Carbon emissions in heavy industry and transport could be could to zero by 2060, study says

Energize Weekly, November 28, 2018

Heavy industry carbon emissions—less of a focus and harder to curb than the power sector’s—could be reduced to zero by 2060 at cost of just a fraction of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP), according to a new study by the nonprofit Energy Transitions Commission.

The challenge in reducing industrial and transportation carbon emissions is that they come from a variety of sources and processes, each of which to be addressed individually, according to the report, a six-month collaboration among 200 industry experts.

The study focused on industrial sectors, such as steel, cement and plastics, and transport, including heavy road transport, shipping and aviation.

These activities account for 30 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. A share that will grow as other sectors, such as power and commercial buildings, cut their emissions.

Cutting emissions in the “harder-to-abate sectors,” the study said is “technically feasible with technologies that already exist, although several still need to reach commercial readiness.”

The total cost of the initiative would be less than 0.5 percent of global GDP by mid-century. The study calculated that  using “green steel” would add about $180 to the cost of a car, “green shipping” increased the cost of an imported pair of blue jeans less than 1 percent and low-carbon plastics adds one cent to the price of a bottle of soda.

Costs could be reduced further by enhanced energy efficiency and recycling of carbon-intensive materials.

For example, the report estimates that primary plastics production could be reduced 56 percent compared to business as usual through the use of extensive mechanical and chemical recycling and reduced use of plastics in key value chains.

Similarly, primary steel production could be cut 37 percent versus a business-as-usual scenario by cutting emissions across the vale chain, reduced downgrading in the recycling process, and greater reuse of steel-based products.

An even big shift would come if hydrogen-fueled blast furnaces were substituted for those using coal and natural gas. “Hydrogen is highly likely to play a major, cost effective role in the decarbonization of several of the harder-to-abate sectors, and may also be important in residential heat and flexibility provision in the power system,” the report said.

Primary aluminum production could be cut by 40 percent using the same mix of approaches applied in steel.

In the transport sector there are opportunities of increasing energy efficiency by 30 to 40 percent based on existing technology. Electric trucks are likely to become cost competitive with diesel and gasoline vehicles by 2020.

Shipping and aviation present bigger challenges but electric engines coupled with battery storage could play a role in short-distance transport. Bio jet fuel or a synthetic fuel could cut emissions for long-haul aviation.

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