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PhD position in Electrification of the Cement Industry

Motivation of the study
After water, cement is the most widely used substance on Earth. If the cement industry were a country, it would be the third largest carbon dioxide emitter in the world, surpassed only by China and the US.
Decarbonizing the cement industry is particularly challenging, as most of CO2 emissions are “process emissions” that derive from the decomposition of CaCO3 into CaO + CO2 and therefore cannot be avoided by switching to renewable energy sources. For this reason, cement industry is considered a hard-to-abate sector.
Reducing CO2 emissions while producing enough cement to meet demand in the coming decades will require multiple strategies such as improving energy efficiency, switching to lower-carbon energy sources, promoting material efficiency (e.g. reducing the clinker-to-cement ratio) and advancing process innovations such as CO2 capture and storage technologies (www.iea.org/reports/cement).

PhD project description
The overall scope of the project is to understand the potential of electrification of cement plants in decarbonizing the cement industry. The project will be based on the following work packages (WP):
WP1: Process simulations and techno-economic analysis of electrified cement plants. The scope of this WP is to compare from a techno-economic perspective different options for the electrification of cement plants (e.g. resistive heating, induction heating, plasma burners, indirect electrification via production and use of H2 and O2 from electrolysis). The technology comparison will include technical assessment on the scalability, on retrofittability of existing plants and on the potential of flexible operations in response to the intermittency of renewable electricity.
WP2: Positioning of electrified cement industry with respect to other industries with high electrification potential. In this WP, the main competitive uses of electricity in energy intensive industries will be identified and the economic performance will be estimated. The result will be the definition of the “willingness to pay” (WTP) (i.e. the maximum electricity price that an industrial process can pay) of the main industrial sectors, that will be compared with the WTP in cement production.
WP3: Scenario analysis. In this WP, scenarios on the electrification of the cement industry and of other industries will be carried out, taking into account the effect of the market competition, that will affect the future electricity prices. The scenario analysis will be based on assumptions on the evolution in the next 30 years of the penetration of renewable electricity, of the demand of electricity by other sectors and of the cost of CO2 emissions induced by regulations.

Project context
This PhD project is part of the “Innovandi program” of the Global Cement and Concrete Association (https://gccassociation.org/innovandi/). This will involve the exposure to the main world cement industries and academic research groups in the sector, with periodic meetings to present the progress of the work.

Expectations and duties
The optimal candidate for this PhD position should hold a MSc in Energy Engineering, Chemical Engineering or Mechanical Engineering with high grades from a prestigious university. The candidate should preferably have experience in process simulation and techno-economic analysis of power generation and/or industrial plants.
In the course of the PhD program, the candidate:
• will develop technical skills thanks to the guidance of experienced professors and of the research staff of the GECoS research group,
• will develop skills in project management and reporting,
• will supervise MSc students that may support specific project activities,
• may be involved in teaching activities as teaching assistant.

Duration and expected starting date
The contract will have a duration of 3 years, starting from November 2021.

Salary
Monthly net income of the PhD scholarship will be 1500 € per month. During the visiting period abroad, the scholarship will be increased by 566 € per month, for up to 6 months. Additional income may derive from the participation in teaching activities.

Working environment
The hosting institute is the Department of Energy of Politecnico di Milano. Politecnico di Milano is the largest Engineering School in Italy. In the 2021 QS ranking, Politecnico di Milano ranked 20th in the world, 7th in Europe and 2nd in the European Union in the Engineering and Technology area (www.topuniversities.com/university-rankings/university-subject-rankings/2021/engineering-technology).
The Group of Energy Conversion Systems “GECoS” (www.gecos.polimi.it) is a leading research group at international level in several areas related to energy conversion, such as renewable power generation, bioenergy and biofuels production, CO2 capture technologies, advanced power cycles, hydrogen, fuel cells and electrochemical systems, micro-grids and multi-energy systems, energy systems optimization. Working in a group active in such a broad research area favors cross-fertilization and gives the opportunity to learn and develop novel ideas with a number of young and experienced colleagues.

Application procedure
To receive additional information on the project and instructions on how to apply to this position, please send your CV and a motivation letter to matteo.romano@polimi.it

For further details, read the full document: PhD position_Electrification_Cement_Industry