Decarbonization of the Chemical Industry Through Electrification: Barriers and Opportunities

Dharik Mallapragada, Yury Dvorkin, Miguel Modestino, Daniel Esposito, Wilson Smith, Bri-Mathias Hodge, Michael Harold, Vincent Donnelly, Alice Nuz, Casey Bloomquist, Kyri Baker, Lars Grabow, Yushan Yan, Nav Nidhi Rajput, Ryan Hartman, Elizabeth Biddinger, Eray Aydil, Andre Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus Citations


The chemical industry is a major source of economic productivity and employment globally and among the top 3 industrial sources of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, along with steel and cement. As global demand for chemical products continues to grow, there is an urgency to develop and deploy sustainable chemical production pathways and to reconsider continued investment in current emission-intensive production technologies. This perspective describes the challenges and opportunities to decarbonize the chemical industry via electrification powered by low-carbon electricity supply, both in the near term and long term, and it discusses four technological pathways ranging from the more mature direct substitution of heat with electricity and use of hydrogen to technologically less mature, yet potentially more selective, approaches based on electrochemistry and plasma. Finally, we highlight the key elements of integrating an electrified industrial process with the power sector to leverage process flexibility to reduce energy costs of chemical production and provide valuable power grid support services. Unlocking such plant-to-grid coordination and the four electrification pathways has significant potential to facilitate rapid and deep decarbonization of the chemical industry sector.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)23-41
Number of pages19
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier Inc.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5900-83806


  • decarbonization
  • direct electrification
  • electrification
  • electrochemistry
  • energy systems
  • hydrogen
  • plasma


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