Editorial: The Energy Transition Paves the Way to a Decarbonized Future | AIChE

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Editorial: The Energy Transition Paves the Way to a Decarbonized Future


Emily Petruzzelli

Global temperatures in June 2023 trended higher than average — manifesting as a heat wave in Siberia and receding sea ice around Antarctica. A series of wildfires across Canada had severe impacts for Canada and the Northeastern U.S. So far in 2023, 11.6 million acres of land have burned in Canada, and this year is shaping up to be the country’s worst ever in terms of wildfires. Experts predict that wildfires will become more common and wildfire seasons will continue to lengthen as the effects of climate change become more pronounced. In an effort to limit global temperature increase, governments, companies, and other entities are pushing decarbonization efforts and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The energy transition can be thought of as a global movement to adopt renewable energy to combat climate change. The special section in this issue discusses what it will take to make the energy transition a reality and highlights a few of the challenges that the chemical process industries (CPI) will face in adopting sustainable technologies.

The special section opens with a look at the new process-heating technologies that will be necessary for industrial electrification. Companies like Shell and Dow are leading the charge with an electric cracking furnace that could greatly reduce the CO2 emissions of ethylene production.

Long-duration energy storage (LDES) will play a major role in the energy transition — providing backup power during blackouts, helping to stabilize the electric grid, and mitigating the intermittency of renewable power. Julia Souder of the Long Duration Energy Storage Council reviews how the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) of 2022 is “supercharging” the development and scale-up of LDES technologies in her article on pp. 32–36.

Among other initiatives, the IRA provides funds and tax incentives for projects that have low carbon intensity (CI) scores. However, “with these credits and incentives comes a responsibility to accurately determine CI,” writes Kristine Klavers (EcoEngineers) in her article on pp. 38–42. Klavers reviews CI scores and discusses how companies are monetizing carbon emission reductions.

The final article in the section (pp. 43–46) addresses the technoeconomic challenges involved in commercializing the new technologies that are driving the energy transition. Some companies are making modularization a key component of their project delivery model. Modular plants, built off-site in an assembly-line fashion, provide investors with confidence that plants will be constructed with few cost overruns. “As we seek to commercialize new technologies, our ability to mitigate technoeconomic risks can directly impact whether or not a project gets sanctioned,” writes Tom Schafer, Co-Founder and Vice President of Koch Modular.

Making the energy transition will require a sweeping effort from policy-makers, companies, and consumers. I hope that this special section will give you some insight into the complex nature of our energy landscape and the many ways in which companies are making and meeting decarbonization pledges.

Emily Petruzzelli, Editor-in-Chief


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