If we don’t reduce our emissions by decarbonizing our economy, the goose is cooked, and none of this matters.

Cécile Girardin

Ecosystems Scientist, University of Oxford
Wired, May 25, 2021
Manufacturing plants are a significant contributor to climate change in the US. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, manufacturing in 2019 accounted for 85% of the industrial sector’s emissions. The primary sources of emissions from manufacturing plants include energy consumption for heating, cooling, and lighting, as well as the use of fossil fuels for industrial processes and transportation. Decarbonization is essential to reduce these emissions to mitigate the impact of climate change.

Many countries have implemented environmental regulations that require manufacturing plants to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Failure to comply can result in fines and other penalties. Through the Security Exchange Commission and other federal administration agencies, the US is implementing similar rules and regulations.

Both consumers and companies have a heightened awareness and interest in the environmental impacts of a product and its manufacturing process. Many companies have made a commitment to reducing their carbon footprint and expect their suppliers to do the same. Consumers are increasingly concerned about the environmental impact of the products they buy. Manufacturing plants that can demonstrate sustainability and decarbonization may have a competitive advantage in the market.
In addition, decarbonization can lead to improved operational efficiency through reducing energy consumption and optimizing processes.

How to decarbonize? There are several impactful strategies that can be implemented.

Energy efficiency improvements. Energy efficiency is a foundational, crosscutting decarbonization strategy and is the most cost-effective option for GHG emission reductions in the near term. Decarbonization efforts include:

  • Strategic energy management approaches to optimize performance of industrial processes at the system-level
  • Systems management and optimization of thermal heat from manufacturing process heating, boiler, and combined heat and power (CHP) sources
  • Smart manufacturing and advanced data analytics to increase energy productivity in manufacturing processes
Conduct a thorough energy audit to identify areas of inefficiency in the manufacturing process. Address these ineffective systems through optimized HVAC, improved insulation, and upgraded lighting.

Industrial Electrification. Leveraging advancements in low-carbon electricity from both grid and onsite renewable generation sources will be critical to decarbonization efforts. Decarbonization efforts include:

  • Electrification of process heat using induction, radiative heating, or advanced heat pumps
  • Electrification of high-temperature range processes such as those found in iron, steel, and cement making
  • Replacing thermally driven processes with electrochemical ones
Replace traditional manufacturing processes with low-carbon technologies and equipment such as electric furnaces, solar hot water, efficient gas boilers, and air source heat pumps.

Low-Carbon Fuels, Feedstocks, and Energy Sources (LCFFES): Substituting low-and no-carbon fuel and feedstocks reduces combustion associated emissions for industrial processes. Decarbonization efforts include:

  • Development of fuel-flexible processes
  • Integration of hydrogen fuels and feedstocks into industrial applications
  • The use of biofuels and bio feedstocks

Other strategies:

  1. Equipment Management. Decrease machinery usage and improve performance of existing machinery. Accelerate the efficiency of equipment maintenance and process optimization using improved data, analytics, and IoT-based sensors to identify production-asset faults and accurately assess operating conditions.
  2. Switch to renewable energy sources. Replace traditional energy sources such as coal and natural gas with renewables such as solar, hydro power and wind.
  3. Implement a regeneration program. Reduce waste and maximize resource use by reusing materials, reducing waste, and designing products that can be easily recycled.
  4. Supply chain optimization. Work with suppliers to reduce the carbon footprint of raw materials, transportation, and packaging.
  5. Employee engagement. Engage employees in sustainability efforts by providing training and education, creating green teams, and rewarding sustainable behavior.


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