The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) “Industrial Decarbonization Roadmap” identifies four key pathways to reduce industrial emissions through innovation in American manufacturing. The roadmap presents an agenda for government, industry, and other stakeholder to work together to accelerate emissions reductions and position the U.S. industrial sector as a global leader in innovation.

DOE is committed to decarbonizing the nation’s industrial sector to create good-paying jobs for American workers, spur economic growth, and create a cleaner, more equitable future for all Americans.

U.S. Primary Energy-Related CO2 Emissions by Economic Sector

Industry represents 30% of U.S. primary energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, or 1360 million metric tonnes of CO2 (2020). The Industrial Decarbonization Roadmap focuses on five of the highest CO2-emitting industries where industrial decarbonization technologies can have the greatest impact across the nation: petroleum refining, chemicals, iron and steel, cement, and food and beverage. These industries represent approximately 51% of energy-related CO2 emissions in the U.S. industrial sector and 15% of U.S. economywide total CO2 emissions.

  • Chemical manufacturing: The U.S. chemical manufacturing industry is incredibly diverse and has seen significant growth over the last decade. To help achieve net-zero-emissions goals, the chemical manufacturing sector can: ​
    • Develop low thermal budget process heating solutions and improve the effectiveness of thermal energy use to increase energy efficiency of whole systems​
    • Expand advanced reactions, catalysts, and reactor systems to improve reaction performance in addition to reducing carbon emissions and improving energy efficiency​
    • Electrify processes and use hydrogen, biomass, or waste as fuel and feedstocks for manufacturing​
    • Improve materials efficiency and increase materials circularity
  • Petroleum refining: Most U.S. refinery CO2 emissions are from five large energy-consuming processes: hydrocracking, atmospheric distillation, catalytic cracking, steam methane reforming, and regenerative catalytic reforming. These processes represent the most cost-effective research, development, and deployment (RD&D) opportunities for refineries to reduce CO2 emissions. To help achieve net-zero-emissions goals, the petroleum refining sector can: ​
    • Improve energy efficiency both in processes and on-site steam and power generation. 
    • Lower the carbon footprint of energy sources and feedstocks by using lower-carbon fossil energy and introducing low-fossil carbon sources such as nuclear heat and electricity, clean electricity, clean hydrogen, or biofuels​.
    • Capture CO2 for either long-term storage or utilization​.
  • Iron and steel: Iron and steel manufacturing is one of the most energy-intensive industries worldwide. The use of coal as a feedstock in production methods, the chemical reduction of iron oxide, and the sheer volume of iron and steel produced has made the industry among the highest in greenhouse gas emissions. To help achieve net-zero-emissions goals, the iron and steel sector can: ​
    • Transition to low-and no-carbon fuels and expand industrial electrification.​
    • Pilot demonstrations for transformative technologies, such as hydrogen-steel production, electrolysis of iron ore, and carbon capture and utilization storage.​
    • Improve materials efficiency and increase materials circularity​.
  • Food and beverage: The food and beverage industry is a critical component of the U.S. economy and one of the largest energy consuming and greenhouse gas emitting industries in the United States. To help achieve net-zero goals, the food and beverage sector can: 
    • Improve energy efficiency by advancing the electrification of process heating, evaporation, and pasteurization processes.
    • Reduce food waste throughout the supply chain through methods identified in life cycle assessments and collaboration between manufacturers.
    • Pursue recycling and material efficiency through alternative packaging and package waste reduction.
  • Cement: In the U.S. cement industry, process-related CO2 emissions from calcination account for about 58% of total CO2 emissions and energy-related CO2 emissions accounted for 42% of total emissions. Cement manufacturing requires high levels of heat, with heat from coal and petroleum coke combustion accounting for about 88% of total energy consumption within the sector. To help achieve net-zero-emissions goals, the cement sector can:
    • Evolve existing processes to reduce waste, including circular economy approaches for concrete construction.
    • Improve materials and energy efficiency with deployment of breakthrough technologies and innovative chemistry solutions.
    • Expand use of carbon capture and utilization storage technologies.
    • Increase use low carbon binding materials and natural supplementary cementitious materials to lower the carbon-intensity of clinker and solid materials used to create cement.

Strategies for Decarbonizing U.S. Industries

An illustration showing strategies for decarbonization, including carbon capture, low carbon fuels, energy efficiency industry and electrification

The Roadmap identifies four key technological pillars to significantly reduce emissions for these five subsectors studied. With the application of alternative approaches, 100% of annual CO2 emissions could be mitigated. The crosscutting decarbonization pillars are energy efficiency; industrial electrification; low-carbon fuels, feedstocks, and energy sources; and carbon capture, utilization, and storage. These pillars are applicable across all industrial subsector and have the capability to deliver near-term and future reductions as the greenhouse gas emissions intensity of the electrical grid decreases, technologies develop, and hard-to-abate sources are addressed. 

  • Energy Efficiency: Energy efficiency is a foundational, crosscutting decarbonization strategy and is the most cost-effective option for greenhouse gas 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 sources
    • Smart manufacturing and advanced data analytics to increase energy productivity in manufacturing processes
  • 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.
  • Low-Carbon Fuels, Feedstocks, and Energy Sources: 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.
  • Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage: Carbon capture, utilization, and storage refers to the multicomponent strategy of capturing generated CO2 from a point source and utilizing the captured CO2 to make value added products or storing it long-term to avoid release. Decarbonization efforts include:
    • Post-combustion chemical absorption of CO2.
    • Development and manufacturing optimization of advanced CO2 capture materials that improve efficiency and lower cost of capture.
    • Development of processes to utilize captured CO2 to manufacture new materials.

Key Recommendations from the Industrial Decarbonization Roadmap

An image showing interconnected gears, each with key recommendations from the industrial carbonization report written inside of them
  • Advance early-stage RD&D: Further applied science necessary for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.   
  • Invest in multiple process strategies: Continue parallel pathways of electrification; efficiency; low-carbon fuels; carbon capture, utilization, and storage; and alternative approaches.   
  • Scale through demonstrations: Demonstrate testbeds to accelerate and de-risk deployment.   
  • Address process heating: Most industrial emissions from fuel combustion for heat.   
  • Integrate solutions: Focus on systems impact of carbon reduction technologies on the supply chain.   
  • Conduct modeling/systems analyses: Expand use of lifecycles and techno-economic analyses.

Industrial Decarbonization and American Jobs

USA Total = 11.4 Million Manufacturing Jobs

Food/Bev 1,732,519; Chemical 760,633; Iron/steel 81,116; Petroleum 62,538; Cement 14,806; Manufacturing 8,700,978

Decarbonizing the industrial sector is critical to labor and equity goals. Workforce development and technical assistance programs, like DOE's Industrial Assessment Centers, will help prepare the existing 11.4 million American manufacturing workers and future workforce for the clean industry transition, improving health outcomes and long-term job prospects.

Decarbonizing the industrial sector is critical to equity goals, specifically the Administration's Justice40 Initiative, which pledges that at least 40% of overall benefits from Federal investments in climate and clean energy be delivered to disadvantaged communities. View DOE's new Energy Justice Dashboard for more info on locations of adverse environmental justice and health outcomes and how they might align with industry.

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