Special Section: The Energy Transition: Energy Update | AIChE

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Special Section: The Energy Transition: Energy Update

Special Section

Process Heating: A Key Step in Industrial Electrification

The chemical process industries (CPI) are deeply rooted in fossil-fuel powered operations, especially when it comes to process heating. Today, though, innovations in electrification are on the cusp of transforming the process industries. Just as electric cars are becoming more widespread, electric heat sources are starting to replace fossil fuel combustion in plants and factories.

Process heating — for drying, melting, and cracking processes — accounts for 45% of energy consumption in industry, contributing a significant portion of greenhouse gas emissions from the industrial sector (1). In the critical effort to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, companies of a variety of sizes, from startups to corporate giants, are researching and developing new technologies and solutions that could decarbonize industrial heat.

This transition is in part enabled by dropping prices in renewable electricity, which makes electrification not only an opportunity for businesses to reduce emissions, but also to save costs.

“Roughly a third of overall global energy demand comes from industrial manufacturing and 80–90% of it is currently supplied through fossil fuels,” says Monica Heredia, Shell’s Theme Lead in the Electrification of Demand Technology Program. “Electrifying industrial heat demand is paramount to achieving net-zero emissions in the energy system.”

Steam cracking without emissions...

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