Watlow´s Glossary for Comprehensive Industrial Decarbonization Terms

By: Watlow - March 15, 2023  

“Fossil fuels are a dead end,” according to U.N. Chief  António Guterres, requesting an urgent transition to renewable energy. Industrial organizations can push decarbonization forward by shifting process heater systems from fossil fuel-burning to electric. A crucial step towards a carbon-neutral future is grasping the terminology, concepts and renewable energy solutions necessary to achieve it. 

Abatement: Reducing the amount of greenhouse gases (GHGs) emitted into the atmosphere that can happen via fossil fuel alternatives.  

BTU: British Thermal Unit: A British thermal unit (Btu) measures the heat content of energy. One Btu equals the amount of heat it takes to raise one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit, when the water is about 39 degrees Fahrenheit (at its greatest density).

Carbon accounting: A method of tracking how much carbon dioxide is emitted by an organization for the intention of setting a goal to continually reduce their role in GHG emissions. 

Carbon dioxide equivalent (CO₂e):Compares various greenhouse gases on the basis of their global-warming potential (GWP), by converting amounts of other gases to the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide. 

Carbon footprint: The amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses released into the atmosphere because of the consumption of fossil fuels. Switching from gas-fired process heaters to electric ones in an industrial process can reduce carbon footprint.

Carbon negative: Emitting less than zero carbon dioxide and carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) by actively reducing carbon emissions to offset the GHGs already release.

Carbon neutral: Energy efficiency allows for carbon neutrality by offsetting the release of GHG emissions. Moving away from fossil-fueled heaters to electric process heating systems makes carbon neutrality easy. 

Carbon target: This is a goal to reduce emissions by a specific amount. The goal of the Paris Agreement, for instance, is to keep global warming at or below 1.5 degrees Celsius. For this to happen, emissions need to be reduced by 45% by 2030 and net zero achieved by 2050. 

Climate positive: Climate positive means going beyond net-zero carbon emissions. This is possible by capturing and storing GHG emissions.   

Closed loop temperature control: Closed loop temperature control incorporates sensors and ongoing feedback to a system to continually regulate temperature based on present conditions. This feedback loop allows the system to accurately adjust and maintain temperature in real time in response to real-world conditions.

Corporate sustainability: Running a business that creates value by pursuing responsible environmental, social and economic strategies. 

Decarbonization: Decarbonization is the process of reducing the use of carbon emissions and fossil fuels. Watlow®tackles carbon emissions not only through alternative energy investment and increased efficiency, but also through converting key industrial processes (like process heating) to electric (rather than fuel-fired).      

Direct emissions: Direct emissions are produced by burning fuel for power or heat from industrial processes or equipment. Right now, approximately 60% of electricity comes from burningr:The power rating of equipment. This determines the most amount of electrical input allowed to flow through a system, and is particularly important when considering medium voltage equipment for replacing fuel-fired process heaters.

Electric process heater: Electric process heaters function by using electricity to increase the temperature of liquids and gases contained within the system, including heaters that use both direct and indirect heat. They are widely used and considered standard in a variety of commercial industries, such as power generation, oil and gas refinement, petrochemicals, conveyor systems and pipeline development. 

Electrification (in industry): Electrification is the transition to electric heating products for key industrial processes. This transition can look very different from industry to industry, so it is important to work with a leader in electric heating solutions to make the transition smoother and more efficient.

Energy transition: The shift from fossil-based systems of energy production and consumption—including natural gas and coal—to renewable thermal energy sources like solar and wind.

Equipment footprint: The drive to reduce the overall footprint of analytical equipment requires each component to become smaller and more efficient. Thermal heaters are significantly smaller than traditional gas-fueled heaters. This could also allow for room to add other components that improve the overall product.

ESG reporting: Environmental, social and governance reporting explaining how these topics influence a company's strategy and performance.

CONTINUOUS HELICAL FLOW TECHNOLOGY™CONTINUOUS HELICAL FLOW TECHNOLOGY  makes for more even, reliable process heating while reducing maintenance intervals due to residual buildup (coking and fouling) inside the heat exchanger. (move this to the Cs.)

Indirect emissions:These emissions physically occur at the facility where electricity, steam and cooling/heating are generated. But as a user of the energy, the consuming party is still responsible for the GHG emissions that are being created.

Industrial heating: Many industries—food processing plants, for example—still use large fuel-fired heaters. As of now, industrial heating is responsible for roughly 9% of the U.S. emissions footprint. This can be mitigated by switching over to large electric heat exchangers

Medium voltage: Typically is defined as equipment rated within the range of 600-100,000 volts. This includes thermal systems ranging from 4160V up to 69kV. Medium voltage systems reduce the need for large step-down transformers, circuits and cabling, all of which can significantly reduce installation, operation and maintenance costs.

Molten salt [ withrespect to solar power]: Is used as a heat transfer fluid much like that of oil. The difference is that it is much more efficient and can be used to store energy. These can take many forms and commonly Potassium Nitrate. There are other chemistries being looked at and used as well such as Calcium-Potassium-Sodium-Nitrate and others.  

Net zero: Keeping greenhouse gas emissions to as close to zero as possible.

Net zero carbon emissions: Achieving a balance between carbon emissions released into the atmosphere and the amount of carbon removed. 

Net zero GHG emissions: Net-zero emissions can be achieved when any remaining greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) released are neutralized by removing all GHG emissions from the atmosphere. 

Net zero journey: Five steps can be followed by any organization to achieve net zero: Understand and keep track of the carbon footprint, quantify the carbon footprint of the product, reduce carbon emissions through long-term strategies, offset unabated carbon emissions and communicate net-zero strategy to consumers. 

Paris Agreement/Paris aligned: The Paris Agreement’s objective is to strengthen the response to global warming. The Paris Aligned Investment Initiative is a collaborative forum used to enable investors to align their activities to the goals of the Paris Agreement. 

Scope 1/2/3 emissions: Scope 1 refers to the direct emissions an organization is responsible for. Scope 2 covers indirect emissions stemming from the generation of purchased electricity, heating and cooling consumed by the reporting company. Scope 3 includes all other indirect emissions that occur in a company's supply chain.

SME Climate Commitment: An internationally recognized climate commitment to take action, joining businesses with the United Nations in the global Race to Zero campaign.

A pledge Watlow has taken alongside thousands of companies from over 100 countries to accomplish these three major goals: 

  • Cut GHG emissions by half before 2030

  • Achieve net zero emissions before 2050

  • Report progress on an annual basis


Thermal lag: Thermal lag is the rate at which stored heat is released.Besides reducing the use of fossil fuels, electric heaters and heat exchangers have less thermal lag because temperature is controlled through direct application of electricity.

Watt density: Watt density is the wattage output of a heater relative to its size. A heater’s watt density rating is used to determine heat temperature needed for a given application. Watlow has done extensive testing over many years, on both traditional heater designs and on designs with enhanced heat transfer performance features, showing that smaller heater package designs using higher watt densities will routinely cost less and reduce the overall carbon footprint.