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Emissions targets 'out of reach', research finds

The targets for lower emissions of carbon dioxide from Europe’s basic industries are out of reach without the immediate introduction of innovative carbon dioxide mitigation technologies, according to researchers at Chalmers University of Technology.

They came to this conclusion after several years of study into carbon-intensive industry in Europe.

“There is an urgent need to demonstrate and implement carbon capture and storage – or CCS – and other carbon dioxide mitigation technologies”, said Johan Rootzén, who recently presented his doctoral thesis at Chalmers. “While this will involve major investments in primary production, our results suggest that there will only be marginal impacts on costs and prices in the end-use sectors.”

The debate about how to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide often focuses on emissions from generation of electricity and transport.

Mr Rootzén also researched another major source of emissions: energy-intensive heavy industry in Sweden and the EU, such as oil refining, and production of cement and steel.

“There is a lack of strategy from political actors about how emissions from these industries should be reduced, even though they are responsible for a 10th of emissions of carbon dioxide in Europe and nearly 20% in Sweden”, Mr Rootzén said. “At the same time, Sweden and the EU have a target in which emissions should be almost zero by 2050.”

In Chalmers’ division of energy technology, different technologies for mitigation of carbon dioxide emissions, including CCS, have been developed over the years.

Professor Filip Johnsson, who has been leading the research, said it was easy to say that zero emissions should be achieved but that it required that “we take the issues seriously and are given the opportunity to demonstrate new technologies; CCS as well as other mitigation options”.

He said the research suggested that without a shift in technology, refineries, steel and cement industries alone would be the source of up to a quarter of the emissions in 2050.

In his thesis, Mr Rootzén also concluded that a shift in technology to a less carbon-intense production of steel and cement would only have a marginal effect on the final price of a car or a house, despite the large investments required in the production step of the primary materials. This was because the cost of these materials was such a small part of the cost of the final product.

He hoped that he and his colleagues’ research would lead to politicians in both Sweden and Europe taking the decision to pave the way for CCS and other mitigation technologies, which could seriously reduce emissions from energy-intensive industry.

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