Innovation gaps in industry

Introduction


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.

Alternative cement constituents

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Alternative cement constituents Readiness level:

Ammonia production using electrolytic hydrogen

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Fully integrated electrolytic hydrogen production system Readiness level:

Black liquor gasification

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Low-temperature steam reforming process Readiness level:

High-temperature entrained flow reactor Readiness level:

CCS applied to cement manufacturing

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Chemical absorption-based post-combustion carbon capture applied to cement manufacturing Readiness level:

Oxy-fuel capture applied to cement manufacturing Readiness level:

CCS applied to cement manufacturing

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Chemical absorption-based post-combustion carbon capture applied to cement manufacturing Readiness level:

Oxy-fuel capture applied to cement manufacturing Readiness level:

CCS applied to cement manufacturing

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Chemical absorption-based post-combustion carbon capture applied to cement manufacturing Readiness level:

Oxy-fuel capture applied to cement manufacturing Readiness level:

CCS applied to commercial iron and steel technologies

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General application of CCS to steel mills Readiness level:

Natural gas-based DRI production with CO2 capture for enhanced oil recovery Readiness level:

CCUS applied to the chemical sector

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Capturing CO2 using post-combustion chemical absorption technology in the chemical subsector Readiness level:

CCUS applied to the chemical sector

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Capturing CO2 using post-combustion chemical absorption technology in the chemical subsector Readiness level:

Direct reduction based on hydrogen

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Direct reduction based on hydrogen Readiness level:

Inert anodes for primary aluminium production

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Inert anodes Readiness level:

Methanol production using electrolytic hydrogen and CO2

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Methanol production using electrolytic hydrogen and CO2 Readiness level:

Multipolar cells

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Multipolar cells for aluminium production Readiness level:

Need for lower carbon steel production processes based on fossil fuels

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New smelting production process based on coal Readiness level:

Novel physical designs for anodes

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Slotted anode design Readiness level:

Alternative physical designs Readiness level:

Producing aromatic compounds from methanol

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Producing aromatic compounds from methanol Readiness level:

Using BCSA clinker as an alternative binding material

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Commercial production of belite calcium sulphoaluminate (BCSA) clinker Readiness level:

Using deep eutectic solvents as low-carbon alternatives to traditional pulping

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Deep eutectic solvents as low-carbon alternative to traditional pulping Readiness level:

Using steel works arising gases for chemical and fuel production (CCU)

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Ethanol production through fermentation of steel WAGs Readiness level:

Chemical production from steel WAGs Readiness level:

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.

Innovation gaps

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.

Innovation gaps

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.

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.

Innovation gaps

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.

Innovation gaps

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.

Innovation gaps