"Few would disagree that one of the most urgent societal challenges, we face today is addressing the risks of climate change. How we meet the world's demand for resources and energy necessary for economic growth while mitigating the long-term impact on our environment is key to our sustainable future" (D.W. Woods, Chairman of Exxon).
Developing novel and scalable technologies is critical in achieving the goals of the COP Agreements. To that end, scientist and industrialists should be working to develop breakthrough solutions in energy minimization, emission reductions, resource conservation and management. Natural resource management requires integrative thinking and problem-solving that synthesizes both ecological, economic and social effects. The world must move toward a more sustainable future with special emphasis on resources, clean products and a reduced energy consumption. The development of technologies that facilitate this target for chemical synthesis, minerals processing, heating, power generation and recycling of waste products is crucial. Within these objectives, the reduction of the carbon footprint is essential. The carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases that are generated or abated by our actions.
1. The fast development of technology and pollution standards implies important challenges for environmental engineers, environmental research and development. Although there is no general route to success, there are however a number of pollution prevention and waste reduction schemes that apply. These alternatives and procedures are illustrated in the paper. It is clear that environment-caring companies will be more readily accepted by their human environment. It is also evident that the engineer of the 21st century faces a new and complex environment.
2. The increased consumption by population growth and rising standards of living as well as the expansion of the market economies lead to an increase in production. Natural resources are thereby increasingly depleted and wastes are discharged into the environment. As a result, the environment is strongly influenced and the international organizations are concerned with this global impact. Sustainable development implies efficient allocation of raw materials, maintaining the environmental balance and guaranteeing social equality, opportunity and freedom. All three elements must be in perfect equilibrium. The industry must decisively contribute to these guidelines by using the environmental best available technologies (not entailing excessive costs). Today’s BAT (Best Available Technology) is no longer the BAT of tomorrow. There are unfortunately no industrial processes in which only the target product is manufactured, other materials not desired by the manufacturer are also obtained. These undesired by-products are formed in various ways: through impurities in the raw materials, due to the presence of a reaction medium (organic solvents/water), due to the presence of auxiliaries and/or catalysts, as a result of secondary reactions etc. They constitute the residues of the process and their discharge contributes to the overall environmental impact.
3. Residue reduction can be achieved by process redesign e.g. changing the chemical process by using new synthesis routes, using catalysts with higher selectivity, using bio-catalysis, replacing or eliminating auxiliaries that cause pollution etc. If residues are unavoidably formed, re-use is indicated either by in-house recycling or by external utilization. The concepts of preventing pollution and limiting wastes are gaining increased importance and form the backbone of a novel sustainable approach in environmental engineering: avoid or omit end-of -pipe technology by a reduction at its source. The constraint imposed on processes by their natural, environmental and social environment are clearly defined and include: (i) yield and selectivity, quality control; (ii) waste limitation and management; (iii) flexibility and ease of operation, safety; (iv) low cost; and (v) efficient methods for design and scale up. In order to achieve these objectives, research remains essential.
4. Although the energy consumption and carbon footprint of many industrial processes have been reduced over the past decade, we are now entering the era of a further reduction in the use of fossil resources and CO2 abatement. Renewable energy sources can supply energy and chemicals. Hydrogen can de-carbonize the fossil fuel application or even limit it significantly. Here too, novel techniques are offering a high potential, but future development is essential.
The conference will deal with these various aspects of a sustainable future.
Prof.Dr.Ir. Jan BAEYENS
Chairman of CESEE 2024