Industrial symbiosis in emerging Economies

A system approach to study industrial symbiosis in industrial clusters

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Emerging economies produce 70-90% of the world’s steel, cement, and chemicals, which are essential for development. However, performance indicators such as carbon intensity and energy use per GDP reveal that industrial development trends in emerging economies are not sustainable. The ideal of industrial development that sustains and improves environmental and social structures has resulted in several scientific disciplines, one of which is industrial symbiosis (IS). Imitating natural ecosystems, IS aims to benefit from geographic proximity in industrial clusters for waste recovery and exchange between traditionally separate industries. The formation of IS results in a more sustainable production system by improving the material and energy efficiency of the whole cluster.

Here, there is a need for a systematic approach that acknowledges the socio-technical complexity of clusters for IS implementation. This Ph.D. dissertation aimed to understand how industrial symbiosis (IS) shapes within the complex socio-technical structure of industrial clusters to improve their environmental and economic performance in the long term. The first requirement for IS emergence is the existence of technical and collaborative potential due to geographic proximity. Moreover, external factors also influence actors' behaviors in the cluster and, consequently, IS formation. Rules and regulations, on the one hand, and economic conditions, on the other hand, steer actors' decisions toward IS implementation. This research combines engineering, social science, and economic assessment methods to study IS emergence as a part of a (larger) system.

To this end, a stepwise approach was taken, starting with assessing the technical potential for IS in an emerging industrial cluster (Chapter 2). We then studied the structure of previous collaborations in the cluster by analyzing regional and national institutions governing actors' behavior (Chapter 3). After assessing IS emergence's technical, collaborative, and institutional aspects, these aspects were incorporated with financial requirements in a MILP optimization model to study system behavior as a whole (Chapter 4). We investigated the formation of IS collaboration under different external conditions and evaluated the contribution of formed IS collaborations to cluster performance improvement. The research further examined the interplay between IS and carbon capture and storage toward a more sustainable cluster development (Chapter 5).

To examine the feasibility and functionality of the proposed methods, we used the “Persian Gulf mines and metals special economic zone” (PGSEZ), an iron and steel-based cluster in Iran, as a real case study. The steel industry is critical for economic modernization and one of the most energy-intensive and polluting industries. 23% of final energy demand and 28% of direct CO2 emissions in the industrial sector belong to iron and steel production. This dissertation extends our understanding of the formation of IS as an integrated component of industrial clusters through several conceptual and methodological contribution, while the case study contributes to filling the gap in regional IS studies in developing oil-rich countries, where governing institutional and economic conditions are different from developed economies.