One of the main fronts currently being addressed by the Paris Summit on Climate Change (COP21) is the need to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to the atmosphere to prevent the progressive warming of the Earth. The CO2, CH4, N2O and fluorinated gases are among the causative agents of this problem, so that technological innovation in this area is focusing, among other fields, its reduction and even elimination in various industrial processes.
But, in what way can this challenge be met in the industry without losing competitiveness and respecting the environment? From INERCO we propose five major fronts of action:
1. Improving energy efficiency: The energy consumption that is carried out in each installation is usually one of the main sources of GHG emissions, so when dealing with a process of emission reduction the first analyzable aspect is usually the demand for energy, and, more specifically, the consumption of fossil fuels.
In fact, the improvement of energy efficiency within the battery limits of the industry is essential, so that the energy audit of the facilities and / or the implementation of an energy efficiency management system are the main tools to identify potential actions to improve and quantify the progress made.
2. Use of renewable energies: There is great potential to reduce GHG emissions by replacing conventional energies with renewable energies. The possibilities of using different types of renewable energy are very diverse, depending on the energy requirements of the installation (electrical or thermal energy) and the conditions of the environment in which the activity is implemented.
Some of the most promising types of renewable energy in the industrial sector would be:
Biomass: Traditional thermal uses with a large presence in certain sectors such as agri-food can be increased with new types of biomass associated with technological improvements in the collection and pre-treatment of biomass, as well as in the use of innovative technologies, such as Biomass Gasification or biomethanization, both technologies that allow the exploitation of vegetable remains of lesser value and difficult to manage.
Electric: In addition to increasing the contribution of renewable energies to the electricity generation system, another alternative is to cover part of the electricity demand through renewable self-generation, such as solar photovoltaic or through wind turbines.
Biofuel: The production of fuels from waste streams with high organic content, such as certain waste or by-products of the food industry, can contribute not only to reduce emissions in the transport sector, but can also reduce the footprint of carbon associated with the management of these flows.
Geothermal: Although this renewable energy source currently has a low implementation associated with heat pumps linked to geothermal at shallow depth, there is great potential for deep geothermal sources, which are currently under development in Europe, with community projects such as the ThermoDrill (Horizon 2020).
The measurement of the carbon footprint of a product creates real benefits for organizations. The carbon footprint identifies the sources of GHG emissions from a product. This therefore allows us to define better objectives, more effective emission reduction policies and better targeted cost savings initiatives, all resulting from a better knowledge of the critical points for the reduction of emissions, which may or may not be responsibility direct from the organization.
5. CO2 capture: A final technology that can be implemented in intensive facilities, such as power plants. This solution – in the research and development phase – captures the CO2 resulting from the combustion process, compresses it and transports it via ‘pipelines’ until it is stored underground. Another field of research focuses on expanding the possibilities of using captured CO2, which is currently limited to its use in certain industries, such as brewing, and applications, such as fire extinguishers.