Recovering heat, capturing carbon and switching fuels: UK industry awarded funds to engineer out emissions

Article by Adam Duckett

Breedon’s Hope cement works emits over 1m t/y of CO2. It will use the funding to conduct a CCS feasibility study

CHEMICAL companies and food manufacturers are among the latest firms to receive millions in UK government funding to implement engineering projects that will reduce emissions from energy-intensive processes.

The funding comes as part of the government’s Industrial Energy Transformation Fund (IETF), which awarded just over £5m in the latest funding round, bringing total government support under the scheme to £61m since it was launched in 2020. 

According to government figures, energy-intensive industries are responsible for 11% of the UK’s total emissions and 70% of industrial emissions, and a common challenge among the winning bids is how to reduce emissions from industrial heating processes. 

Basell Polyolefins has received £1.1m to cover 35% of the costs of a planned heat integration scheme that will reduce steam consumption at its polypropylene plant near Manchester. It estimates that the project could cut 30% of the natural gas it uses to produce steam, saving 4000 t/y of CO2.

The plant has a propylene recycle system downstream of the main reactor. Liquid propylene is vaporised using low pressure steam to separate solid polymer from propylene vapour. It also uses low pressure steam in the propane rejection column reboiler to vaporise propane. It will integrate the heating by modifying the piping system, and installing a new reboiler and flowmeters. This will allow it to use the sensible and latent heat available in the propylene recycle vapour stream to provide the heat duty of the propane rejection column reboiler.

Likewise, Cargill has been awarded £1m to convert the four-stage falling film steam evaporator it uses during glucose refining at its plant in Manchester to use mechanical vapour recompression instead. This will involve switching from thermal energy to using electric heat pump technology. It will install two fans to recompress and circulate the heat around the evaporator, eliminating the need to continuously add steam throughout the evaporation process.

The total cost of the project is around £3m. A spokesperson from Cargill said: “This project wouldn’t go ahead without the IETF funding as it does not give a good financial return and does not meet the internal project payback threshold required to obtain CAPEX funding from Cargill.”

Kellogg’s has been awarded £19,000 to study the feasibility of recovering waste heat from the process ovens and dryers it uses to cook, dry and toast cereal at its plant in Wrexham. The situation is complicated by the constraints of the existing setup which prevents the dryers from being operated independently from the process and the physical distances between the ovens and the dryers.

Carbon capture and storage technology is set to play a central role in preventing unavoidable industrial process emissions from reaching the atmosphere. Breedon Cement in Derbyshire has been awarded £230,000 for a feasibility study into how it could implement CCS at its cement and lime plants including a technology vendor option appraisal, site utilities integration review, pipeline feasibility engineering, and preliminary capture plant design. Meanwhile, Lhoist has received £92,000 to gauge the feasibility of capturing carbon at its lime plant in Derbyshire and connecting it to the HyNet CCS cluster that plans to store captured emissions under the Irish Sea.

Switching to cleaner fuels is also an option to reduce emissions, and Ingevity has received £2.6m to replace the boilers at its specialty chemicals plant in Warrington with ones that burn natural gas but have the capability of switching to clean-burning hydrogen.

Lord Callanan, the minister for energy efficiency, said to achieve the country’s climate goals “we’ve got to transform our industrial sectors, as some of the industries most critical to our economy are also those with the highest emissions.”

He added that the funding will help save energy, boost competitiveness, and protect jobs.

To date, the IETF has awarded funding to 76 separate projects split across two phases. Previous winners include GSK, Heineken, Mitsubishi Chemical, and Tate & Lyle. The third phase of the scheme is scheduled to open for new applications in early 2024.

Article by Adam Duckett

Editor, The Chemical Engineer

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