Our industry still depends almost entirely on fossil fuels and raw materials. It consumes around thirty percent of all our energy and is also responsible for a third of all CO2 emissions. TNO develops solutions to make industry's energy management more sustainable and to reduce CO2 emissions to zero over the longer term.
In 2020, the world has been hit by COVID-19 and CO2 emissions have been significantly reduced. At the same time, we have started to work, travel and communicate differently. The question is whether the Corona pandemic will have a lasting effect that will reduce CO2 emissions and accelerate the energy transition. Will we travel less and consume less energy after the recovery, and will the energy transition really accelerate so that the goals are in sight? Partners in the World Energy Council in the Netherlands, including PWC, Rabobank, NEC, Shell, EBN, DNV, Vattenfall, Port of Rotterdam Authority, VOPAK and TNO have jointly researched this, and the results are summarized in the report: About black swans and green futures.
We focus on reducing energy consumption by industry, using electricity instead of fossil fuels for production processes, and capturing and useful recycling of CO2. By joining forces as an applied research institute with the process and manufacturing industry as well as the political community, we should be able to succeed in halving industrial CO2 emissions by 2030.
On the way to a sustainable, circular, innovative and robust industry, TNO has defined four routes.
Electrification of production processes
The fossil fuels in industry will soon have to be completely replaced by sustainably generated electricity. Electrification of production processes is unavoidable to make industry CO2-neutral. This requires new technologies, among other things to integrate the highly fluctuating supply of renewable electricity into the industrial process.
Sustainable industrial heat systems
More research and development is needed into industrial heat technologies in order to realize the climate targets set for industry. More than 80% of the industrial energy use is related to the use of heat. The demand for heat in industry covers a wide temperature range from below 100°C up to 1500°C and a wide variety of processes. This demand for heat is almost completely covered by the use of fossil energy carriers (natural gas, oil, coal) with associated CO2-emissions.
TNO develops technologies and processes that lower the (fossil) energy use for heat in industry and reduce the CO2-emissions. This is realized in multiple ways. The use of CO2-neutral fuels (biomass, hydrogen, renewable electricity, metal fuels) is being investigated to produce high-temperature heat.
In addition, TNO develops technology to increase the intrinsic efficiency of industrial processes and for the reuse and upgrading of industrial waste heat by means of heat pump and heat storage technology.
Capture, reuse and storage of CO2
As long as energy-intensive sectors such as steel, refining and chemicals are still dependent on fossil fuels and raw materials, it is important to capture and reuse the CO2 that is released. What is not usable can be stored safely, for example in depleted natural gas fields in the North Sea. In the long term, we may even need negative CO2 emissions, something that can be obtained by, for example, storing the CO2 that is released in the use of biomass.
Efficiency and circularity
Many industrial processes are not being optimised from an environmental perspective. By making industrial processes efficient and circular, they require less energy and raw materials and release fewer emissions and waste products. TNO is working on conversion and separation technologies for this whereby reaction and separation are combined in a single reactor, making the process much more compact and requiring considerably less energy.