Industrial decarbonization: the path to a cleaner future

Industrial decarbonization

Industrial decarbonization is crucial in the fight against climate change and boron plays a vital role in reducing emissions from power plants.

NEW YORK, USA, Aug. 9, 2022 / — Industrial Decarbonization
As the United States strives to decarbonize its economy and achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050, players across multiple industry sectors must play a critical role. Industrial decarbonization reduces or eliminates GHG emissions from all industry sectors without compromising the sector’s vital contributions to the country’s financial competitiveness and prosperity.

Currently, the industrial sector is responsible for 30% of national GHG emissions. Decarbonizing this sector is crucial to achieving our climate goals and ensuring the health of our planet in the future.

Sources and pollutants of industrial emissions
Industrial emissions come from a variety of sources, ranging from smokestacks and tailpipes to landfills and farms. The main pollutants emitted by industry are particulates, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and heavy metals.

Particulate matter is a combination of solid particles and liquid droplets suspended in the atmosphere. It can be emitted directly to the atmosphere from construction activities, unpaved roads, mining operations, and coal-fired power plants. Industrial processes that involve grinding, crushing or transporting materials can also generate large amounts of particulates.

Sulfur dioxide is a gas produced when materials containing sulfur are burned. It is emitted by coal-fired power plants, oil refineries and smelters.

Nitrogen oxides are a group of gases produced when materials containing nitrogen are burned. They are emitted by cars, trucks, power plants and industrial boilers.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas produced when materials containing carbon are burned. It is emitted by cars and trucks, as well as industrial facilities such as chemical plants and steel mills.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are a group of chemicals that evaporate rapidly at room temperature. They are emitted from a variety of sources, including the use of solvents in the manufacturing process, paint stripping and dry cleaning.

Heavy metals are metallic elements that can cause health problems if inhaled or ingested. They are emitted from a variety of industrial sources, including metal smelters, coal-fired power plants and hazardous waste sites.

Impact on human health
Particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and heavy metals are all types of industrial emissions that can negatively impact human health. Inhalation of particles can cause respiratory problems, while exposure to sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides can irritate the lungs and respiratory tract.

Exposure to carbon monoxide can lead to headaches and dizziness, while VOCs can cause various health issues, including cancer.

Exposure to heavy metals can damage the nervous system and kidneys. It is important to limit exposure to these pollutants by avoiding areas with high levels of industrial emissions and by wearing appropriate protective equipment when working in industries that emit these pollutants.

Industries that need decarbonization
The five most energy intensive industries are:

Chemical production – Responsible for 20% of industrial CO2 emissions and 24% of industrial energy consumption.
Petroleum Refining – Responsible for 17% of industrial CO2 emissions and 15% of industrial energy consumption.
Iron and steel manufacturing – Responsible for 7% of industrial CO2 emissions and 5% of industrial energy consumption.
Food and beverage manufacturing – Responsible for 6% of industrial CO2 emissions and 5% of industrial energy consumption.
Cement production – Responsible for 2% of industrial CO2 emissions and 1% of industrial energy consumption.
The role of boron in industrial decarbonization
Boron can be a major player in decarbonizing these industries by helping to replace more carbon-intensive materials and processes. Boron’s ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve energy efficiency is an essential part of the decarbonization process. For instance,

Boron is used as a catalyst in the chemical industry in the production of plastics and other synthetic materials. It is also used for the manufacture of detergents, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. Additionally, boron compounds are also used as flame retardants, corrosion inhibitors, and water treatment chemicals.

In petroleum refining, boron helps remove impurities from crude oil and improves the efficiency of refining operations.

In iron and steelmaking, boron is added to molten steel to remove oxygen and other impurities and also helps improve the strength and hardness of the final product.

In food and beverage manufacturing, boron is used as a food additive. It is added to foods to improve their flavor or texture or to help preserve them. Boron can also be used to create colors in food products.

In cement production, the role of boron in cement production is twofold. First, boron slows the hydration reaction of cement, which is the process that causes concrete to harden. This allows concrete to be poured and placed at a faster rate, which is important for construction projects that need to be completed quickly. Second, boron makes concrete more resistant to water damage and weathering. This means concrete buildings will last longer and require less maintenance over time.

Techniques to achieve industrial decarbonization
Accelerating industrial decarbonization in the industrial sector is essential for climate change mitigation. Four key strategies can be used to achieve this: energy efficiency, industrial electrification, low carbon fuels, feedstocks and energy sources (LCFFES) and capture, use and storage carbon (CCUS).

Energy efficiency measures reduce the energy needed to produce a given product, thereby improving decarbonization. The methods used through energy efficiency are –

Strategic energy management to improve the overall performance of industrial processes.
Management and optimization of thermal heat from manufacturing process heating, boilers and combined heat and power (CHP) sources
Smart manufacturing and advanced analytics to increase manufacturing energy productivity
Industrial electrification refers to the use of electricity instead of fossil fuels in industrial processes. Here are some examples:

Electrification of process heat by induction, radiant heating or advanced heat pumps
Electrification of high temperature range systems found in iron, steel and cement manufacturing
Use of electrochemical processes instead of thermal processes
Low-carbon fuels and feedstocks emit less carbon dioxide when burned than traditional fossil fuels. These include

Process development for fuel flexibility
The incorporation of hydrogen-based fuels and feedstocks in industrial uses.
The use of biofuels and biological raw materials.
Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage (CCUS) technology captures carbon dioxide emissions from industrial facilities and stores them underground, preventing them from entering the atmosphere. The components of this strategy include:

Post-combustion chemical absorption of CO2
production and construction of advanced CO2 capture materials to improve efficiency and reduce capture costs
Development of processes to use captured CO2 to create new materials
FEAM plans to lead borate mining and processing for industrial decarbonization
New entrants in the boron supply market such as 5E are positioned to provide materials to manage decarbonization with boric acid as a key player in energy transformations. 5E Advanced Materials (NASDAQ: FEAM), also known as American Pacific Borates, is involved in the mining and processing of global borates with longer-term downstream refining adaptability, led by a primary focus on boric acid (H3BO3) – a key source in the downstream refinement of boron into products integrated with high-end NdFeB magnetic elements for use in EV powertrains and other EV implementations, wind power generation and other attractive decarbonizations.

5E’s initial production for Fort Cady, boric acid, is an industry mostly dominated by a duopoly structure guided by Eti Maden, which supplies 60% to 65% of the world’s boric acid from Turkey, and Rio Tinto, which provides an additional 20% – 25% of an aging open pit resource in Southern California.

Brendan McMahon
[email protected]

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