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Accelerating electrification

Published by , Senior Editor
Hydrocarbon Engineering,

The goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement are now playing out, with companies and governments making drastic changes to hit its ambitious targets. While investment in clean energy is a huge part of these changes, it must go hand-in-hand with the further electrification of industrial processes. Even in the oil and gas industry itself, there is significant room for electrification and decarbonisation, particularly when it comes to thermal applications (process heating). Innovative technologies have solved many of the challenges that previously hindered implementation of electric process heating, making it an obvious area on which companies should next focus their efforts.

On 26 May 2021, a Dutch court ruled that Royal Dutch Shell had to dramatically reduce its carbon emissions by 45% compared to 2019 levels. What made this a landmark case was that it was the first time that any company has been legally obliged to align its practices and policies with the Paris climate accord. It is widely believed that more will follow.

That legal precedent was not a sign of things to come, so much as a capstone on what is already a reality. The pressure to address climate change has been mounting for decades, and it has not come from one organisation, court case or treaty. Change has been occurring at local, national and international levels, across government, industry, finance and non-profits.1 The challenge that many organisations face is not a cultural one of convincing people that change is needed, but a practical one: how can we realistically hit ambitious climate change targets?

The energy sector has been a part of this change, too. The oil and gas industry (including LNG) has been embracing efforts to reduce carbon emissions in their own processing, moving toward decarbonisation and electrification. Even as producers of traditional fossil fuels, these companies have recognised the need to reduce their own carbon footprints, and so as they continue to process and distribute fossil fuels for the world’s energy consumption, they are limiting their own use of them.

However, just because there is a succinct word or phrase for the process does not mean it is easy to understand, much less design practical processes around. In the experiences of Watlow’s engineers, a conclusion has been drawn that the electrification of thermal processes will play a key role in the decarbonisation of the energy sector.

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