A Manufacturer’s Guide to Understanding the DOE’s Industrial Decarbonization Roadmap and its Goal of Net-Zero Carbon Emissions


To achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, the United States created an industrial roadmap to promote industrial decarbonization. The Department of Energy (DOE) released its Industrial Decarbonization Roadmap in September 2022.

The Decarbonization Roadmap is a comprehensive strategy focusing on the country’s highest carbon dioxide (CO2) emitting industries: cement, chemicals, food and beverage, iron and steel, and petroleum refining. Additionally, the DOE is using $104 million to fund the advancement of industrial decarbonization technologies.

Climbing the Industrial Decarbonization Mountian

The decarbonization of the industrial sector is, perhaps, the most challenging mountain to climb for the DOE. The industrial sector routinely accounts for nearly one-third of the CO2 emissions in the U.S. However, the DEO’s Industrial Decarbonization Roadmap outlines four decisive ways to reduce CO2:

● Energy efficiency
● Industrial electrification
● Low carbon fuels, feedstocks, and energy sources (LCFFES)
● Carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS)

The Decarbonization Roadmap’s Energy Efficiency Plan

Utilizing smart manufacturing and advanced data analytics is the most economically efficient approach for achieving immediate cuts in CO2. This strategy focuses on enhancing energy efficiency within manufacturing operations.

The Decarbonization Roadmap’s Industrial Electrification Plan

Harnessing low-carbon electricity derived from grid-based and onsite renewable generation by adopting electrification methods such as induction or heat pumps for process heat is pivotal in pursuing decarbonization objectives.

The Decarbonization Roadmap’s Low Carbon Fuels, Feedstocks, and Energy Sources Plan

The LCFFES plan aims to replace carbon-intensive fuels and raw materials with low- or carbon-free resources like green hydrogen, biofuels, and bio-based feedstocks.

The Decarbonization Roadmap’s Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage Plan

The CCUS plan for decarbonization encompasses not only the permanent geological storage of carbon but also innovating new techniques to employ captured CO2 in manufacturing materials.

Research, Development, and Demonstration

Moreover, to achieve net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050, the DOE’s Industrial Decarbonization Roadmap includes:

● Advancing early-stage research, development, and demonstration (RD&D)
● Investing in multiple process strategies
● Scaling through demonstrations
● Addressing process heating
● Integrating solutions
● Conducting modeling and systems analyses

Embracing the roadmap’s comprehensive approach can provide industrial manufacturers with a seamless transition as the country awaits a net-zero carbon world.

The Country’s Highest CO2 Emitting Industries

The highest CO2 emitting industries, cement, chemicals, food and beverage, iron and steel, and petroleum refining, are set to experience many changes under the DOE’s Decarbonization Roadmap.

Cement Industry

Within the U.S. cement industry, calcination constitutes a significant portion of total emissions. Energy-related CO2 emissions further contribute to the industry’s carbon footprint. Given the energy-intensive nature of cement manufacturing, driven primarily by coal and petroleum coke combustion, the sector can take steps to achieve net-zero goals.

The evolution of existing processes can minimize waste by implementing circular economy principles for concrete construction. Materials and energy efficiency improvements, facilitated by breakthrough technologies and innovative chemistry solutions, can align the industry with emission reduction objectives. Expanding the use of CCUS technologies and incorporating low-carbon binding materials and natural supplementary cementitious materials can also contribute to lowering the carbon intensity of cement production materials.

Chemical Manufacturing Industry

The U.S. chemical manufacturing industry has exhibited remarkable diversity and substantial growth in the past decade. The industry can adopt several strategies to align with the net-zero objectives, including developing low thermal budget process heating solutions and improved thermal energy utilization for enhanced overall energy efficiency.

Additionally, the industry can expand its application of advanced reactions, catalysts, and reactor systems to bolster reaction performance while reducing CO2 emissions and increasing energy efficiency. Processes can be electrified, with hydrogen, biomass, or waste serving as viable fuel and feedstock options for manufacturing. The elevation of material efficiency and promotion of circularity can lead the way to the sector’s net-zero aspirations.

Food and Beverage Industry

The U.S. food and beverage industry is pivotal to the U.S. economy. Efforts for the industry to achieve the net-zero goal involve advancing energy efficiency through electrifying key processes like blow molding, plastics processing, heating, evaporation, and pasteurization.

Strategies identified in life cycle assessments and collaborative initiatives among manufacturers can lead to a reduction in food waste throughout the supply chain. Pursuing recycling and material efficiency through alternative packaging and waste reduction strategies can contribute to the net-zero agenda.

Iron and Steel Manufacturing Industry

The U.S. iron and steel manufacturing industry is among the most energy-intensive industries worldwide and faces unique challenges in achieving net-zero objectives. However, the industry can transition towards low- and no-carbon fuels while expanding efforts in industrial electrification.

While there are promising opportunities in transformative technologies such as hydrogen-fueled production, iron ore electrolysis, and CCUS, key industrial systems like compressed air, process cooling, and HVAC still consume a large portion of the total energy bill and will have plenty of room to reduce energy. Improving material efficiency and promoting circularity also reinforces the commitment to net-zero aspirations.

Petroleum Refining Industry

In the U.S. petroleum refining industry, CO2 emissions from refineries stem from five energy-intensive processes: atmospheric distillation, catalytic cracking, hydrocracking, regenerative catalytic reforming, and steam methane reforming. These processes offer prime opportunities for cost-effective RD&D endeavors to curb CO2 emissions.

Enhancing energy efficiency across the processes and on-site steam and power generation can help to reach the net-zero goal. Incorporating low- to no-carbon fuels and alternatives like nuclear heat and electricity, clean electricity, clean hydrogen, and biofuels can also further reduce emissions. Furthermore, exploring CCUS for long-term storage or productive utilization can help the industry achieve net-zero CO2 emissions.

Contact APenergy Today

As industrial manufacturers strive toward the 2050 net-zero goal, APenergy can guide companies through the DOE’s Decarbonization Roadmap. With a meticulous understanding of the specific challenges within each of the five carbon-intensive manufacturing industries, cement, chemicals, food and beverage, iron and steel, and petroleum refining, APenergy offers companies solutions that align with their distinctive operational requirements.

Our expert team is ready to assist industrial manufacturers in achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. For more information on how our team can help, contact APenergy, the leading energy efficiency consultant, at 740-862-4112 or apenergy.com.