Heavy industry and global greenhouse gas emissions – What does the future hold? | DW Documentary

Industry is responsible for almost half of the world’s CO2 emissions. And heavy industry represents the lion’s share of those. But heavy industry is under pressure to make the switch to renewables in record time. A mammoth task!

Environmental protection is important to Mohammad Safi. He rides a bike and powers and heats his home with solar energy and a heat pump. The engineer is keen to keep his personal carbon emissions as low as possible – ideally, below the German pro capita average of 11 tons per year. An amount dwarfed by that of Safi’s employer, the steel giant ArcelorMittal.

The German steel industry emits more than 30 million tons of CO2 annually. Together with the iron and cement industries, it’s among the world’s major environmental offenders. But: ArcelorMittal wants to change that. The manufacturer is testing a new production method that doesn’t need blast furnaces. This could cut emissions by two thirds. And if the plant switches from natural gas to eco-friendly hydrogen in future, the footprint could be reduced even more.

EGA’s aluminum production plant in Dubai is also exploring ways to make the transition to green energy. Currently, operations there guzzle as much power as the whole of London. But in future, this electricity will no longer be coming from a gas-fired power plant, but from the world’s largest solar park now under construction in the desert.

When it comes to cement, things are more complicated. CO2 is released at several stages of the production process, including burning fossil fuels to heat kilns and in the mining and transport of raw materials. Researchers at Dresden’s Technical University are developing a solution: concrete reinforced with carbon fibers instead of steel. The carbon fibers are much more robust, meaning less material is required. The technology is being trialed in an initial construction project.

But will all this be enough to ensure that the world’s biggest environmental offenders can turn things around and go green? The reportage explores the challenges and presents glimmers of hope on the path to eco-friendly heavy industry.

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