UKCCSRC Spring 2024 Conference – Plenary 1 – Industry Updates: Clusters (ECR Meeting Fund)

Kelvin Awani (Cranfield University), Shervan Babamohammadi (University of Wolverhampton) and Billy Davies (Brunel University London) share their takeaways from “Plenary session 1 – Industry Updates: Clusters” at the UKCCSRC Spring 2024 Conference.

With the announcements last year of the HyNet and East Coast being taken forward as the Track One clusters, we heard from Ben Kek and David Walker to discuss the latest updates from these clusters. In the first plenary session, Ben and David discussed the potential of decarbonising heavy industry through cluster development, emphasising the need for a comprehensive approach that includes existing industries, new technologies and government support. They highlighted the project’s aim to serve multiple clusters and create a large-scale decarbonisation impact.

First up was Ben Kek discussing the East Coast Cluster and how the cluster is propelling the rejuvenation of industrial heartlands in Humber and Teesside. The plan aims to develop 17 projects, generating 25,000 jobs annually by 2050, while slashing industry cluster CO2 emissions by 50%, with the aim of storing 4 MT per annum of CO2 offshore by 2027 (see figure below).

Despite challenges, there is excellent progress being made with the cluster being on track to reach Final Investment Decision (FID) by September 2024. The cluster has benefitted with increased participation from both regulatory bodies and research. A key aim for the cluster is the benefit of 25,000 jobs, to enable this a skilled workforce is required. BP’s funding of a clean energy education hub in Teesside offers promising opportunities for aspiring engineers to develop the skills required to ensure the success of the cluster. Significant progress has been made within the development of this cluster to ensure it is successful, risk identification and mitigation are key to attract investors as the development of low-carbon industry takes off worldwide.

David Walker then discussed the updates within the HyNet cluster. Amidst the complexity of hydrogen systems and direct capture demand, a committed consortium fuelled by regional needs drives progress. The project encompasses a wide array of hydrogen users, emphasizing low-carbon production and innovative storage solutions. From underground pipelines for CO2 transport to meticulous testing of industrial fuel switching, every aspect converges towards a sustainable future. Academia plays a pivotal role in research endeavours, illuminating the path towards environmental and economic imperatives. With a focus on Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage (CCUS), particularly within high energy intensive sectors like cement and lime. As pieces align for the FID, HyNet is forging a path towards a greener tomorrow. David highlighted the importance of hydrogen distribution and storage for decarbonisation, with a focus on regional demand layers and supply chain requirements. He outlined plans for hydrogen production and distribution in north-west England, leveraging existing infrastructure.

The insights shared by Ben and David on the developments within the East Coast and HyNet clusters underscore a pivotal moment in the journey towards decarbonisation and industrial rejuvenation in the UK. These clusters not only symbolise innovation and forward-thinking in tackling climate change but also hold the promise of economic revitalisation through job creation and sustainable industrial practices. The comprehensive strategies discussed, from harnessing new technologies and fostering government support, to developing skilled workforces and ensuring rigorous risk management, are instrumental in propelling these projects towards their ambitious goals. As both clusters navigate the complexities of decarbonising heavy industry, their progress serves as a beacon of hope and a model for sustainable development worldwide. The collaborative effort across various sectors and the emphasis on practical, scalable solutions highlight the transformative potential of cluster development in achieving a greener, more resilient future.