gap important?

CO2 capture could produce capture yields of up to 95%, and widespread application would reduce clinker production process emissions, for which reduction options are limited.

Technology principles: 

  • A number of CCS technologies are available for application in the cement sector, with the two most advanced being chemcial absorption post-combustion and oxy-fuel capture.
  • In chemical absorption post-combustion capture, CO2 is separated from the clinker kiln exhaust gases using a chemical sorbent at the end of the production process. Due to high sorbent costs, however, additional thermal energy is required to regenerate the saturated sorbent to make it reusable, and electricity is also needed to operate the capture unit.
  • In oxy-fuel capture, oxygen is separated from air prior to combustion, so that flue-gases are composed of mainly CO2 and water, making capture easier. 

Technology solutions

Current status: 

  • Chemical absorption post-combustion capture is currently at TRL 7‑8 (demonstration system/first-of-a-kind commercial system). Up to 95% of the CO2 can be captured, but this leads to an estimated thermal energy demand increase of 1 GJ to 3.5 GJ per tonne of clinker, and boosts electricity demand by 50 kWh to 90 kWh per tonne of clinker (ECRA, 2017). Sorbent replacement ranges between 0.001 kg and 0.004 kg per kg of clinker, and new installation costs EUR 100 million to EUR 300 million for a 2‑Mt of clinker per year plant capacity.
  • Oxy-fuel capture is currently at TRL5, with one smaller-scale pilot project successfully in operation.

Key challenges to overcome for chemical absorption post-combustion capture (across all sectors, not just cement) include reducing the additional energy footprint of the capture unit, improving sorbents to minimise degradation and decrease costs, and co‑ordinating efforts with initiatives focused on developing CO2 transport infrastructure and the identification of storage sites. For oxy-fuel, scale-up to demonstration is required.

What are the leading initiatives?

  • A cement plant with a mobile carbon capture test unit in Brevik, Norway, undertook successful chemical absorption trials using amine-based sorbents between 2013 and 2016, with around 8 000 hours of operational experience and total CO2 capture of 2 kilotonnes (kt). The cement plant is operated by Norcem, and the carbon capture technology was developed by engineering company Aker Solutions.
  • In 2015, a plant started operations in Texas to chemically capture 75 ktCO2/yr from a cement plant and transform it into sodium bicarbonate, bleach and hydrochloric acid. As these products can be sold, the saturated sorbents do not need to be regenerated. The project is operated by Skyonic Corporation and received funding from the US Department of Energy.
  • A successful pilot test of oxy-fuel capture has been undertaken in a cement kiln pre-calciner in Dania, Denmark, by FLSmidth, Lafarge and Air Liquide. The results of the project were released in 2014. 
  • The CEMCAP project aims to lay the groundwork for large-scale CO2 capture in the European cement industry. It is funded by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme, and participants include VDZ, SINTEF Energy Research, Politecnico di Milano, ETH Zurich, Italcementi and TNO.

Recommended actions

  • Industrial producers should in the next 5 years develop collaborative research programmes or networks among companies, equipment suppliers, research institutes and governments to pool technical and financial resources for RD&D on CCUS, including through private-public partnerships and by 2030 commercially deploy CCUS technologies.
  • Finance/economy ministries should in the next 5 years mitigate risks of investing in CCUS through investment stimulus mechanisms that leverage private funding for innovative low-carbon technologies and through promoting private-public partnerships.
  • Environment, energy and resource ministries should in the next 5 years harmonise approaches for safe site selection, operations, maintenance, monitoring and verification of permanent CO2 storage; in the next 10 years develop and expand internationally co-ordinated regulatory frameworks for CCUS and collaborate with industry to expand efforts to educate and inform the public and key stakeholders about carbon storage to build social acceptance; and by 2030 co-ordinate identification and demonstration of CO2 transport networks at regional, national and international levels to optimise infrastructure development, and reduce costs by collaborating with industry to investigate links with existing or integrated networks and opportunities for cluster activities in industrial zones.
  • Multilateral development agencies should in the next 10 years promote alternative sources of funding for innovative low-carbon technologies in the cement industry, including export credit agencies and multilateral development banks.
  • NGOs and think tanks should in the next 5 years raise awareness of the longer-term need for CCS to reduce emissions in hard-to-decarbonise industry sectors, including process emissions with limited alternative mitigation options.

Why is this gap important?

CO2 capture could produce capture yields of up to 95%, and widespread application would reduce clinker production process emissions, for which reduction options are limited.

Technology principles: 

  • A number of CCS technologies are available for application in the cement sector, with the two most advanced being chemcial absorption post-combustion and oxy-fuel capture.
  • In chemical absorption post-combustion capture, CO2 is separated from the clinker kiln exhaust gases using a chemical sorbent at the end of the production process. Due to high sorbent costs, however, additional thermal energy is required to regenerate the saturated sorbent to make it reusable, and electricity is also needed to operate the capture unit.
  • In oxy-fuel capture, oxygen is separated from air prior to combustion, so that flue-gases are composed of mainly CO2 and water, making capture easier. 

Technology solutions

Current status: 

  • Chemical absorption post-combustion capture is currently at TRL 7‑8 (demonstration system/first-of-a-kind commercial system). Up to 95% of the CO2 can be captured, but this leads to an estimated thermal energy demand increase of 1 GJ to 3.5 GJ per tonne of clinker, and boosts electricity demand by 50 kWh to 90 kWh per tonne of clinker (ECRA, 2017). Sorbent replacement ranges between 0.001 kg and 0.004 kg per kg of clinker, and new installation costs EUR 100 million to EUR 300 million for a 2‑Mt of clinker per year plant capacity.
  • Oxy-fuel capture is currently at TRL5, with one smaller-scale pilot project successfully in operation.

Key challenges to overcome for chemical absorption post-combustion capture (across all sectors, not just cement) include reducing the additional energy footprint of the capture unit, improving sorbents to minimise degradation and decrease costs, and co‑ordinating efforts with initiatives focused on developing CO2 transport infrastructure and the identification of storage sites. For oxy-fuel, scale-up to demonstration is required.

What are the leading initiatives?

  • A cement plant with a mobile carbon capture test unit in Brevik, Norway, undertook successful chemical absorption trials using amine-based sorbents between 2013 and 2016, with around 8 000 hours of operational experience and total CO2 capture of 2 kilotonnes (kt). The cement plant is operated by Norcem, and the carbon capture technology was developed by engineering company Aker Solutions.
  • In 2015, a plant started operations in Texas to chemically capture 75 ktCO2/yr from a cement plant and transform it into sodium bicarbonate, bleach and hydrochloric acid. As these products can be sold, the saturated sorbents do not need to be regenerated. The project is operated by Skyonic Corporation and received funding from the US Department of Energy.
  • A successful pilot test of oxy-fuel capture has been undertaken in a cement kiln pre-calciner in Dania, Denmark, by FLSmidth, Lafarge and Air Liquide. The results of the project were released in 2014. 
  • The CEMCAP project aims to lay the groundwork for large-scale CO2 capture in the European cement industry. It is funded by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme, and participants include VDZ, SINTEF Energy Research, Politecnico di Milano, ETH Zurich, Italcementi and TNO.

Recommended actions

  • Industrial producers should in the next 5 years develop collaborative research programmes or networks among companies, equipment suppliers, research institutes and governments to pool technical and financial resources for RD&D on CCUS, including through private-public partnerships; and by 2030 commercially deploy CCUS technologies.
  • Finance/economy ministries should in the next 5 years mitigate risks of investing in CCUS through investment stimulus mechanisms that leverage private funding for innovative low-carbon technologies and through promoting private-public partnerships.
  • Environment, energy and resource ministries should in the next 5 years harmonise approaches for safe site selection, operations, maintenance, monitoring and verification of permanent CO2 storage; in the next 10 years develop and expand internationally co-ordinated regulatory frameworks for CCUS and collaborate with industry to expand efforts to educate and inform the public and key stakeholders about carbon storage to build social acceptance; and by 2030 co-ordinate identification and demonstration of CO2 transport networks at regional, national and international levels to optimise infrastructure development, and reduce costs by collaborating with industry to investigate links with existing or integrated networks and opportunities for cluster activities in industrial zones.
  • Multilateral development agencies should in the next 10 years promote alternative sources of funding for innovative low-carbon technologies in the cement industry, including export credit agencies and multilateral development banks.
  • NGOs and think tanks should in the next 5 years raise awareness of the longer-term need for CCS to reduce emissions in hard-to-decarbonise industry sectors, including process emissions with limited alternative mitigation options.


Why is this gap important?

Carbon capture is needed to enable chemical production methods that use CO2 as a feedstock. Combined with permanent storage, it could drastically reduce CO2 emissions and even create negative emissions if combined with biomass-based production methods.

Technology solutions

Two chemical sector pilot projects are operating successfully (TRL 8), and experience has also been gained in operating large-scale plants in the power sector. However, key challenges are low levels of public acceptance in certain regions (for CO2 storage) and the high cost of transporting and storing CO2 due to the absences of integrated networks and clustered industrial zones.

What are the leading initiatives?

Feasibility studies from 2016 demonstrated a flexible CCS chain from industrial CO2 sources in Norway. Instead of transporting CO2 by pipeline to a storage site, it would be transported by ship to a connection point linked with the storage facility.

Since 2016 Covestro has been using CO2 to manufacture polyols, which are used to produce foam for mattresses and other products, at its Dormagen site in Germany. CO2 has replaced 20% of the crude oil the plant was using.

Recommended actions

  • Industrial producers should by 2021 scale-up technology to large-scale demonstration; and in the next 5 years continue development to improve economics, thus enabling broader application and develop collaborative research programmes and networks among companies, equipment suppliers, research institutes and governments to pool technical and financial resources for RD&D on CCUS, and to form private-public partnerships.
  • Finance/economy ministries should in the next 5 years mitigate risks of investing in CCUS through investment stimulus mechanisms that leverage private funding for innovative low-carbon technologies and through promoting private-public partnerships.
  • Environment, energy and resource ministries should in the next 5 years harmonise approaches for safe site selection, operations, maintenance, monitoring and verification of permanent CO2 storage and make CO2 a tradeable commodity and allow import/export; in the next 10 years develop and expand internationally co-ordinated regulatory frameworks for CCUS and collaborate with industry to expand efforts to educate and inform the public and key stakeholders about carbon storage to build social acceptance; and by 2030 co-ordinate identification and demonstration of CO2 transport networks at regional, national and international levels to optimise infrastructure development, and reduce costs by collaborating with industry to investigate links with existing or integrated networks and opportunities to cluster activities in industrial zones.
  • Multilateral development agencies should in the next 5 years promote alternative sources of funding for innovative low-carbon technologies in energy-intensive industries, including export credit agencies and multilateral development banks.
  • NGOs and think tanks should in the next 5 years raise awareness of the longer-term need for CCS to reduce emissions in hard-to-decarbonise industry sectors, including addressing process emissions with limited alternative mitigation options.
Iron & steel

Although considerable CO2 emissions reductions can be realised through greater energy efficiency and increased scrap-based production, innovation will be important to reduce emissions even further, particularly in primary production.

An array of technologies is under development. New smelt reduction technologies based on coal or hydrogen plasma can cut emissions from coke production. Direct reduction technologies based on natural gas, hydrogen or electricity could reduce emissions considerably compared with the conventional blast furnace-coke oven (BF‑CO) route.

Additionally, adopting CCUS could achieve near-zero steel production emissions – and using the captured CO2 to produce chemicals and fuels would also offer new economic opportunities. Top-gas recovery systems in blast furnaces are also being developed to reduce energy and carbon inputs for conventional BF‑CO steel production.

Why is this gap important?

Integrating CCS into existing iron and steel technologies could considerably reduce the carbon footprint of steelmaking. Achievable emissions avoidance depends on the iron and steel processes used, the capture technology and the amount of CO2 captured.

Technology solutions

Current status: TRL 5, to 8 or 9, depending on the iron and steel production technology and the type of CO2 emissions source. General application of CCS to steel mills is at TRL 5, feasibility studies for pilots. Natural gas-based DRI production with CO2 capture for enhanced oil recovery is at TRL 8‑9.

Key challenges, depending on the process, include further process development through trials and demonstrations, or cost reductions and process refinement to enable further deployment. Reducing the energy penalty of some CCS technologies is also important.

What are the leading initiatives?

The first commercial CCUS project integrated with a natural gas-based DRI for enhanced oil recovery was commissioned in the United Arab Emirates in 2016, with a capacity of 0.8 kiltonnes of CO2 per year (ktCO2/yr). The project is a joint venture of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc), Masdar and Emirates Steel Industries.

The STEPWISE project, involving 9 European partners from along the value chain and with funding from the EU Commissions, is working to capture CO2 from blast furnace gas using a pre-combustion adsorption CO2 removal process called Sorption Enhanced Water Gas Shift (SEWGS). A pilot plant was opened in Sweden in 2017.

Recommended actions

  • Industrial producers should in the next 5 years advance demonstration of large-scale chemical absorption capture technologies (e.g. those utilising amines), pursue large-scale demonstration of adsorption capture technologies (e.g. pressure swing adsorption and vacuum pressure swing) applied to process gases in steel plants, as well as advances in integrating these technologies with cryogenic purification, develop new adsorbents to overcome the energy penalty of flue gas compression for less advanced flue gas applications, and develop collaborative research programmes or networks among companies, equipment suppliers, research institutes and governments to pool technical and financial resources for RD&D on CCUS, including through private-public partnerships; and by 2030 commercially deploy CCUS technologies for multiple process routes.
  • Finance/economy ministries should in the next 5 years mitigate risks of investing in CCUS through investment stimulus mechanisms that leverage private funding for innovative low-carbon technologies and through promoting private-public partnerships.
  • Environment, energy and resource ministries should in the next 5 years harmonise approaches for safe site selection, operations, maintenance, monitoring and verification of permanent CO2 storage; in the next 10 years develop and expand internationally co-ordinated regulatory frameworks for CCUS and collaborate with industry to expand efforts to educate and inform the public and key stakeholders about carbon storage to build social acceptance; and by 2030 co-ordinate identification and demonstration of CO2 transport networks at regional, national and international levels to optimise infrastructure development, and reduce costs by collaborating with industry to investigate links with existing or integrated networks and opportunities for cluster activities in industrial zones.
  • Multilateral development agencies should in the next 10 years promote alternative sources of funding for innovative low-carbon technologies in the iron and steel industry, including export credit agencies and multilateral development banks.
  • NGOs and think tanks should in the next 5 years raise awareness of the longer-term need for CCS to reduce emissions in hard-to-decarbonise industry sectors, including process emissions with limited alternative mitigation options.

Why is this gap important?

The use of hydrogen from renewable electricity in this process technology would enable a 98% reduction in CO2 emissions compared with the reference BF‑CO method.

Technology principles: An alternative to BF‑CO steel production, the DRI route reduces solid iron ore using carbon monoxide and hydrogen.

Technology solutions

Current status: TRL 5, pilot plant design phase.

Key challenges include developing the process to the trial stage, scaling up hydrogen production from renewable electricity and reducing costs.

What are the leading initiatives?

Hybrit, a joint venture project of SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall, is being pursued to demonstrate the technology. A pilot plant is to be operational by 2020 in Luleå, Sweden. Construction costs are estimated at USD 2.5 million (SEK 20 million), half financed by the Swedish Energy Agency and half through private funds from SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall. The Swedish Energy Agency funded the pre-feasibility phase with around USD 7 million (SEK 60 million).

Recommended actions

  • Industrial producers should from 2021 to 2024 undertake successful pilot plant trials; and from 2025 to 2035 demonstrate plant-scale trials.
  • Finance/economy ministries should in the next 5 to 10 years collaborate with industry to help fund pilot trials.
  • Environment, energy and resource ministries should in the next 5 years adopt or increase the stringency of policies that promote renewable electricity generation; and in the next 5 to 10 years support development of hydrogen production infrastructure; set medium- to long-term carbon intensity reduction targets for steel production to encourage development of low-carbon production technologies; and in partnership with industry, work towards large-scale generation of hydrogen from low-carbon sources.

Why is this gap important?

The new smelting reduction process would circumvent the need for iron ore agglomeration and coking, avoiding 20% of the CO2 emissions of the standard BF‑CO route.

The use of pure oxygen (oxy-fuel combustion) makes the new smelting reduction process well suited to CCUS because it generates a high concentration of CO2 off-gas and emissions are delivered in a single stack, as opposed to the multiple emission points of a standard steel mill. Equipping this process with carbon capture would result in 80% less CO2 emissions than standard BF‑CO production.

Part of the coal could eventually be replaced by natural gas and/or biomass, which would further reduce the CO2 footprint of the new smelting reduction process.

Technology principles: Iron smelting normally occurs in a blast furnace with coke used as a feedstock and fuel; the coke is produced from metallurgical coal in a coke oven. The blast furnace also requires the conversion of iron ore fines or lump ore into agglomerates, such as pellets and sinter. Using metallurgical coal and iron ore directly in a smelter can avoid the coke production and iron ore agglomeration steps.

Technology solutions

Current status: TRL 6; a successful pilot trial has been completed.

Key challenges include scaling up the process to the commercial stage and implementing CCS.

What are the leading initiatives?

The HIsarna process was originally developed and tested under the Ultra-Low CO2 Steelmaking (ULCOS) programme (a consortium of nearly 50 European companies and organisations that was launched in 2004 to develop low-carbon steel-producing technologies, with support from the European Commission). A major expansion of the pilot plant is currently being undertaken at Ijmuiden in the Netherlands, by Tata Steel. The project is a EUR 20‑million investment with private funding and financial support from the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme and the Dutch government (Netherlands Enterprise Agency). Testing the integration of carbon capture and partial replacement of coal by other fuels is planned.

Recommended actions

  • Industrial producers should by 2022 first commercial-scale demonstration; in the next 5 years implement by-product recycling. This includes, for example, zinc recovery from steel plant waste oxides; and in the next 5 to 10 years integrate CCS.
  • Finance/economy ministries should in the next 5 years collaborate with industry to help fund commercial-scale demonstration of new smelting reduction process.
  • Environment, energy and resource ministries should in the next 5 to 10 years set medium- to long-term carbon intensity reduction targets for steel production to encourage development of low-carbon production technologies.

Why is this gap important?

Using CO2 from steel works arising gases (WAGs) can reduce the lifecycle emissions of fuel and chemical production, since it makes use of CO2 that would otherwise be emitted to the atmosphere. The net impact depends on what the WAGs are currently used for (e.g. flaring vs power generation), compared with their use as alternative feedstock for ethanol production.

For fuel production, this process would improve the resource efficiency of steelworks through one or more of the following: full process integration of by-products from ethanol plants into steel plants; increased use of low-temperature heat in steel plants for ethanol distillation; and replacement of pulverised coal injection with biomass in the blast furnace, reducing the direct CO2 footprint of steelmaking. Using WAGs could also reduce the lifecycle-assessed CO2 footprints of fuels by using ethanol produced through this method as a blending component.

For chemical production, this technology could facilitate wider penetration of variable renewable power generation by providing demand-load flexibility to the system, and could also reduce the life-cycle assessed CO2 footprint of chemicals produced through this method. However, the net impact would depend on what the WAGs are currently used for (e.g. flaring vs power generation), compared with their use as alternative feedstocks for chemical production.

Technology principles: WAGs are the gases released during steelmaking. They are carbon-rich, so provide a relatively concentrated source of CO2 for carbon capture and use.

Technology solutions

Current status: Ethanol production through fermentation of steel WAGs is currently at TRL 6 (pre-commercial demonstration completed), whereas chemical production from steel WAGs is at TRL 8‑9, so commercial-scale operation is technically possible.

Key challenges for fuel production include improving the efficiency and reducing the energy intensity of the product recovery and purification steps. Process integration must be tailored to each specific steel site to be optimal. For chemical production, catalysts need to be developed that can cope with operating fluctuations without impacting process performance. Improved product selectivity and cost reductions are also needed.

What are the leading initiatives?

  • The steel WAGs-to-ethanol production process has already been validated in industrial environments in China, by LanzaTech BaoSteel New Energy Company in 2012 and Shougang LanzaTech New Energy Technology Company in 2013.
  • In May 2018, the first commercial demonstration plant came online in China, converting steel WAGs to ethanol. The facility, located at the Jingtang Steel Mill in Hebei Province, is a joint venture between LanzaTech and steel producer Shougang Group.
  • Steelanol is a joint venture to use steel WAGs to produce advanced bioethanol for use in the transport sector or for chemical production. In June 2018, construction of a pilot plant began in Belgium. Project collaborators are ArcelorMittal, Primetals Technologies, LanzaTech and E4tech, and funding has been provided by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme.
  • The Carbon2Chem initiative, co‑ordinated by ThyssenKrupp, aims to commercially demonstrate the production of chemicals (e.g. ammonia and methanol) from steel WAGs in Europe using a balancing-load approach, in which chemical production would fluctuate to ease electricity grid loads (and electricity prices). In the low-activity periods of chemical production, steel WAGs would be used to meet the energy requirements of the steel plant, which is the current general practice. An industrial demonstration project in operation in Germany was the first in the world to produce ammonia from steel WAGs in September 2018. The German government is contributing over EUR 60 million to this project.

Recommended actions

  • Industrial producers should by 2025 advance commercial demonstration of process technologies; in the next 5 to 10 years develop LCA studies with adequate methodology and boundary conditions to assess the emissions reductions potential from this technology in different contexts; in the next 10 years for fuel production, tailor this process to produce other fuel products such as acetic acid, acetate, isobutene and others; and by 2025 for chemical production, develop catalysts and technologies for these processes to provide flexibility to the electricity grid for the integration of greater variable renewable power generation.
  • Finance/economy ministries should in the next 5 to 10 years collaborate with industry to help fund commercial demonstration projects.
  • Environment, energy and resource ministries should in the next 5 to 10 years set medium- to long-term carbon intensity reduction targets for steel production to encourage development of low-carbon production technologies.
Aluminium

Innovation in the aluminium subsector is essential to reduce emissions from primary production, given that the Hall-Héroult cells currently used produce process emissions during electrolysis. Although it is important to expand secondary production to reduce emissions, decarbonising primary production is also necessary because scrap availability will put a limit on secondary production.

Inert anodes are a key innovation to reduce primary production process emissions, and otherwise, any innovations that improve energy efficiency can also reduce electricity consumption – and thus indirect electricity emissions.

Several technologies (multipolar cells, novel physical designs for anodes, wetted cathodes, carbothermic reduction of alumina, and kaolinite reduction) offer energy efficiency potential, but many are still in relatively early stages of development.

Other areas for innovation are electrolysis demand-response, which could help with integrating variable renewable energy by providing flexibility services to the grid, and new physical recycling techniques that could increase scrap availability for secondary production.

Why is this gap important?

Using inert anodes would substantially reduce process emissions from primary aluminium production.

Technology principles: Primary aluminium smelting currently relies largely on carbon anodes, which produce CO2 as they degrade. Inert anodes made from alternative materials instead produce pure oxygen and do not degrade.

Technology solutions

Current status: TRL 5. Small-scale tests have been conducted in the past several years.

A key challenge is finding anode materials that are affordable and do not corrode extensively during electrolysis.

What are the leading initiatives?

  • In 2018, Alcoa and Rio Tinto announced a new joint venture, Elysis, to be based in Canada. It aims to scale up and commercialise a propriety low-carbon aluminium production technology based on inert anodes by 2024. The venture has received funding from the Canadian government, the province of Quebec and Apple. Alcoa has been working on inert anodes for several decades and has already pilot-tested inert anodes at a multi-pot scale.
  • Inert anode technology is being tested in a smelter section at RUSAL's Krasnoyarsk plant in Russia.
  • INFINIUM, a startup in the United States, has developed Pure Oxygen Anode Technology. Early-stage testing has applied the technology to aluminium production.

Recommended actions

  • Industrial producers should in the next 5 years scale up the technology to TRL 6 and 7 through large-scale pilot testing and demonstration to find anode materials that are affordable and do not corrode extensively.
  • Finance/economy ministries should in the next 5 years collaborate with industry to help fund large-scale pilot testing of inert anode aluminium production.
  • Environment, energy and resource ministries should in the next 5 to 10 years set medium- to long-term carbon intensity reduction targets for aluminium production to encourage development of low-carbon production technologies.

Why is this gap important?

While conventional Hall-Héroult cells have a single-pole arrangement, multipolar cells could be produced with bipolar electrodes or with multiple anode-cathode pairs in the same cell. They could reduce energy consumption by 40%, owing to lower operating temperatures and higher current densities. Since the cells require inert anodes, process emissions from the use of carbon anodes would also decrease.

Technology principles: The Hall-Héroult method is currently the main commercial process for primary aluminium smelting. It uses electrolysis to separate aluminium from aluminium oxide (alumina) within a cell. The carbon-lined cell acts as a cathode, and an anode is dipped into the electrolyte bath contained within the cell. A current is passed from the anode to the cathode to separate the aluminium.

Technology solutions

Current status: TRL 5. Research and testing are under way in a relatively limited number of initiatives, including small-scale pilot tests. There has been little progress in advancing the technology past the pilot test phase.

Key challenges include improving cell configuration as well as anode, cathode and bath chemistries.

What are the leading initiatives?

  • Recent exploratory research and testing have been conducted by both Northwest Aluminium and Argonne Laboratory.
  • A prototype plant with a multipolar cell was developed by Alcoa in the 1970s, but it shut down due to high costs and various technical challenges.

Recommended actions

  • Industrial producers should by 2030 undertake successful small-scale demonstration to improve cell configuration and anode, cathode, and bath chemistries.
  • Finance/economy ministries should in the next 10 years collaborate with industry to help fund small-scale demonstration of multi-polar cells.
  • Environment, energy and resource ministries should in the next 5 to 10 years set medium- to long-term carbon intensity reduction targets for aluminium production to encourage development of low-carbon production technologies.

Why is this gap important?

The physical design of anodes can be altered to improve the energy efficiency of Hall-Héroult cells. For example, sloped and perforated anodes make electrolysis more efficient by allowing better circulation within the electrolyte bath, while vertical electrode cells save energy by reducing heat loss and improving electrical conductivity. Energy savings can be considerable, with one source estimating that slotted anodes can reduce energy consumption by 2 kWh to 2.5 kWh per kg of aluminium.

Technology principles: The Hall-Héroult method is currently the main commercial process for primary aluminium smelting. It uses electrolysis to separate aluminium from aluminium oxide (alumina) within a cell. The carbon-lined cell acts as a cathode, and an anode is dipped into the electrolyte bath contained within the cell. A current is passed from the anode to the cathode to separate the aluminium.

Technology solutions

Current status: A slotted anode design has been commercialised but not yet widely deployed (TRL 8), while other designs are in the research and testing stages (TRL 4‑6).

Key challenges include reducing costs to enable wider-scale deployment and overcoming physical design limitations.

What are the leading initiatives?

  • A slotted anode design has been commercialised by Aloca, although uptake remains relatively limited.
  • Testing of other designs is being undertaken by Rio Tinto, Alcan and Norsk.

Recommended actions

  • Industrial producers should in the next 5 years continue research and testing to reduce physical limitations and reduce costs; and by 2030 achieve wide-scale commercial deployment of at least one novel anode design.
  • Environment, energy and resource ministries should in the next 5 to 10 years set medium- to long-term energy intensity reduction targets for aluminium production to encourage development of energy-efficient production technologies.
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