Climate neutrality strategies for energy-intensive industries: An Austrian case study

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The industry is responsible for 24% of anthropogenic emissions and a quarter of total energy consumption worldwide. Accelerating the action plan for climate neutrality for the industry, particularly the energy-intensive industrial subsectors, which are responsible for about 70% of the sector's emissions and energy consumption, is crucial to achieving the climate change goals. Iron and steel, pulp and paper, nonmetallic minerals emphasizing cement and nonferrous metals focusing on aluminum are the four energy-intensive industrial subsectors investigated in this study. We evaluate the benefits and obstacles of various mitigation methods for each subsector over two time horizons: short/medium-term emission reductions and long-term emission reductions. Actions that have already been implemented in some industrial sites and do not require extensive infrastructural upgrades are generally considered in the short/medium term. This group covers boosting energy efficiency by retrofitting plants and adopting the best available or best practice technologies in existing process stages, as well as substituting fossil fuels as energy sources with bioenergy, hydrogen, or electricity (low-emission electricity). This strategy can reduce emissions in the shortest possible timeframe; nevertheless, the reduction is insufficient, and additional efforts are required to transition the industry to a low-carbon economy by 2050. These further efforts are viewed as long-term reductions that broadly address mitigation alternatives connected to process emissions, which are an inherent part of the production processes of industrial subsectors across a more extended period. The frontline technologies studied in this category are fossil fuel feedstock change to non-fossil gases such as hydrogen, carbon capture usage and storage, a higher degree of electrification and increased use of secondary raw material. By evaluating the conditions for each subsector, this study also analyses the industrial landscape along the industrial value chain, showing that all of these four technology groups need to be implemented in a sector-specific approach to close the ambitious net-zero emissions gaps. In this essay, Austrian energy-intensive industrial subsectors are assessed as case studies using a comprehensive approach that includes influencing factors such as the subsector's current energy and emissions intensity, energy infrastructure, future national and international policies, and related decarbonization techniques. Transitioning from fossil fuels to emission-free fuels as raw materials (in the iron and steel subsector) and energy sources, as well as circular economy paths, have more potent effects on decarbonizing the Austrian industry. When these strategies are integrated with CO₂ capture solutions for the cement industry and energy efficiency improvements for relevant subsectors, Austrian industrial emissions can be reduced by more than 65% compared to the current level.


Original languageEnglish
Article number100545
Number of pages25
JournalCleaner Engineering and Technology
Issue numberOctober
Early online date12 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022