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Site-level Resource Efficiency Analysis



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Gonzalez Hernandez, Ana   ORCID logo


To achieve agreed targets for reducing global carbon emissions, industry must become more resource-efficient. To this end, two viable strategies exist: energy efficiency and material efficiency. Despite their inherent interdependence, industry continues to treat these two strategies as isolated pursuits, providing in the process only a partial insight into the potential of resource efficiency. To resolve this disconnect, this thesis attempts to develop and apply tools that help integrate industrial energy and material efficiency analyses. Three areas of research are explored.

The first is concerned with a fundamental component of industrial performance: efficiency benchmarks. No agreed-upon metric exists to measure the efficiency with which the sector trans- forms both energy and materials – that is, how resource-efficient they are. This thesis applies exergy – a well-established method to consolidate energy and materials into a single metric – to a case study of the global steel industry in 2010. Results show that this exergy-based metric provides a suitable proxy to capture the interactions between energy and materials. By comparing energy and material efficiency options on an equal footing, this metric encourages the recovery of material by-products – an intervention excluded from traditional energy efficiency metrics.

To realise resource efficiency opportunities, individual industry firms must be able to identify them at actionable time-frames and scopes. Doing this hinges on understanding resources flows through entire systems, the most detailed knowledge of which resides in control data. No academic study was found to exploit control data to construct an integrated picture of resources that is representative of real operations. In the second research area, control data is extracted to track the resource flows and efficiency of a basic oxygen steel-making plant from TataSteel. This second case study highlights the plant’s material efficiency options during operations. It does so by building close-to-real-time Sankey diagrams of resource flows (measured in units of exergy) for the entire plant and its constituent processes.

Without the support of effective policies the new exergy approach is unlikely to be widely adopted in industry. By collating evidence from interviews and policy documents, the third area explores why the European Union’s industrial energy and emissions policies do not incentivise material efficiency. Results suggest several contributing factors, including: the inadequacy of monitored indicators; an imposed policy lock-in; and the lack of a designated industry lobby and high-level political buy-in. Policy interventions are then proposed to help integrate material efficiency into energy and climate agendas. The European Union’s limited agency stresses the need for Member States and industry to drive the move to a low-carbon industry in the short-term.





Cullen, Jonathan M


resource efficiency, exergy, Sankey diagrams, material efficiency, energy efficiency, steel industry, industry benchmarks, European energy policy, European emissions policy


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge
Emerson Electric sponsored my PhD. Emerson Electric is an American multinational corporation headquartered in Ferguson, Missouri, United States.