Towards Industry with Negative Emissions

Hub: Towards Industry with Negative Emissions

Scientific experts, together with industry partners and stakeholders are working together to help the radical transformation of industry needed for society to meet the Paris climate ambitions. The key question is:  how will new technologies and societal choices shape the future of industry?

Hub leader
Professor
Geosciences - Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development - Energy & Resources - Sustainable Energy Supply Systems
How will new technologies and societal choices shape the future of industry?

Impact-oriented research hub

Within Utrecht University’s strategic theme Pathways to Sustainability an interdisciplinary team of researchers has developed the impact-oriented research hub ‘Deep Decarbonisation: Towards Industry with Negative Emissions’. In this hub, a group of researchers from a wide range of academic disciplines  will be working together with an equally broad group from industry, government and civil society. The aim is to generate new concepts to support the radical transformation of industry needed for our society to meet the ambitions of the Paris Agreement.

Negative emissions

The sustainable energy transition is well underway and gathering pace as far as electric renewables and electrification are concerned. However, it is still unclear how the industry sector will deal with carbon for fuel and feedstock, as total CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions must be brought down to zero around mid-century to meet the target set in the Paris Agreement. It might well be necessary for industry to have effectively negative emissions, for example by capturing and storing its emissions, in order to offset unavoidable emissions in other sectors.

Positive visions

Against the backdrop of an evolving landscape of existing and new technical options, society has to create the conditions under which investment decisions needed for the energy transition can be made. This involves creating positive visions on new infrastructure, regulatory frameworks and governance structures that help industry to deal with technical uncertainty and non-technical risk that otherwise holds back investment.

Developing a shared understanding of industrial transformation that actively supports the energy transition

Supporting the energy transition

In the hub, we aim to collaboratively develop a shared understanding of industrial transformation that actively supports the energy transition in industry. The hub develops and explores pathways to sustainability and will engage with industries in the Netherlands.

Key question

The research challenge that this hub takes on is the question how we can achieve the transformation of industry in the decades to come. The key research question is: How can industry transform, and how can companies, government and other stakeholders act on their shared responsibility so that the Netherlands meets the Paris climate agreement?

To answer this overarching question, the hub pursues three research lines that each have their own specific research questions:

1. Biofuels with Negative Emissions (BFNE)

A. What are the current and future prospects for second-generation biofuel and negative emission technologies in the Netherlands? What are the corresponding scientific, technological and economic challenges? How will future technologies improve and maximize the sustainable use of biomass compared to current biofuels production, distribution, and consumption?

B. What are plausible and sustainable future visions for  the introduction, regulation and governance of second-generation biofuels in the Netherlands that may also require biomass in combination with carbon capture and storage for negative emissions (BECCS)?

C. What strategies can be implemented for responsible and sustainable innovation in this domain as part of a broad strategy of biomass use in the Netherlands to achieve the sustainable visions in line with the Dutch commitment to the Paris Agreement?

2. Subsurface Resources for Negative Emissions (SRNE)

A. What are the current and future capabilities of subsurface carbon trapping, energy storage and subsurface catalytic/chemical processing in the Netherlands, what are the corresponding economic, legal, and governance drivers, and how sustainable are current practices?

B. What are plausible and sustainable future visions for such subsurface activities and their corresponding economic, legal, and governance drivers in the Netherlands (in line with the Paris climate agreement)?

C. What strategies can be implemented for responsible and sustainable innovation, i.e., for transformative use of the subsurface for carbon trapping, energy storage and industrial processing to help achieve the Dutch commitment to the Paris Agreement?

3. Industry in Transition (IiT)

A. What is the current state of industry in the Netherlands regarding energy use and greenhouse gas emissions as well as economic, legal, and governance drivers?

B. What are plausible and sustainable visions that set the Dutch industry on a pathway to radically reduced and ultimately negative emissions based on implementation of existing and technologies, including those explored under research lines 1 and 2?

C. What are the corresponding economic, legal, and governance drivers?

D. What are strategies to transition the Dutch industry to achieve the sustainable visions in line with the Dutch commitment to the Paris agreement?

Transdisciplinary approaches

The hub brings together a broad spectrum of disciplinary expertise with system-analytical and transformational knowledge of researchers at Utrecht University and works closely together with stakeholders from industry, government and civil society. Researchers’ academic disciplines span renewable energy systems, physics, chemistry, geology, climate policy, innovation studies, governance, economics and law work together in a transdisciplinary research process with partners.

The hub will explore novel ways to share, validate, and co-create knowledge using transdisciplinary approaches. It intends to look across sectoral and often ‘siloed’ energy technologies within specific industrial settings in the Netherlands. The results will also be relevant for industry transitions globally.

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