Techno-economic evaluation of industrial heat pump applications in US pulp and paper, textile, and automotive industries
Industrial process heat decarbonization through electrification could contribute significantly to climate change mitigation efforts. In the US industry, thermal processes accounted for more than two-thirds of the total final energy demand in 2021. Cross-cutting electrification technologies like industrial heat pumps are suitable for the process heat supply to several industrial unit operations in a sustainable way while also improving overall energy efficiency. This study employs a bottom-up approach to investigate the techno-enviro-economic potentials of deploying high-temperature and steam-generating heat pumps in US textile, pulp and paper, and automotive sectors in different timeframes. The results show that the annual technical potential energy and CO2 savings by electrifying heat supply are 310 PJ (or 36% of the projected energy demand) and 28 MtCO2 (or 71% of the projected CO2 emissions) in 2050 respectively, however, these incur additional costs in each sector (ranging between 5 and 18 $/GJ). The required heating capacity of industrial heat pumps is estimated at 15 GW, which translates roughly into a market of over 6000 heat pump units and an investment volume of $7 billion in the studied processes. Although there may be individual cost-effective opportunities for electrifying heat supply in specific industrial sites, the overall costs are estimated to be high in the three industrial sectors due to the large disparity between electricity and natural gas prices and low heat source temperatures. To overcome the identified techno-economic barriers, comprehensive action plans for different stakeholders are also given. This study provides novel insights that should inform policymakers’ and executives’ decisions about the electrification of the current and future US industrial heat supply in relevant industrial sectors.