Process Electrification Makes Manufacturing More Sustainable and Competitive

Automation Alley
December 16, 2022
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Photo by Tim Kabel on Unsplash

Photo by Tim Kabel on Unsplash


Process Electrification can replace manufacturing’s fossil fuels for a more sustainable and more competitive future. The method was also found to increase workplace safety, reduce maintenance costs and increase equipment lifespans.

Paper straws and electric cars abound, the world still lags in its progress on fighting climate change. What's holding us back?

Two words: industrial emissions.

They account for nearly a quarter of emissions in the United States alone, and include some of the worst, hardest-to-abate greenhouse gasses out there. Scientists have long looked to the manufacturing sector as a potential source of meaningful emissions reductions, both through new technologies and better energy use.

The most promising solution seen so far is process electrification—that is, replacing fossil fuels with electricity as the primary source of energy for industrial processes. In this article, we'll discuss process electrification, how it works, the benefits it offers, and why it exceeds the standards set by conventional systems.

What Is Process Electrification?

Process electrification refers to replacing technologies that use fossil fuels — like coal, oil, and natural gas — with those that run on electricity. The ultimate goal is to create systems completely powered by renewable energy and cut the greenhouse gas emissions that would otherwise be produced by the manufacturing process. Process electrification has become a major trend around the world as industries look to clean up their operations and take advantage of environmental incentives.  

What Processes Can Be Electrified?

Manufacturers can leverage electric power in several different ways, bust most notably with process heating and machine drive. Process heating is what powers ovens, furnaces and boilers used in manufacturing operations. Machine drive is the process that powers machines themselves, from conveyor belts to drilling rigs. Electrification is also being used in cooling and air conditioning, compressors, pumps, fans and ventilation systems. In each of these cases, electricity can be used to replace combustion-powered systems and cut down on emissions.

How Can Process Electrification Help Manufacturers Become More Sustainable?

The primary benefit of process electrification is that it can help manufacturers cut down on their carbon footprint. By replacing fossil fuels with electric power, factories can reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and become more sustainable. Their demand for fossil fuels declines, and their use of renewable energy increases. This is not only more affordable in the long-term, but also more conductive to national goals of dropping reliance on oil and gas.

Furthermore, process electrification can help manufacturers keep their operations running more efficiently. Electric motors and machines are often times small, lightweight, and require less maintenance than traditional combustion systems. They're generally more productive at getting jobs done, and therefore use less power. This can equate to an even smaller carbon footprint and lower energy costs overall.

Process electrification can also help manufacturers comply with new climate regulations. In many parts of the world, particularly in Europe, there are increasingly strict regulations on emissions from industrial processes. By switching to electric power, manufacturers can avoid costly fines and stay ahead of the curve in terms of environmental compliance.

Why Choose Process Electrification Over Conventional Systems?

Despite its potential, there are many manufacturers who have yet to jump onboard with process electrification. And in a sense, their hesitation is reasonable. Why go through the trouble of adopting a new approach when you can just stick to what's always worked?  

The answer is simple: process electrification offers more in terms of savings, sustainability, and overall performance. Not only does it cut down on carbon emissions, but it helps keep operational costs low in the long-term. It's also far more reliable and efficient than traditional combustion systems, which can be costly to maintain and usually require frequent repairs.

Process electrification may require an upfront investment, but the long-term benefits far outweigh the costs. Data even shows that 50% of on-site energy systems can be electrified as of today, with the potential to reach 70% in the near future. The clock is ticking and standards are shifting — it's up to manufacturers to decide whether they want to get on board now or wait and risk falling behind.

Are There Any Benefits to Process Electrification Outside of Sustainability?

The benefits of process electrification don't start and end with the environment. The strategy has innumerable benefits beyond sustainability, some of which make switching over worth it alone. Consider these advantages:

Process Electrification Increases Safety in the Workplace

Electric machines don't require the same level of fuel storage and maintenance as combustion systems, which can be dangerous if not handled properly. By opting to go electric, manufacturers significantly decrease their operational risks and create a much more productive environment for their employees.

Reliable Energy

The fossil fuel industry is turbulent to say the least. It is highly sensitive to shifts in the economy, foreign tensions, and consumer demand. On top of all that, oil and gas is run by a select few producers, so prices can be manipulated at any moment. Process electrification eliminates this uncertainty and provides more reliable pricing that holds up in the long-term.

Reduced Maintenance Costs

Electric systems are clean by nature and require much less upkeep than their traditional counterparts. This means that manufacturers can save on expensive repairs and maintenance fees by investing in electric machines, which is especially beneficial for those operating with tight budgets.

Energy Efficiency

In most cases, electrified processes are more energy efficient than those that run on fossil fuels. Electric motors and machines require fewer resources to get the job done, which can equate to significant savings in energy costs over time.

For example, drying methods alone are estimated to make up 10 to 25 percent of industrial energy consumption. Replacing conventional natural gas burner systems with heat pumps could make this share 80% more efficient.

Longer Equipment Lifespans

Electric machines and motors generate less heat than those that run on fossil fuels, so they don't wear down as quickly over time. This means fewer repairs and replacements, which can translate to considerable cost savings in the long run.


Overall, process electrification is the way of the future. By making the switch now, manufacturers can not only comply with new regulations but also save money, increase safety and efficiency, and help the planet. It's a win-win for everyone involved.

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Automation Alley
Automation Alley

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