UK releases plan on net zero transition

Article by Amanda Doyle

Builds on Government’s ten-point plan for a green industrial revolution

THE UK Government has released its long-awaited Energy White Paper on how the country’s energy system will transition to net zero by 2050.

Published late last year after numerous delays, the paper builds on the Government’s ten-point plan for a green industrial revolution. It covers areas including moving away from fossil fuels, increased use of renewables, support for more electric cars, and greener domestic heating.

Alok Sharma, who was Business and Energy Secretary at the time of the annoucement, said: “Through a major programme of investment and reform, we are determined to both decarbonise our economy in the most cost-effective way, while creating new sunrise industries and revitalising our industrial heartlands that will support new green jobs for generations to come.”

The strategy includes support for 220,000 green jobs over the next decade

The strategy includes support for 220,000 green jobs over the next decade, including in carbon capture and storage (CCS) and hydrogen. The paper also said that it would support North Sea oil and gas workers through the transition away from oil and gas production by ensuring that their expertise can be used in CCS and hydrogen projects.

Deirdre Michie, CEO of Oil and Gas UK, said: “It’s encouraging to see that [the] report also recognises the value of the UK oil and gas industry workforce, especially after such a challenging year. We know that if we are to unlock the challenge of net zero, the talent, expertise and skills found within our workforce will be vital.”

CCS and hydrogen

The paper confirms plans already announced as part of the ten-point plan to support the development of four industrial CCUS clusters by 2030, as well as develop 5 GW of hydrogen production capacity and capture 10m t/y of CO2 by 2030. It also plans to establish the role that bioenergy CCS (BECCS) can play in reducing emissions across the economy with the publication of a new Biomass Strategy in 2022.

Nick Molho, Executive Director at the Aldersgate Group, said: “The Energy White Paper should be commended for looking beyond just energy and recognising the central role of the power sector in supporting the decarbonisation of a wide range of sectors, including heating, transport and heavy industry.”

In January, Progressive Energy and Essar formed a joint venture to develop a £750m hydrogen production hub at the latter’s Stanlow refinery in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire. The project will use Johnson Matthey’s Low Carbon Hydrogen technology to convert natural gas and fuel gases from the refinery into low carbon hydrogen, and bury the carbon dioxide offshore.

Johnson Matthey’s process won the IChemE Energy Award last year. It is capable of reducing carbon emissions compared to a steam methane reforming process by up to 98%.

The hub will initially produce 3 TWh/y of hydrogen from 2025 and then a second facility that will ramp up capacity to 9 TWh/y. The hydrogen will supply the HyNet low carbon cluster to fuel homes, transport and balance intermittent renewables.

The joint venture provides the basis for the pair to take the project through final development and into construction and operation.

The government has since awarded £8m in funding to six regional decarbonisation projects including Tees Valley, South Wales, and the Humber. This is the second phase of funding and is provided for the projects to develop their decarbonisation plans, which are expected to detail how emissions can be reduced and assess options such as using shared clean energy infrastructure.

New nuclear

The Government announced that it is in talks with EDF over the potential Sizewell C nuclear power plant, which would be similar in size and design to the 3.2 GW Hinkley Point C power station. It also announced £385m for nuclear R&D, which includes £215m towards the development of small modular reactors (SMRs) and £170m for the development of advance modular reactors. It also aims to have a commercial-scale nuclear fusion power plant operational by 2040.

Chris Ball, Managing Director, Nuclear & Power, at Atkins, said: “Atkins believes an ‘Energy System Architect’ is essential to apply risk-based systems engineering judgement and create a flexible strategy that allows for decentralisation as well as integration between local and national systems.”

This article is adapted from an earlier online version.

Article by Amanda Doyle

Staff Reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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