UKCCSRC Spring 2024 Conference – In Conversation with Bryony Livesey (ECR Meeting Fund)

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Mohsen Lotfi (Net Zero Industry Innovation Centre, Teesside University), Hassan Chamas (Brunel University London) and Aylin Kemal (Cranfield University) share their takeaways from the “In Conversation with Bryony Livesey” session at the UKCCSRC Spring 2024 Conference.

Jon Gibbins (UKCCSRC) and Bryony Livesey (IDC, UKRI) engaged in a comprehensive discussion regarding the UK’s Industrial Decarbonisation Challenge (IDC). They explored how it started, the challenges that came through along the way and the achievements. Their discussion highlighted the importance of developing low-carbon technologies and infrastructure. They emphasized that the initiative is not only about environmental sustainability, but also about enhancing industry competitiveness whilst simultaneously reducing emissions.

With the UK’s commitment to global leadership in clean technology and climate change mitigation, discussions revolve around the progression of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies and the creation of low-carbon industrial clusters by 2030. The overarching goal is to reach net-zero emissions by 2040. Emphasis has been placed on the pivotal role of industry collaboration and innovation in facilitating the shift towards cleaner energy infrastructure. These deliberations can be traced back to December 2018, when the UK pledged £170 million to establish low-carbon clusters integrating advanced technologies such as CCS.

Bryony, reflecting on her involvement, described joining the initiative in July 2019, six months after the challenge’s announcement on a temporary basis, tasked with delivering the challenge, and presenting evolving proposals and structural limitations.

She swiftly identified the need to restructure the approach, advocating for parallel cluster development rather than sequential progression. This marked a departure from the initial single project focus and required high levels of planning and stakeholder engagement.

Bryony’s strategic vision extended beyond structural adjustments, to include a holistic approach to project management. She emphasized the need for constantly adapting to industry dynamics by recognizing the evolving technological developments and market demands. Her advocacy for the development of multiple clusters reflected a high-level understanding of scalability and resource optimization, aiming to long-term sustainability.

Furthermore, Bryony’s implementation of a two-stage competition process showcased her strategic ability to foster collaboration and innovation. By aligning project objectives with industry needs, she developed an environment for diverse stakeholders to contribute meaningfully to the challenge’s objectives. This approach not only enhanced project viability but also promoted knowledge sharing and skill development among participants, further enriching the collaborative ecosystem.

Despite initial skepticism, all proposed projects were implemented, demonstrating the flexibility and adaptability of the program. Bryony attributed this success to rigorous evaluation and strategic negotiation, including securing additional funding from the Treasury.

The conversation went deeply into the complexities of various projects within the IDC, highlighting the critical importance placed on infrastructure development, particularly in fields like CCS and hydrogen energy. Bryony’s description of the program’s collaborative values highlighted the significant role of knowledge sharing and skill enhancement within interconnected communities, emphasizing a collective effort towards sustainable solutions.

As the discussion progressed, Bryony expressed a forward-looking perspective, emphasizing the need to recognize successes and smoothly transition ownership of initiatives to industry stakeholders. Jon echoed this sentiment, praising Bryony’s outstanding leadership and dedication, recognizing her crucial contribution to the success of the IDC.

In essence, the conversation outlined a comprehensive review of the UK’s Industrial Decarbonisation Challenge, summarising the obstacles and the accomplishments in the journey. Bryony’s strategic perspective and collaborations were the driving force behind the program’s ability to navigate complexities and yield tangible results, thereby setting a great example for effective industrial decarbonization initiatives on a global scale.

Briggs Ogunedo (Cranfield University) and Lucas Joel (University of Sheffield) share their takeaways from the Closing Keynote at the UKCCSRC Spring 2024 Conference.

The UKCCSRC Spring 2024 Conference concluded on a high note with an enlightening keynote address delivered by Guloren Turan from the Global CCS Institute (GCCSI). Guloren highlighted the remarkable growth trajectory witnessed in the CCS project pipeline over the past six years. Since 2017, there has been an impressive annual growth rate exceeding 35%, resulting in a substantial increase in CO2 capture capacity. Presently, there are 49 million tonnes per annum (MTPa) of CO2 capture capacity in operation, with 41 CCS facilities operational and 26 under construction. Moreover, an additional 325 facilities are in various stages of development, indicating a robust pipeline of CCS projects. These figures, derived from the 2022 Global Status of CCS report, underscore the unprecedented momentum achieved by CCS projects in recent years, showing a 102% year-on-year increase in the number of CCS facilities in the development pipeline.

In terms of CO2 transport and storage, Guloren emphasized the emergence of more complex logistics involving pipelines, ships, railways and combinations thereof. Notably, approximately 78% of CCS facilities under construction or in development are expected to utilize dedicated geological storage solutions. Across Europe, over 100 CCS facilities are currently in development, reflecting the region’s commitment to advancing CCS policies and projects. However, the United States leads the global landscape in both project implementation and policy development.

Japan has also made significant strides in CCS development, with seven candidate projects earmarked for feasibility studies within the country and abroad. Additionally, China achieved a significant milestone with the commencement of operations at its first 1 MTPa CCUS facility in 2022. Furthermore, countries like Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia have reported progress in CCS project initiatives, further bolstering the global momentum towards decarbonization.

In conclusion, the insights shared by Guloren shed light on the remarkable growth and progress witnessed in the field of carbon capture and storage. With increasing global awareness of the urgent need to mitigate climate change, CCS projects play a pivotal role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and transitioning towards a sustainable future. To achieve capture targets in the order of gigatonnes, the widespread adoption of CCS technologies in developing economies, coupled with ongoing policy support from governments, and international collaboration, will be crucial in accelerating the transition to a low-carbon economy and achieving climate targets on a global scale.

Yaoyao Zheng (University of Nottingham), Balkan Mutlu (Teesside University Net Zero Industry Innovation Centre), Ben Rhodes (University of Cambridge) and Xu Yang (University of Birmingham) share their takeaways from “Plenary session 5 – Global Updates” at the UKCCSRC Spring 2024 Conference.

The second day of the UKCCSRC Spring 2024 conference delved into a range of topics, including discussions on the global development of CCS, with perspectives from China, Canada and Japan. This session was chaired by Dr. Abby Samson from the University of Sheffield, who warmly welcomed international presenters and underscored the outlook and significance of CCS development globally.

Speaker One – Prof. Xi Liang

Professor Xi Liang from University College London, also serving as the Secretary General and co-founder of UK-China (Guangdong) CCUS Centre, shared the latest development on the CCUS front in China. Over 100 projects are in operation, under construction or planned by the end of 2024. These will lead to an annual CO2 capture of over 9 million tons (Mt).

The power sector in China predominantly employs post-combustion capture with amine solution, complemented by a variety of other technologies such as membrane systems, pre-combustion capture with IGCC, oxy-fuel combustion, and chemical looping combustion. In the cement and steel industries, notable advancements included Conch Cement’s initiation of China’s first carbon capture plant in 2018, capable of capturing 50,000 tons of CO2 annually. Additionally, Bao Steel Group is constructing a carbon capture project in Inner Mongolia, China, targeting an annual 2 Mt of CO2 capture.

Prof Liang also brought attention to significant progress in carbon storage solutions, with examples including China’s 1st deep saline aquifer, CO2 storage demo project initiated by Shenhua in 2011, China National Offshore Oil Corporation offshore CO2 storage project in 2021 with a targeting annual CO2 storage capacity of 300,000 tons. In addition, Shaanxi Coal and Chemical Industry Group are planning a 4 Mt carbon storage project, making it China’s biggest carbon storage initiative to date.

There has also been CCUS cluster planning in China, nationally and internationally. Professor Liang expressed optimism about commercial prospects between China and the UK, especially markets in carbon capture, transport, usage, storage and industry capacity building within the CCUS sector.

Speaker Two – Mr. Neil Wildgust

Neil Wildgust from Carbon Management Canada (CMC) had a message for everyone that stuck – ‘don’t take storage for granted.’ As the technology, frameworks and integration aim to maintain the course of rapid development to reach climate targets, the unavoidable need for reliable, enormous-scale and risk-free storage cannot be understated. Failed storage equals no CCS.

The great potential and work on CCS in the Canadian states of Alberta and Saskatchewan were well summarised in Neil’s presentation. Currently, there are three operational CCS projects (incl. EOR and coal power PCC) at the Mt yr-1 scale nationally, with 26 projects in Alberta alone in the running for funding and development, with up to 10 aiming for delivery in the coming years. The federal government currently offers tax credit support for CAPEX as well as effective federal carbon pricing aiming to reach CA$170 per ton by 2031. In addition to this, in Alberta, the province offers more flexible tax credits to aim to encourage more industrial engagement.

However, much of the success of CCS projects in Canada  relies heavily on governmental grants. Industrial investment remains somewhat cautious due to potentially volatile political decisions with opposition parties proposing future scrapping of any carbon tax.

This uncertainty for investment must be overcome in order to drive CCS forward in Canada, with government incentives either replaced or guaranteed to ensure the growth of CCS is driven at the required rate. Certainty in technology can be aided through initiatives such as CMC’s Newell County test site, which aims to build a test DAC unit on-site in the near future.

Speaker Three – Prof. Toru Sato

Professor Toru Sato from the University of Tokyo shared pivotal insights into Japan’s CCS initiatives, emphasising the country’s goal for carbon neutrality by 2050, as announced at COP25 in 2019. Following the recent approval of the CCS Business Act in 2024, Japan is setting a rigorous framework for CCS, underlining the importance of long-term well monitoring and maintenance to ensure safety and sustainability.

By 2030, CCS aims to offset 10-20% of Japan’s annual 1 gigatonne CO2 emissions, with industrial consortiums mobilizing around strategic clusters and ports designated for CO2 exportation due to low social public acceptance. This plan includes exporting CO2 to Malaysia and leveraging their depleted oil and gas fields for storage.

Challenges such as high operational costs, the need for continuous government funding, and stringent regulations, including the requirement for mandatory CO2 monitoring in seawater, underscored the complexities of Japan’s CCS journey. The innovative approach of Sato’s research team, which used AI to model CO2 leakage by drawing analogies to natural volcanic activities, offered promising solutions to these challenges.

Ben Petrovic (Brunel University, London), Marcin Pokora (University of Sheffield), Stephen Shearan (Swansea University) and Amin Taghavinejad (University of Glasgow) share their takeaways from “Plenary session 4 – European Updates” at the UKCCSRC Spring 2024 Conference.

Figure 1: Stuart Haszeldine introduces the fourth plenary session at the UKCCSRC’s 2024 Spring Conference at The University of Manchester.

The fourth plenary session marked the start of the second day at the UKCCSRC’s Spring 2024 Conference, which aimed to take an international view of CCS, with this first plenary session looking to explore the view in Europe. The sessions on the previous day gave the current status of a number of the larger UK projects and clusters, such as the East Coast Cluster and HyNet, delivered by Ben Kek and David Walker, respectively. We also saw talks from Nicola O’Dowd (DESNZ), a conversation with Bryony Livesey of the Industrial Decarbonisation Challenge, and a series of more technical research talks.  Overall, this first day provided an in-depth overview of the UK CCS landscape and highlighted the current path to the future of CCS in the UK.

Figure 2: Speakers from the fourth plenary of the UKCCSRC Spring Conference 2024. From left to right: Joop Hazenberg, CCSA (Brussels); Brigitte Jacobs, CATO; David Phillips, Aker Carbon Capture.

Kicking off the first session of the day was Joop Hazenberg, EU Director of the Carbon Capture and Storage Association (CCSA). One of the major takeaways from Joop’s talk was the imminent introduction of the Net-Zero Industry Act, which is due to be enacted in June 2024 and will apply to all EU member states immediately, with no need of transposition of the act into law. The act stems from the Green Deal Industrial Plan and is intended to be a mechanism for the scale-up green technology manufacture within the EU, pushing the transition to extremely low, zero, or negative greenhouse gas emissions. Joop also provided an overview of some of the projections for CCS and CCU up to 2050 (Figure 3 below). From the projections shown, CCS and CCU projects are expected to be capturing 50 Mt/y of CO2 by 2030, increasing more than five-fold to 280 Mt/y by 2040, and finally growing to 450 Mt/y by 2050. As for storage, it is predicted that at least 250 Mt/y of CO2 will be subject to long-term storage by 2040, with the rest accounted for by CCU projects.

Figure 3: Projections for the amounts of CO2 captured for storage and utilisation in the EU (top chart) and the share of captured CO2 by origin (bottom chart).[1]

The source of these emissions is also projected to change massively by 2050, which is not unexpected as process emissions fall purely through emissions reduction, as organisations push for inherently cleaner processes. With this reduction in process emissions, the share from other emissions sources is set to grow, though this might not necessarily be the case for all sources, i.e. fossil fuel and biogenic emissions. On the other hand, direct air capture (DAC) is expected to increase massively, with almost 40% of captured CO2 being via DAC by 2050. An additional projection sees the EU market potential for CCU and CCS being worth between €45 billion and €100 billion. Some of the highlights presented by Joop show that transport will be a key area of focus in the near future, with investment in transport infrastructure potentially amounting to €6.2 and 9.2 billion by 2030, potential for CO2 transport regulation, and a possible Important Project of Common European Interest for transport and storage. In total, European CCS projects are expected to amount to approximately €10 billion by 2030.

Following Joop’s speech, the next talk was delivered by Brigitte Jacobs, Program Director at CATO (“CO2 Afvang, Transport en Opslag” (CO2 capture, transport and storage)), where she works across the whole value chain from capture to transport and storage of carbon. In her presentation, Brigitte provided CCS updates in the Netherlands, and introduced TNO, a leading Dutch CCS institute with projects on both the storage (Porthos and Aramis) and capture (LAUNCH and DIMMER) of CO2.

Figure 4: Brigitte Jacobs (CATO) walks the audience through TNO’s role in research in the Netherlands.

TNO is the largest independent applied research institute in the Netherlands. At over 90 years old and with more than 4000 employees, the institute works across the complete value chain, collaborating with academia and the wider markets and organisations. The Netherlands is committed to the Paris Agreement to reach carbon neutrality in 2050, with the ambition of reducing CO2 emissions by 60% by 2030. Industry in the Netherlands will be responsible for an 18.8 megatons reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030, with around 50% of that by the virtue of CCS. TNO, with its support to the nation’s CO2 transport and storage projects, will aid these ambitious 2030 targets. The two storage projects Brigitte walked us through were Porthos and Aramis. The Porthos project intends to re-use existing infrastructure (platforms and wells), transporting CO2 via a collective pipeline to a platform 20km off the coast and into a depleted gas field over 3km below the North Sea. The storage site has a capacity of around 37 Mt CO2 equating to a storage rate of approximately 2.5 Mt per year for 15 years. The second storage project, Aramis, is a public-private partnership with open access and non-discriminatory terms and conditions. The project intends to achieve a maximum capacity of 22 Mt CO2 per year with an expected total storage capacity of over 400 megatons facilitating connections to several European clusters progressing towards their decarbonisation.

Aside from the transport and storage of CO2, its capture is also the focus of a number of research directions in the Netherlands, centring on amine degradation and regional emissions. The LAUNCH project coordinated by TNO has 11 partners from the Netherlands, UK, Germany, Norway and the USA, and was co-funded by the ERA-NET Accelerating CCS Technologies Initiative. The project aimed to provide insight into amine degradation mechanisms and to develop a publicly available solvent qualification programme de-risking CCS deployment by accelerating solvent development and implementation. The DIMMER project focuses on regional emissions with a view to assess the economic potential of different CO2 capture integration strategies and various methods for transportation and storage. One of the objectives is to change the CCS design perspective, bringing a holistic approach from source to sink, addressing both technical and non-technical challenges ending in a pilot-plant design which will consider the full-scale system essentially de-risking industrial decarbonisation. The third project mentioned was the multilayer REALISE project which finished at the end of 2023 and focused on the decarbonisation of refineries via CCUS. This resulted in the launch of OCTOPUS (Online Calculator To Optimise CO2 Capture Processes for Multiple Stacks), an open access tool for high-level evaluations on the feasibility of post-combustion CO2 capture for industrial processes.

Figure 5: David Phillips (Aker Carbon Capture) introduces his presentation highlighting his company’s role in deploying CCUS.

The final presenter of the session was David Phillips, who is currently serving as the Head of Capital Markets and New Market Strategy at Aker Carbon Capture, based in the United Kingdom. David outlined the offerings of Aker Carbon Capture, emphasizing three key modular capture systems. Firstly, he introduced the Just Catch™ 40, which has a CO2 capacity of 40 ktpa within a compact footprint of 13m x 23m, deliverable in under 22 months. Following that, he introduced the Just Catch™ 100, offering a CO2 capacity of 100 ktpa with dimensions of 19m x 24m, available within a timeframe exceeding 22 months. Lastly, he discussed the latest addition, the Just Catch™ 400, featuring an impressive capacity of 400 ktpa, yet maintaining a relatively compact footprint of 30m x 55m, deliverable within a timeframe of 24-30 months. David highlighted a significant advantage of the Just Catch™ systems: their modularity. This modular advantage sets them apart from other capture systems. Aker Carbon Capture’s ability to concurrently construct three Just Catch™ systems in parallel significantly reduces the space required for an efficient CO2 capture system. It was also noted that, while the CO2 capture system in Technology Centre Mongstad at the time wasn’t minimized in size, the implementation of Just Catch™ could potentially reduce the space for CO­2 capture by approximately 90% compared to the Technology Centre Mongstad system.

To conclude his presentation, David highlighted several ongoing projects by Aker Carbon Capture that are making a significant impact across Europe and beyond. Notably, Aker Carbon Capture has secured the Front-End Engineering Design (FEED) for Hafslund Oslo Celsio’s CCS project, centred on their waste-to-energy plant at Klemetsrud in Norway. This project will utilize Aker Carbon Capture’s modularized Just Catch™ 400 unit. Additionally, Aker Carbon Capture is set to deploy five Just Catch™ units for a large-scale carbon capture project at the Ørsted Kalundborg Hub in Denmark. David also shed light on Aker Carbon Capture’s involvement in CCS capture projects in the UK, including their recent achievement of securing the Process Design Package (PDP) for designing studies aimed at establishing a post-combustion capture plant in Kent for the Uniper Grain Power Station. Furthermore, Aker Carbon Capture projects extend to the United States, where they will collaborate with a leading pulp and paper company to facilitate the full-scale deployment of multiple Just Catch™ 400 modular capture facilities, complete with permanent storage solutions and the generation of carbon removal credits.

In summary, this plenary session kicked off the day with a promising and exciting overview of the European CCS landscape, ranging from policy developments in the Net Zero Industry Act, to a number of large-scale projects which looks to be a massive leap in the right direction towards achieving our goals of industrial decarbonisation and net zero.

References

Communication “Securing our future – Europe’s 2040 climate target and path to climate neutrality by 2050 building a sustainable, just and prosperous society”, COM(2024) 63 (‘EU’s 2040 climate target communication”.

Roberto Loza (Cardiff University), Fayez Qureshi (Cranfield University) and Timothy Namaswa (University of Aberdeen) share their takeaways from “Plenary session 3 – UKCCSRC funded research: Industry supported projects” at the UKCCSRC Spring 2024 Conference.

The UKCCSRC Spring Conference in Manchester brought many insights into the status of CCS in the UK, Europe and globally. In Plenary 3 we heard about completed and ongoing state-of-the-art research projects that are funded by the UKCCSRC. It is great to see how much can be done when supporting ECRs!

Fugitive amine scrubbing using electrostatic precipitation

Dr Peter Clough from Cranfield University, now working for the company ERM, gave an insightful talk about amine scrubbing. ERM has a wide experience supporting industrial communities in developing decarbonisation strategies and roadmaps. They are the world’s largest pure play sustainability consultancy.

Interesting research was carried out about amine scrubbing using electrostatic precipitation (ESP) process. There are various filtration mechanisms present, but the idea was to have capture mechanisms in flue gases that must limit the pressure drop. A few options listed can be activated carbon/sorbent bed, chemical scrubbing, water wash and electrostatic precipitation of aerosols.

An electrostatic precipitator (ESP) removes particles from a gas stream by using electrical energy to charge particles either positively or negatively. This has advantages such as minimal pressure drop, high collection efficiency, manageable energy demands and no replenishment resource demands. Peter’s research involved the design and modelling of different amines, highlighting some practical issues. His work found that 39% water was captured when applying 10 kV as compared to 28% without voltage, showing a better capture performance of amine ESP with higher voltage.

His future work will be to investigate the effect of operating parameters – electric field strength, distance, temperature, concentration and particle size, hopefully supported by industry.

Identifying the subsurface microbial response to CO2 storage conditions within depleted oilfield systems

Leanne Walker from the University of Manchester presented an interesting research project, unveiling unexpected insights into the effects of CO2 injection on subsurface microbial communities within depleted oilfields. Contrary to prevailing assumptions, her findings indicate that the introduction of high concentrations of CO2 does not lead to a collapse in microbial diversity or functional potential. Instead, her experiments demonstrate a significant population shift within the microbial community. This suggests a resilient and adaptable response to the altered subsurface conditions resulting from CO2 injection.

This research provides an understanding of the complex interactions between CO2 storage and subsurface microbial ecology. Leanne Walker’s conclusions offer valuable implications for future carbon management strategies, highlighting the need to consider the dynamic nature of microbial communities in depleted oilfield environments when designing and implementing CO2 storage initiatives.

Her future work will focus on developing biotechnological tools to identify problematic microbes and collaborating with ExxonMobil to repeat experiments using diverse oil and gas produced waters.

Post-Combustion Capture – Cost and Residual Emission Reduction (PCC – CARER)

Daniel Mullen presented the results of research funded by the UKCCSRC and industry project partners (SSE Thermal and Bechtel). His research aims to better predict and model the process of ultra-high CO2 capture levels with low energy inputs. Multiple tests were performed using the unique amine capture plant at the Translational Energy Research Centre (TERC) at the University of Sheffield.

Daniel’s research discovered a consistent inflexion point for capture levels of 95% and above as the stripper pressure increased, creating contrasting “good” and “bad” scenarios (Fig. 2).

The takeaways from his talk are that (1) pressure is a critical factor for achieving lean loadings at reasonable energy inputs, (2) liquid flow to the stripper no higher than the energy available can strip to the required lean loading, and (3) some flexibility in lean loading should be considered if it is above the inflection point and higher than required for the capture level.

Niamh Hartley (University of Cambridge), Smitha Gopinath (University of Sheffield), Mike Gorbounov (Brunel University London) and Ibrahim Kadafur (Heriot-Watt University) share their takeaways from “Plenary session 2 – Industry Updates: Projects” at the UKCCSRC Spring 2024 Conference.

In the second session of the conference, we were able to listen to two industrial businesses about how they are moving towards integrating carbon capture into their processes. The first talk was from Edward Thomas from Viridor. Viridor is a waste company committed to being carbon neutral by 2040 and carbon negative by 2045 – two very exciting goals from the largest energy recovery process in the UK.

The talk was centered on Runcorn Energy Recovery Facility, based in Manchester, which currently processes 1 million tonnes of waste per year. Edward asked, “Should the waste sector be taking part in carbon capture?”, and his answer was a resounding yes! The combined heat and power can produce electricity and heat energy from steam for the community, while the CO2 emissions will be captured using a MEA-based solvent system. This allows the community of Greater Manchester to benefit from their own waste production, 51% of which is biogenic.

We then heard from VPI Immingham for Humber Zero introduced by Karina Castaneda Diaz, with Mayowa Akinrinlola giving a detailed overview. VPI has provided power and steam to 25% of the UK since 2004 from two refineries: Humber oil refinery and Lindsey oil refinery. Humber Zero is a carbon capture project based at Humber oil refinery with the goal to capture 3.8 million tons of CO2 per year. This will not only reduce CO2 emissions but also invigorate the local community with £2 billion of investment and 2500+ jobs created. This is planned to be in commercial operation by 2028, however not without its challenges.

Mayowa then gave some insight into the various hiccups experienced when retrofitting a post-combustion carbon capture plant. Integrating a capture plant requires a large number of infrastructural changes alongside some congestion problems within the pre-existing emitters – ducting seemed to be a surprisingly big issue! Other challenges such as NOx control and constructability were also discussed, drawing a more detailed understanding of how carbon capture can be implemented in a pre-existing processes.

Both companies were committed to carbon capture with the view that an extra step in the process will create more jobs for the local communities and the investment will help the local areas. The focus of helping and working alongside the local community around these plants was refreshing and exciting to see. Let’s hope these capture plants can be implemented soon!

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.

Kofo Awodun (Brunel University London), Azibayam Amabogha (University of Glasgow), Meisam Ansarpour (University of Wolverhampton) & Sunera Athauda (Cranfield University) share their takeaways from the Welcome and Opening Keynote talk at the UKCCSRC Spring 2024 Conference.

Jon Gibbins (UKCCSRC Director and Professor at the University of Sheffield) welcomed attendees, highlighting the significance of the conference for Early Career Researchers (ECRs) to network and collaborate on decarbonization efforts. He introduced the UKCCSRC Flexible Funding 2024 and encouraged researchers to leverage the opportunities presented at the conference.

Figure 1 – Jon Gibbins (UKCCSRC Director) welcoming all attendees to the 2024 Spring Conference

After this, he went ahead to introduce the keynote speaker – Nicola O’Dowd.

Nicola O’Dowd is a Senior Policy Advisor at the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ) leading the Power CCUS project within Track-1 of the Cluster Sequencing Programme. She joined the programme at the time of assessment of the initial capture project submissions, and has followed the development through to this latest critical stage of the programme. She transitioned into this sector following a successful career as a geoscientist within the seismic industry.

Nicola delivered the keynote speech on “CCUS Policy in the UK,” emphasizing the necessity of Carbon Capture Utilisation and Storage (CCUS) for climate preservation. She outlined projects for 2024, including the HyNet Project and the East Coast Cluster Project. She shared DESNZ’s CCUS vision with attendees, which encompasses 4 things:

  • Decarbonising for future generations – Aligning to a carbon budget compliant CO2 abatement pathway
  • Global leader – Exporting the UK supply chain to help other countries build CCUS, as well as using UK CO2 stores to sequester other countries’ emissions
  • Creating growth and supporting levelling up – Creating low carbon inward investment opportunities through support for a UK CCUS sector
  • Building a self-sustaining CCUS sector – Increasing private sector confidence in a growing CCUS market that leads to a reduction in government support

Figure 2 – Nicola O’Dowd giving the keynote address

This vision is expected to be executed in three phases. Nicola introduced the “CCUS Vision: Three Phase Model” consisting of:

  1. Market Creation Phase (now until 2030)
  2. Market Transition Phase (2030 – 2035)
  3. Self-sustaining Market Phase (2035 onwards)

She stated that 2023 was a landmark year for DESNZ with the passing of the Energy Act, and highlighted the 2024 expectations including:

  • Concluding on the Final Investment Decisions for Track 1 Projects
  • Expression of interest, submission and subsequent launch of Track 1 expansion for HyNet
  • Assessment of store readiness for Track 1 expansion in the East Coast Cluster
  • Engaging with Acorn and Viking directly on next steps
  • Working to develop a plan for the delivery outlined in the CCUS vision

She concluded by urging ambition and perseverance in driving CCUS initiatives forward, saying, “We need to continue to dream big, to be ambitious and to drive forward”.