Carbon capture and efficiency gains to lower industry emissions

10 Mar 2022

Decarbonising energy intensive industries will be critical to the success of carbon reduction programmes and net-zero targets. The UAE has pledged to become carbon neutral by 2050, which is expected to require new investments of $164 billion in clean and renewable energy sources.

Experts addressed what some of the region’s largest corporations are doing and planning to reduce their CO2 footprint, during a panel discussion entitled “Decarbonising Industries” on the third day of the Global Energy and Utilities Forum in Dubai.

Turki al-Shehri, Chief Executive Officer for Saudi Arabia at ENGIE, expressed optimism about net zero targets. “If you look at this part of the world, it was heavily reliant on the oil and gas industry, which was subsidised,” he explained. “As a result, you are getting a lot of inefficiencies in the equipment used, and in the way processes were done.”

Today, through subsidy reform the true cost of these oils and gas is emerging along with what Al-Shehri described as several opportunities, whether in renewables, energy efficiency and system optimisation. “The policy is there, the regulations are slowly formulating, companies, industry and investors are also on board, so the entire value chain is all aligned towards this objective,” he added.

Although much work needs to be done, Al-Shehri believes net zero is possible. “In the upcoming 10 to 15 years, we are seeing the opportunities,” he said. “They make economic sense and I believe this objective is achievable, if not then possibly prior to 2050 with the way things are looking.”

Decarbonisation represents a massive opportunity for Morocco, according to Ali Zerouali, Head of Cooperation and International Development at Masen. Such a move is vital for the nation as 70 per cent of its exports are to Europe. “We know Europe is going to apply a carbon tax from 2023 and this carbon tax will touch many sectors, such as aluminium, steel, glass and fertilisers,” he noted. “So it will represent a huge impact for Moroccan exports.”

He highlighted the importance for Morocco to rapidly shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy, not only to gain in terms of energy independence, but to save its exports to Europe. Such an opportunity will prove vital as it will require the country to develop much renewable energy, as well the know-how of valorising this energy and transforming it into a competitive advantage.

Morocco has all that because we developed many projects in renewable energy,” he added. “Now we believe we can use and transform this new challenge that’s carbon tax in Europe, as an opportunity either to export green electricity, and we are already beginning to do that, or green hydrogen.”

For Alexandre Eykerman, Managing Director and Energy Business Director at Wartsila, the private and public sectors have a crucial role to play in this field. “The public sector has implemented regulation and a demand that forces the industry to switch their models, and we’re seeing this in the energy sector,” he noted. “The public sector needs to emphasise their needs to turn around to a cleaner energy sector.”

He said, however, that the process was not as simple as it may sound, with a large mix of different technologies required. Although renewables are being integrated today, the equation to fully integrate them will require different technologies to be able to enable that performance.

“We won’t accept paying more for electricity, so we need to enable that transition,” he added. “The private sector has a role to play, maybe the government will add some tax, but you need a little bit of a push from both.”

Salim Mousallam, Executive Director in Decarbonisation Strategy and Partnerships at GE Gas Power EMEA, said that while renewables will continue to grow at rapid pace, he believes gas will still be present in the energy mix by 2050.

“We talk about hydrogen and Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) because when you have renewables and the impact on the grid, you need stability or reliability,” he said. “When you look at power, 40 percent of carbon emissions come from power so we cannot ignore that.”

He highlighted the numerous solutions now available to reduce carbon emissions from power plants. “We call it pre-combustion and post-combustion,” he added. “The technology is there with hydrogen, but you need sustainability, reliability and affordability.”

Until the right economics to support hydrogen are in place, which could take years, he urged to look at the “pre and post”. Mousallam said carbon capture is a technology that can be used today, as his company is currently participating in the first of its kind project in the UK in the field.

“Policies are going to be important in this regard and what to do with the carbon dioxide,” he added. “The overall picture is if the right policies and incentives to support hydrogen are there, then we have solutions to act with speed today and start decarbonising today rather than wait.”

Chet Biliyok, Technical Director in New Energy Services at Petrofac, spoke of his company’s expertise in how to build energy infrastructure safely. “When we talk about industry, we’re also bringing in steel, cement, and ceramics, so, many that need to be decarbonised,” he explained, adding four or five emission sources in such industries.

These include burning for their heat or their power, the manufacturing or industrial process itself, and focusing on the supply chain in how they are transporting their goods and raw materials. “All this comes into decarbonisation,” he added. “When we try to address these issues, energy efficiency is key, as well as digitalisation, Artificial Intelligence, electrification, renewable energy, and solar PV, but then it’s about how to decarbonise.”

He said people are now looking at waste-to-fuels, rather than using oil, as the technology is present yet needs some development. “Then hydrogen comes into play as well to generate heat and power, and CCS,” he said. “Using all of these tools to decarbonise is something we need to do.”

Sergio Lopez Perez, International Relations Senior Specialist at the Department of Energy – Abu Dhabi, spoke of the emirate, where 55 percent of emissions come from combustion, 10 percent from road transport, 2 percent from manufacturing, 10 percent from iron and steel, and 2 percent from ammonia. Overall, greenhouse gas emissions from the Abu Dhabi industry amount to 30 percent, similar to the global average. “So the challenge is huge,” Perez said. “From a policy making perspective, we identified five main challenges in the industry’s decarbonisation.”

The first is a technological challenge, although the technology is available. He mentioned the cost as a second element because decarbonisation means increasing cost, even though there is potential for it to drop in the future. Perez also spoke of a social challenge because those industries are located in regions with a huge historical legacy, representing the base of the economy.

“The decarbonisation process must take into consideration the economic performance in the region,” he said. “Fourthly, when we talk about energy-intensive industry, the economy of scale is very important so a transition should be from within the sector and that’s not always easy.”

Most importantly, he said industry is a global sector, as trade makes it play in an international field. However, climate change policies are national, which is the reason why decarbonisation has been postponed in all regions.

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