Australia tackles heavy industry carbon
Adelaide report expresses green tech to replace fossil fuels Metal Tech News – April 14, 2021
Last updated 4/20/2021 at 2:58pm
University of Adelaide's Centre for Energy Technology just announced potential pathways to divert the production of heavy industry emissions through the use of green energy methods instead of fossil fuels.
Through the High Temperature Minerals Processing (HiTeMP) Outlook #2 Report, published by Adelaide following the second HiTeMP Forum, a world-leading think tank, international specialists from industry, research, government, and community have charted a path for the heavy industry sectors – particularly the iron-steel, alumina-aluminum and cement-lime industries – to a new, low-net-carbon future.
"We are developing affordable ways to produce materials, such as steel, cement and aluminum, using greener sources of energy," said Gus Nathan, director of the Centre for Energy Technology and deputy director of the Institute for Mineral and Energy Resources at the University of Adelaide. "The production of these materials is energy-intensive and their greenhouse gas emissions are hard to abate. However, new technologies are now emerging to enable them to be manufactured using renewable energy sources rather than fossil fuels. This will significantly reduce their impact on the environment."
The hope is to use green hydrogen, green electricity and solar thermal energy for heat instead of fossil fuels and examples of the use of these technologies are already seeing use from other companies around the world right now.
A prime example would be Rio Tinto's Boron mine in California, which recently announced a collaboration with Heliogen to use solar technology to store carbon-free energy to power the mine's industrial processes.
As one of the largest proponents for low-carbon substitutes whilst being one of the largest mining companies on the planet, it is clear that Rio Tinto is a few steps ahead of the game.
However, this is just for the processing of its borates, the energy needed to manufacture heavy industrial use materials such as steel and aluminum are a different matter.
"The aim is to transition the heavy industrial sector so that it will supply products using green energy, and to add value to our ore exports through emerging markets for green products," said Professor Nathan. "If Australia invests to build the necessary renewable electricity and hydrogen supply chains, we can become key players in the low-carbon transition and the new economy."
Optimally, Australia is in a unique position to best develop green technologies due to its geographical location, though, it has been estimated that 9,100 petajoules of green electricity – 10 times the electricity currently produced in Australia or 60 times the wind and solar power produced – would be needed to convert all of Australia's iron ores into green products from renewable energy.
"Australia has a major advantage of access to sources for both green and blue hydrogen. In addition to solar and wind, it has plentiful natural gas reserves that can be exploited to produce hydrogen at scale using already commercialized processes," the Adelaide professor said. "Transitioning heavy industries as a whole to a decarbonized future, as identified in the HiTeMP Outlook #2 Report will be cheaper than tackling one industry at a time. This is because many technologies and challenges are of a common interest across these seemingly different industries."
With the implementation by Heliogen for Rio Tinto's Boron mine, it is estimated that through the use of solar energy to power the facility's processes, it would decrease the site's carbon footprint by up to 24% alone.
With the forward momentum continuing to build for the transition to a green economy, it can be expected many similar announcements will be made as the decade kicks into high gear with low-carbon technologies and it just goes to show, while the idea of replacing a century's worth of infrastructure and dependence on fossil fuels may not seem pretty, ultimately, we have to knuckle down and get to replacing the old with the new.