The industrial sector is currently facing numerous challenges. Due to stricter legal regulations and limits, companies are forced to push for emission or exhaust gas reduction of their plants in order to reduce their CO2 footprint.
Decarbonisation is a central concept, which aims at an environmentally friendly production, a circular economy and energy efficiency as well as the reduction of CO2 emissions in process gases.
Wessel-Umwelttechnik is a leading provider of environmentally friendly solutions and technologies that help companies in a wide range of sectors and industries to reduce their emission levels and meet their environmental responsibilities.
Decarbonisation means the reduction of the CO2 footprint with the long-term goal of eliminating greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon dioxide, from economic activities in Germany from 2045 (worldwide from 2050) onwards. The term decarbonisation contains the word "carbon". Carbon is one major culprit of the greenhouse effect. It enters the atmosphere mainly through the burning of fossil fuels. Decarbonisation aims to largely abandon emission-intensive energy sources and increase climate-neutral production.
To achieve decarbonisation, various measures must be taken. These include the use of renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and hydropower, improving energy efficiency in buildings and industrial plants, and promoting electromobility and clean means of transport. The use of low-carbon fuels such as hydrogen and biomass as well as the introduction of appropriate capture technologies in industrial plants and power stations should also contribute to decarbonisation.
Industries are legally obliged to significantly reduce CO2 emissions already by 2030. . The measures also concern the purification of process gases before they are allowed to be discharged into the environment. Here there are various solutions that contribute to decarbonisation and treat exhaust and waste gases in such a way that the clean gas values according to TA Luft (Technical Instructions on Air Quality Control) are achieved.
Wessel-Umwelttechnik, for example, is working on a variety of different technologies that help to reach the target. These include:
• Activated carbon
Biological exhaust air purification using BIOCAT bio scrubbers and biofilters causes the least CO2 and other secondary emissions during operation. Provided that the components of the exhaust gases and vapours are water-soluble and bioavailable, this type of exhaust air and waste gas purification is an excellent way to support companies in the implementation of climate protection targets.
At the latest since the Paris Climate Agreement of 2015, which was adopted in the wake of the Kyoto Protocol, numerous countries and companies have committed themselves to decarbonisation. According to the resolutions, countries are to take short- and long-term sustainability measures within their national capabilities in order to significantly minimise greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. In addition, the industrial sectors of the individual states are to become climate-neutral by 2050 at the latest.
German legislation has also set itself the goal of contributing to global decarbonisation and even having a climate-neutral economy by 2045. Overall, there are many national laws and regulations in Germany that are related to the necessary climate protection, affect diverse sectors and are intended to make it possible to achieve the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. Among them are the following:
Federal Climate Change Act (KSG):: This law was passed in 2019 and aims to make Germany climate neutral by 2045. The law sets binding targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in various sectors and obliges the federal government to meet these targets.
Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG): The EEG is an important law for the promotion of renewable energies in Germany. It stipulates that a certain proportion of electricity must come from renewable sources such as wind, solar and biomass. This is intended to drive the energy transition and support decarbonisation.
Emissions Trading: Since 2005, the EU has had an emissions trading system to limit greenhouse gas emissions in the industrial and the energy sector. Companies have to buy certificates for every tonne of CO2 they emit. This creates an incentive to reduce emissions and drive decarbonisation.
Building Energy Act (GEG): The GEG regulates the energy efficiency of buildings and stipulates that new buildings must be almost climate-neutral from 2021. Existing buildings must also be gradually renovated in terms of energy efficiency in order to contribute to decarbonisation.
National Action Plan on Energy Efficiency (NAPE): The NAPE is a plan of action by the Federal Government to increase energy efficiency in various sectors, including industry, buildings, and transport. It contains concrete targets and measures to decarbonise and reduce energy consumption.
Industry is considered one of the main contributors to excessive CO2 production and therefore plays a crucial role in decarbonisation. In Germany, it is one of the pillars of prosperity. At the same time, it is also responsible for around 24 % of greenhouse gas emissions (as of 2021) in Germany. The driving emitters are the iron and steel, the cement, and the chemical industry.
Energy-intensive sectors such as the steel industry in particular must switch to climate-neutral energy sources in a timely manner in order to achieve the targeted decarbonisation rate. Avoiding process-related emissions is another major challenge.
On the way to greenhouse gas neutrality, the Federal Climate Change Act sets ambitious targets for the German industrial sector. For example, GHG emissions (greenhouse gas emissions, including CO2) are to be reduced to 118 million tonnes by 2030. This corresponds to a reduction of one third compared to the year 2021.
Since the KSG was passed, significant reductions have already been achieved through various efficiency measures. However, the current approaches and funding instruments are not sufficient to meet the climate targets in a sustainable and lasting manner. A fundamental transformation of industrial production processes is necessary.
Overall, the reduction of greenhouse gases, including CO2 as the main pollutant, must take place in three scopes within the framework of decarbonisation:
Scope 1 : Reduction of GHG in one’s own company through fossil fuels as well as exhaust gases.
Scope 2 :Reduction of indirect emissions by the company's energy suppliers.
Scope 3 : Reduction of indirect emissions in upstream and downstream supply chains.
There are many considerations regarding decarbonisation. Technologies are being developed and researched that can efficiently remove enough CO2 from the atmosphere to return it to a healthy level. The extracted carbon dioxide is then to be stored in layers of rock or in the seabed, for example. Other approaches release the CO2 for certain uses. For example, there is the idea of converting the filtered-out climate gas into paraffin fuel, among other things. However, these approaches are still far from practical and currently play no role in decarbonisation.
Another measure would be to avoid the man-made re-emergence of CO2 through an efficient circular economy. However, this requires a lot of work on new technologies and, above all, a rethink in almost all areas of life and industry.
Some solutions are promising or are already being implemented. One of them is CO2 compensation. Here, the focus is less on avoiding or reducing CO2, but rather on compensation by investing in climate projects for each unit of carbon dioxide. These can be, for example, reforestation projects or research projects for future-oriented, climate-protecting technologies.
One way to reduce the carbon footprint is, for example, to substitute fossil fuels and switch to natural gas-free production. Energy recovery can also help to reduce energy consumption and thus emissions. In addition to the environmentally friendly aspects, switching to sustainable technologies leads to cost savings, as lower energy consumption also reduces energy costs.
Industry can improve its energy efficiency by optimising production processes, introducing energy-efficient technologies and equipment, and using waste heat and wastewater from production.
The use of renewable energy sources such as wind, solar or geothermal energy can partially or even fully meet electricity needs while reducing carbon emissions.
Switching to low-carbon fuels such as hydrogen and biomass is another way to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2. Moving away from fossil fuels is already an important step towards industrial decarbonisation.
The focus on the circular economy is promising. This involves using accumulated waste as raw materials and thus improving resource efficiency. This way, a 100 % circular economy would produce little to no new CO2.
In some industry sectors, complete decarbonisation is not yet possible. Nevertheless, there is also a possibility of gradually approaching the goal of climate neutrality by 2045/2050. In addition to the use of green fuels, CO2-reducing exhaust air and exhaust gas technologies are particularly relevant.
There are a variety of funding programmes for industry that support companies in implementing environmentally friendly technologies and solutions.
These programmes exist at the federal level, for example through the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate (BMWK). Funding is provided for projects in the area of energy-intensive industries whose process-related greenhouse gas emissions cannot be avoided or can only be avoided with difficulty according to the current state of technology. With the help of the funding, these should be reduced to a large extent and permanently. Both research and development, testing and demonstration and investment in innovative climate protection technologies are financed through funding. Recipients are in particular the carbon-intensive industries such as steel, chemistry, cement, lime and non-ferrous metals.
There are also regional funding programmes, which are structured differently depending on the federal state. It is worth inquiring at the competent federal state authority or the local Chamber of Commerce and Industry about the possibilities at one's own company location.