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The Role of Industrial Energy Efficiency and Fuel Switching as Pathways to Net-Zero Emissions in the Canadian Pulp and Paper Sector
- Author / Creator
- Owttrim, Christophe George
Industrial decarbonization is a critical challenge along the pathway to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at a sufficient scale and pace to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. The intrinsic energy- and emissions-intensive nature of heavy industry has led to the recognition that efforts to change the profile of industrial energy use could play a major role in meeting this challenge. This concept, defined broadly as industrial energy efficiency, encompasses a category of technology solutions such as process improvements, equipment upgrades, and fuel switching within sector boundaries. These and other efficiency technologies are notable for their potential to lower industrial emissions while improving (rather than reducing) competitiveness. Robust analysis of the costs and benefits of efficiency as a comprehensive technology suite can help to overcome known barriers to adoption including poor awareness of efficiency opportunities and perceptions of high risk for efficiency investments. Understanding the impacts of efficiency can also be beneficial to policymakers by identifying effective emissions reduction pathways. The overall objective of this thesis is to develop a novel method for fully characterizing the techno-economic potential of industrial energy efficiency and in-sector fuel switching as solutions for energy savings and emissions reductions. This thesis demonstrates application of the method to the case study of the Canadian pulp and paper sector.
To achieve the objective of this thesis, a technology-explicit energy and GHG emissions modelling and analysis framework was developed based on best practices for studies of energy efficiency and resource potential. The framework integrates a bottom-up sector energy model with a comprehensive database of energy efficiency technologies validated against data from actual projects in industry. Analysis of efficiency measures was linked to the sector energy model at the point of end-use secondary energy consumption, enabling more realistic representation of how efficiency technologies can impact final energy use. Technology-explicit applicability factors and iterative, cumulative analysis techniques were used to capture the expected impacts of measure overlap, interference, and diminishing returns so as to not overestimate the effects of all measures acting in parallel. Energy savings bandwidths and cost of saved energy curves were developed to characterize the energy savings potential associated with efficiency. Energy-driven GHG emissions abatement scenarios were then developed and analyzed within a Canada-wide energy and emissions model over a long-term planning horizon at both the sector and system level. Marginal GHG abatement cost curves were produced to provide insights into the most impactful and cost-effective technologies over the study period.
The key findings of this work demonstrate that natural gas, biomass, and net electricity consumption in the Canadian pulp and paper sector could be reduced by 95%, 1%, and 41%, respectively, via adoption of economically viable efficiency technologies at current energy prices. Achieving this potential would significantly improve sector competitiveness by bringing it into alignment with international energy intensity benchmarks and by dramatically reducing energy costs. At current production levels, efficiency in the pulp and paper sector could reduce net demand for natural gas and electricity by 71 PJ/year and 44 PJ/year, respectively. Energy efficiency was also found to have significant potential as a tool for reducing GHG emissions. The annual GHG emissions abatement associated with economical efficiency measures was estimated to be
3.6 MtCO2e (46%) by 2030 and 4.9 MtCO2e (66%) by 2050 relative to business as usual. Accounting for the technical potential of all measures increases the abatement potential to
6.2 MtCO2e in 2050. Over the study period, energy efficiency was found to reduce cumulative sector GHG emissions by 107.6 MtCO2e (42%) through 2050 at a weighted average abatement cost of -$162/tCO2e. When considering system-level effects, the cumulative abatement rises by 44% to 155.6 MtCO2e through 2050.
The results presented in this thesis provide a clear indication to industry and policymakers that energy efficiency could be the single most important technology solution to achieve emissions reduction targets at low or negative cost while enhancing pulp and paper sector competitiveness. The novel framework developed in this thesis can be adapted to any other jurisdiction or sector to produce similar insights. Further work is needed to determine how best to achieve the potential associated with industrial energy efficiency so that it can take a leading role in the transition to a prosperous low-carbon economy.
- Graduation date
- Spring 2022
- Type of Item
- Master of Science
- This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.