Weaning Manufacturers Off Fossil Fuels Requires Lowering Business Risk

Events

Home  /  Events

Upcoming Events

Weaning Manufacturers Off Fossil Fuels Requires Lowering Business Risk

29 April 2022

One of the biggest leaps that manufacturers could take to drastically lower greenhouse gas emissions globally would be the complete decarbonisation of industry by replacing fossil fuels. But without finding low-cost, environmentally friendly substitutes for industrial materials, the traditional production of steel, cement, ammonia, and ethylene will continue pumping out billions of tons of carbon annually; these sectors alone are responsible for at least one third of society’s global greenhouse gas emissions.

A major problem is that industrial manufacturers, whose success depends on reliable, cost-efficient, and large-scale production methods, are too heavily invested in processes that have historically been powered by fossil fuels to quickly switch to new alternatives. It’s a machine that kicked on more than 100 years ago, and which MIT electrochemical engineer Yet-Ming Chiang says we can’t shut off without major disruptions to the world’s massive supply chain of these materials. What’s needed, Chiang says, is a broader, collaborative clean energy effort that takes targeted fundamental research, all the way through to pilot demonstrations that greatly lowers the risk for adoption of new technology by industry.

This would be a new approach to decarbonisation of industrial materials production that relies on largely unexplored but cleaner electrochemical processes. New production methods could be optimised and integrated into the industrial machine to make it run on low-cost, renewable electricity in place of fossil fuels. 

Recognizing this, Chiang, the Kyocera Professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, teamed with research collaborator Bilge Yildiz, the Breene M. Kerr Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering and professor of materials science and engineering. Their plan: creating an innovation hub on campus that would bring together MIT researchers individually investigating decarbonisation of steel, cement, ammonia, and ethylene under one roof, combining research equipment and directly collaborating on new methods to produce these four key materials.

Many researchers across MIT have already signed on to join the effort. Yildiz said, “the team we brought together has the expertise needed to tackle these challenges, including electrochemistry — using electricity to decarbonize these chemical processes — and materials science and engineering, process design and scale-up technoeconomic analysis, and system integration, which is all needed for this to go out from our labs to the field.”

Selected from a field of more than 100 proposals in MIT’s Climate Grand Challenge, their Center for Electrification and Decarbonisation of Industry (CEDI) will be the first such institute worldwide dedicated to testing and scaling the most innovative and promising technologies in sustainable chemicals and materials. CEDI will work to facilitate rapid translation of lab discoveries into affordable, scalable industry solutions, with potential to offset as much as 15 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. The team estimates that some CEDI projects already underway could be commercialized within three years.

To achieve CEDI’s ambitious goals, a physical location is key, staffed with permanent faculty, as well as undergraduates, graduate students, and postdocs. Yildiz says the center’s success will depend on engaging student researchers to carry forward with research addressing the biggest ongoing challenges to decarbonisation of industry.

Yildiz said, “we are training young scientists, students, on the learned urgency of the problem. We empower them with the skills needed, and even if an individual project does not find the implementation in the field right away, at least, we would have trained the next generation that will continue to go after them in the field.”

Chiang’s background in electrochemistry showed him how the efficiency of cement production could benefit from adopting clean electricity sources, and Yildiz’s work on ethylene, the source of plastic and one of industry’s most valued chemicals, has revealed overlooked cost benefits to switching to electrochemical processes with less expensive starting materials. With industry partners, they hope to continue these lines of fundamental research along with Allanore, who is focused on electrifying steel production, and Manthiram, who is developing new processes for ammonia. Olivetti will focus on understanding risks and barriers to implementation. This multilateral approach aims to speed up the timeline to industry adoption of new technologies at the scale needed for global impact.

Chiang said, “one of the points of emphasis in this whole center is going to be applying technoeconomic analysis of what it takes to be successful at a technical and economic level, as early in the process as possible.”

The impact of large-scale industry adoption of clean energy sources in these four key areas that CEDI plans to target first would be profound, as these sectors are currently responsible for 7.5 billion tons of emissions annually. There is the potential for even greater impact on emissions as new knowledge is applied to other industrial products beyond the initial four targets of steel, cement, ammonia, and ethylene. Meanwhile, the center will stand as a hub to attract new industry, government stakeholders, and research partners to collaborate on urgently needed solutions, both newly arising and long overdue.

When Chiang and Yildiz first met to discuss ideas for MIT Climate Grand Challenges, they decided they wanted to build a climate research center that functioned unlike any other to help pivot large industry toward decarbonisation. Beyond considering how new solutions will impact industry’s bottom line, CEDI will also investigate unique synergies that could arise from the electrification of industry, like processes that would create new byproducts that could be the feedstock to other industry processes, reducing waste and increasing efficiencies in the larger system. And because industry is so good at scaling, those added benefits would be widespread, finally replacing century-old technologies with critical updates designed to improve production and markedly reduce industry’s carbon footprint sooner rather than later.

Chiang says, “everything we do, we’re going to try to do with urgency. The fundamental research will be done with urgency, and the transition to commercialization, we’re going to do with urgency.”

Source: Industry Week

The post Weaning Manufacturers Off Fossil Fuels Requires Lowering Business Risk appeared first on Linkline Journal - Ireland.

Print
«May 2022»
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
2526272829

Weaning Manufacturers Off Fossil Fuels Requires Lowering Business Risk

One of the biggest leaps that manufacturers could take to drastically lower greenhouse gas emissions globally would be the complete decarbonisation of industry by replacing fossil fuels. But...
Read more
301
234

Reducing Your Use of Transport Fuel

We can all see how political conflict is affecting energy supply and prices across Europe. By reducing our use of transport fuel, we can save money, lessen the impact of the energy crisis and...
Read more
5678
9

Bechtel Supports Irish Port in Offshore Expansion Plans

Shannon Foynes Port Company (SFPC) has selected Bechtel to update its Vision 2041 masterplan to accommodate offshore and onshore investment for the Irish Port. Bechtel will support SFPC in...
Read more
1011

RD&I in Sustainable Manufacturing

There is a global aim to become more sustainable across the entire spectrum of society, championed by developing a truly circular economy. Achieving this will require significant Research,...
Read more
1213

Public Transport Costs Cut In Half For Students And Young Adults

Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan and the NTA have launched the 50% public transport costs reduction for students and young people. The half-price fares took effect from Monday 9th May. The...
Read more
1415
1617181920

Ocean Economy Fuels European Green Transition

The European Commission has published its annual EU Blue Economy Report showing how the ocean economy is fueling the European green transition. With close to 4.5 million people employed, a...
Read more
2122
23

Walking and Cycling Takes 330,000 Cars Off Dublin’s Roads Every Day

Walking and Cycling takes 330,000 cars off the road every day in the Dublin Metropolitan Area, according to the 2021 Walking and Cycling Index launched by the Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan...
Read more
2425

Irish Business Struggling With Renewed Supply Chain Issues

Irish business is once again having to restructure their supply chain, amid renewed disruption caused by the resurgence of Covid-19 in China, the Ukraine war and soaring fuel costs. Economists...
Read more
26272829
303112345