UK urged to takes systems approach to help decarbonise dispersed manufacturers

Article by Adam Duckett

WITH dispersed industrial sites producing around half of UK industry emissions, an energy systems think tank has urged the Government to take a whole systems approach and consider what role its selected industrial clusters can play in decarbonising the wider economy.

The UK’s Energy Systems Catapult has published a report called Towards Industrial Decarbonisation: The Strategic Role of Industrial Clusters. It notes the positive steps the UK Government has taken in setting a long-term policy to drive the investment needed to reduce industrial emissions. It also says Government has made the right choice in providing direct funding for industrial clusters, which produce just over half of UK industrial emissions, and welcomes the Government’s support and funding for CCS and hydrogen scale up at the HyNet and East Coast clusters. The clusters were earmarked for funding as part of its Net Zero Strategy, published last year.

What is less clear is how industrial clusters which produce around 37.6m t/y of CO2 can enable decarbonisation of so-called dispersed industrial sites that are located outside of industrial clusters. Together, these dispersed sites produce 33.6m t/y of CO2 and could combine to form ‘mini clusters’, enabling broader decarbonisation across the economy.

To maximise the benefit from industrial clusters, the Catapult recommends that Government establish regular reviews of whole systems modelling scenarios for CCUS and hydrogen supply and demand. This will help inform wider decision-making on investments in CCS and hydrogen infrastructure. It says the Government will also need to consider how it helps industries in dispersed sites access expertise, services, and low carbon infrastructure developed within clusters.

It also recommends implementing the local area energy planning (LAEP) methodology that the Catapult was commissioned to help develop in 2020, by the UK’s energy regulator Ofgem. The Catapult says the suggested systems approach used by the planning methodology will help maximise the benefits from investment in energy supply, waste heat use, and hydrogen production and distribution. It adds that trialling LAEP with industrial clusters will help establish approaches for dispersed sites, and will help ensure planning decisions are optimised for a given region including the reinforcement of energy networks when electrification of industrial energy demand is planned; the types of heating chosen for a wider local area if hydrogen production is planned or waste heat is available; and considering the pipelines and other infrastructure required.

For the UK to decarbonise its wider industrial base beyond its clusters and remain internationally competitive, the report says it is essential that there are policies requiring the measurement of embodied carbon in manufactured goods. It says clusters could work more closely with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to develop and test standards for monitoring, reporting, verifying emissions. They could then work to reduce emissions, gaining a competitive advantage for low carbon products, and help the UK lead the development of standards and shape global ones.

Article by Adam Duckett

Editor, The Chemical Engineer

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