Decarbonising Industrial Processes: UK and EU Guide

Decarbonising Industrial Processes UK and EU Guide

 Industrial processes are among the major sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK and EU, contributing to climate change and its adverse impacts on the environment and society. According to the European Environment Agency, industry accounted for 19% of total greenhouse gas emissions in the EU-28 in 2018, while according to the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, industry accounted for 16% of total greenhouse gas emissions in the UK in 2019.

These emissions come from various activities, such as:

Decarbonising industrial processes means reducing these emissions to net zero by 2050, in line with the UK and EU climate goals. This requires a fundamental transformation of the way industrial processes are designed, operated and integrated with other sectors, such as energy, transport and waste.

Decarbonising industrial processes is not only a necessity but also an opportunity for businesses to:

  • Improve their energy and resource efficiency, reducing costs and waste
  • Enhance their competitiveness and innovation, accessing new and growing markets for low-carbon products and services
  • Strengthen their reputation and social responsibility, meeting customer and stakeholder expectations

To achieve this transformation, businesses need guidance and support from policymakers, regulators, researchers, investors and consumers. They also need to adopt various strategies and actions that can help them decarbonise their industrial processes, such as:

  • Switching to low-carbon fuels, such as renewable electricity, hydrogen or biomass
  • Improving energy efficiency, optimising production processes and using smart technologies
  • Adopting carbon capture and storage (CCS) or carbon capture and utilisation (CCU), preventing or reusing carbon emissions
  • Developing low-carbon products or services, such as green steel, cement or chemicals

This blog post provides an overview of these strategies and actions, as well as the main policies and measures that the UK and EU governments are implementing or planning to implement to support industrial decarbonisation. It also provides some examples of best practices and case studies of industrial decarbonisation from different sectors and regions in the UK and EU. The aim of this blog post is to help businesses understand how they can decarbonise their industrial processes in a cost-effective and competitive way while contributing to the UK and EU climate goals.

The UK’s Industrial Decarbonisation Strategy

The UK is the world’s first major economy to present a net zero Industrial Decarbonisation Strategy. This strategy comes at a time when the UK is striving forward with environmental progress, with economic recovery from the COVID-19 global pandemic, and towards a healthy future for generations to come. The UK was also the first major economy to legislate an ambitious net zero target and is taking a leading role globally in the fight against climate change.

The Industrial Decarbonisation Strategy sets out the government’s vision for a prosperous, low-carbon UK industrial sector in 2050, which will contribute to the green industrial revolution and create new opportunities for growth, innovation and competitiveness. The strategy also provides the industry with the long-term certainty it needs to invest in decarbonisation and to take advantage of the global transition to a low-carbon economy.

The strategy outlines the following key elements:

  • Industrial clusters: The government aims to create at least four low-carbon clusters by 2030 and at least one net zero cluster by 2040, where multiple industrial sites share infrastructure and resources to reduce emissions. The government has committed £170 million to the innovation and deployment of low-carbon technologies in industrial clusters, such as carbon capture and storage (CCS), hydrogen and electrification.
  • Technology development and deployment: The government supports the development and deployment of key technologies that can enable industrial decarbonisation, such as CCS, hydrogen, electrification, biomass and energy efficiency. The government has allocated £1 billion for a Carbon Capture and Storage Infrastructure Fund, £240 million for a Net Zero Hydrogen Fund, £121 million for an Industrial Energy Transformation Fund and £100 million for an Industrial Fuel Switching Competition.
  • Standards and regulations: The government sets standards and regulations to drive emission reductions across the industry, such as carbon pricing, product standards, emission performance standards and mandatory reporting. The government also plans to consult on introducing new measures, such as extending the Climate Change Agreements scheme, introducing new sectoral decarbonisation agreements and setting new product standards for low-carbon steel and cement.
  • Markets and consumers: The government develops markets and consumer demand for low-carbon products and services, such as green steel, cement and chemicals. The government also supports businesses to access finance, skills and innovation for decarbonisation. The government plans to launch a Green Industrial Revolution Export Academy, a Net Zero Innovation Portfolio and a Green Jobs Taskforce.
  • Stakeholder engagement and international collaboration: The government engages with stakeholders across industry, academia, civil society and local communities to co-design and co-deliver the Industrial Decarbonisation Strategy. The government also collaborates with international partners to share best practices, align standards and promote trade in low-carbon products and services. The government will use its presidency of COP26 to showcase UK leadership and ambition on industrial decarbonisation.

The Industrial Decarbonisation Strategy sets out an ambitious pathway for the UK industry to decarbonise in line with net zero while remaining competitive and without pushing emissions abroad. The strategy aims to reduce industrial emissions by around two-thirds by 2035 and by at least 90% by 2050 compared to 2018 levels. The strategy also aims to create up to 80,000 green jobs by 2030 and unlock up to £4 billion of annual benefits by 2050.

The EU’s Industrial Decarbonisation Strategy

The EU is also committed to achieving climate neutrality by 2050 and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels. These are the EU’s climate goals under the European Green Deal and the Paris Agreement. The EU recognises that industry plays a vital role in this transition, as it accounts for 19% of total greenhouse gas emissions in the EU-28 in 2018. The EU also acknowledges that industry faces multiple challenges and opportunities in decarbonising its processes, such as global competition, innovation and digitalisation, resource efficiency and circularity, clean energy and mobility, and social fairness.

The EU’s Industrial Decarbonisation Strategy sets out how the industry can contribute to achieving the EU’s climate goals while enhancing its competitiveness and resilience. The strategy also provides the industry with a clear framework and direction for investing in decarbonisation and taking advantage of the growing global demand for low-carbon products and services.

The strategy covers the following key aspects:

  • Innovation and digitalisation: The EU supports the development and deployment of breakthrough technologies that can enable industrial decarbonisation, such as hydrogen, CCS, electrification, biotechnology and artificial intelligence. The EU provides funding for research and innovation under Horizon Europe, which has a budget of €95.5 billion for 2021-2027. The EU also fosters industrial alliances and partnerships to accelerate innovation and scale up solutions across sectors and regions.
  • Resource efficiency and circularity: The EU promotes the efficient use of resources and materials, reducing waste and emissions along the value chain. The EU implements the Circular Economy Action Plan, which aims to make products more durable, repairable, recyclable and reusable. The EU also sets standards and targets for eco-design, energy efficiency, waste prevention and recycling.
  • Clean energy and mobility: The EU facilitates the transition to a clean energy system that can provide affordable and secure energy for industry. The EU implements the Clean Energy for All Europeans package, which sets out measures to increase renewable energy sources, improve energy efficiency, integrate energy markets and empower consumers. The EU also supports the shift to clean mobility modes, such as electric vehicles, trains and ships.
  • Level playing field and social fairness: The EU ensures that industry operates in a fair and competitive environment, both within the EU and globally. The EU develops a carbon border adjustment mechanism to prevent carbon leakage, which is when production shifts to countries with lower environmental standards. The EU also strengthens international cooperation and dialogue to promote common standards and trade in low-carbon products and services. The EU also ensures that the industrial transition is socially just and inclusive, supporting workers’ skills development, social protection and regional cohesion.
  • The EU’s Industrial Decarbonisation Strategy sets out a comprehensive and ambitious roadmap for EU industry to decarbonise in line with the European Green Deal and the Paris Agreement. The strategy aims to reduce industrial emissions by 55% by 2030 and by 90% by 2050 compared to 2005 levels. The strategy also aims to create up to 1 million green jobs by 2030 and boost the EU’s industrial competitiveness and leadership in the global green economy.

Best Practices and Case Studies of Industrial Decarbonisation

Many businesses in the UK and EU have already taken steps to decarbonise their industrial processes, demonstrating the feasibility and benefits of various strategies and actions. These businesses span different sectors and regions, reflecting the diversity and potential of industrial decarbonisation.

Here are some examples of best practices and case studies of industrial decarbonisation from the UK and EU:

  • Steel: Tata Steel, one of the largest steel producers in Europe, is developing a new technology called HIsarna, which combines coal and iron ore into a single process, reducing energy use and carbon emissions by 20%. Tata Steel is also planning to capture and store or utilise the carbon emissions from its HIsarna plant in the Netherlands, aiming for a 50% reduction by 2030 and a 100% reduction by 2050. In Sweden, SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall have formed a joint venture called HYBRIT, which aims to produce fossil-free steel using hydrogen as a reducing agent instead of coal. HYBRIT started operating a pilot plant in 2020 and plans to build a demonstration plant by 2025 and a full-scale plant by 2035.
  • Cement: Hanson UK, one of the largest suppliers of construction materials in the UK, is working with the University of Swansea to develop a green cement that uses up to 95% less limestone and 50% less carbon emissions than conventional cement. The green cement is made from calcined clay and ground limestone and can be used for various applications such as concrete, mortar and blocks. In Germany, HeidelbergCement, one of the world’s largest cement producers, is testing carbon capture and utilisation at its plant in Lixhe, Belgium. The plant captures carbon emissions from the flue gas and converts them into synthetic fuels using renewable electricity.
  • Chemicals: INEOS, one of the world’s largest chemical producers, is investing £1 billion in various projects to reduce its carbon footprint in the UK. These include switching from gas to hydrogen for steam generation at its Grangemouth site in Scotland, increasing energy efficiency and reducing flaring at its chemical plants in Hull and Runcorn, and developing a new energy plant at its site in Antwerp, Belgium. In France, Arkema, a global leader in specialty chemicals, is aiming to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 38% by 2030 compared to 2015 levels. Arkema is implementing various measures such as increasing the share of renewable energy in its electricity consumption, improving energy efficiency at its sites, developing low-carbon solutions for its customers, and participating in carbon offsetting projects.
  • Food and drink: Nestlé UK & Ireland, part of the world’s largest food and beverage company, has achieved net zero emissions at its two confectionery factories in Fawdon and Halifax in 2020. Nestlé has implemented various actions such as installing a new biomass boiler, using 100% renewable electricity, improving energy efficiency, reducing waste and water use, and offsetting residual emissions through tree planting and peatland restoration. In Spain, Mahou San Miguel, the country’s leading brewer, has committed to reducing its carbon emissions by 25% by 2025 and by 50% by 2030 compared to 2018 levels. Mahou San Miguel is pursuing various initiatives such as increasing the use of renewable energy sources, optimising transport routes and logistics, promoting circular packaging solutions, and engaging with suppliers and customers on sustainability.

These examples show that industrial decarbonisation is not only possible but also profitable for businesses in different sectors and regions. By adopting various strategies and actions to reduce their emissions, these businesses have experienced or expected various benefits such as cost savings, increased competitiveness, enhanced reputation, improved environmental performance, regulatory compliance and customer satisfaction. These examples also show that industrial decarbonisation requires collaboration and innovation across different stakeholders such as policymakers, regulators, researchers, investors and consumers.

Conclusion

Industrial processes are a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK and EU, but also a key driver of economic growth, innovation and competitiveness. Decarbonising industrial processes is therefore essential for achieving net zero emissions by 2050 and fulfilling the UK and EU climate goals under the Paris Agreement. Decarbonising industrial processes is also an opportunity for businesses to improve their efficiency, resilience and reputation, and to access new and growing markets for low-carbon products and services.

The UK and EU governments have set out their visions and frameworks for industrial decarbonisation in their respective strategies, providing the industry with long-term certainty and direction for investing in decarbonisation. The strategies cover various aspects such as industrial clusters, technology development and deployment, standards and regulations, markets and consumers, stakeholder engagement and international collaboration. The strategies also set ambitious targets and provide funding and support for the industry to reduce its emissions while remaining competitive and without pushing emissions abroad.

Many businesses in the UK and EU have already taken steps to decarbonise their industrial processes, demonstrating the feasibility and benefits of various strategies and actions. These businesses span different sectors and regions, reflecting the diversity and potential of industrial decarbonisation. These businesses have also shown that industrial decarbonisation requires collaboration and innovation across different stakeholders such as policymakers, regulators, researchers, investors and consumers.

This blog post has provided an overview of these strategies, actions and examples, aiming to help businesses understand how they can decarbonise their industrial processes in a cost-effective and competitive way while contributing to the UK and EU climate goals. 

FAQ

What is the difference between net zero and climate neutrality?

Net zero means reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 100% by 2050 compared to a baseline year. Climate neutrality means balancing greenhouse gas emissions and removals by 2050.

What are the main drivers of industrial decarbonisation in the UK and EU?

The main drivers of industrial decarbonisation in the UK and EU are climate goals, which require industry to reduce its emissions in line with net zero or climate neutrality by 2050; customer demand, which creates a market for low carbon products or services that meet environmental or social expectations; and competitive advantage, which enables the industry to access new and growing markets, reduce costs and waste, and enhance reputation and innovation.

What are the main barriers to industrial decarbonisation in the UK and EU?

The main barriers to industrial decarbonisation in the UK and EU are technical barriers, such as the availability, scalability and reliability of low-carbon technologies; financial risks, such as the upfront costs, payback periods and return on investment of low-carbon technologies; market uncertainties, such as the demand, price and regulation of low carbon products and services; and social impacts, such as the skills development, job creation and job displacement of workers.

How can policymakers support industrial decarbonisation in the UK and EU?

Policymakers can support industrial decarbonisation in the UK and EU by providing long-term certainty and direction for the industry to invest in decarbonisation; driving emission reductions through carbon pricing, product standards, emission performance standards and mandatory reporting; supporting technology development and deployment through innovation funding, infrastructure funding and advisory services; and developing markets and consumers through creating markets, providing finance, developing skills and engaging customers.

How can researchers support industrial decarbonisation in the UK and EU?

Researchers can support industrial decarbonisation in the UK and EU by conducting research on low-carbon technologies or solutions, such as CCS, hydrogen, electrification or biomass; developing tools or methods for measuring, reporting or verifying emissions or energy efficiency; and providing evidence or analysis on the costs, benefits or impacts of decarbonisation strategies or actions.

How can industry associations support industrial decarbonisation in the UK and EU?

Industry associations can support industrial decarbonisation in the UK and EU by representing the interests and views of their members on decarbonisation policies or measures; providing information or guidance on decarbonisation opportunities or challenges for their members; facilitating collaboration or networking among their members or with other stakeholders on decarbonisation projects or initiatives.

How can civil society organisations support industrial decarbonisation in the UK and EU?

Civil society organisations can support industrial decarbonisation in the UK and EU by advocating for ambitious and fair decarbonisation policies or measures that protect the environment and society; monitoring or evaluating the progress or performance of the industry on decarbonisation; educating or engaging the public on the importance or benefits of decarbonisation.

How can media organisations support industrial decarbonisation in the UK and EU?

Media organisations can support industrial decarbonisation in the UK and EU by reporting on the latest news or developments on decarbonisation policies, measures, technologies or solutions; featuring stories or interviews on best practices or case studies of industrial decarbonisation; providing analysis or commentary on the challenges or opportunities of industrial decarbonisation.

How can I get involved in industrial decarbonisation in the UK and EU?

You can get involved in industrial decarbonisation in the UK and EU by choosing low carbon products or services, such as green steel, cement or chemicals; reducing your consumption of energy-intensive products or services, such as meat, dairy or air travel; reusing, repairing or recycling your products or materials, such as clothes, electronics or packaging; engaging with businesses on their sustainability practices and expectations.

EnerTherm Engineering: Your partner for industrial decarbonisation

Are you ready to take your facility to the next level of energy efficiency and carbon reduction? Do you want to save costs, enhance competitiveness, create jobs, improve health, and increase resilience? Do you need expert guidance and support to assess and implement industrial decarbonisation measures in your facility?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you need EnerTherm Engineering. We are a leading engineering consultancy firm specialising in industrial decarbonisation solutions. We have the experience, knowledge, and tools to help you achieve your decarbonisation goals and targets.

We offer a range of services, such as:

  • Carbon audit and baseline assessment
  • Decarbonisation technology analysis and selection
  • Decarbonisation pathway creation and evaluation
  • Multi-criteria decision analysis and optimization
  • Project management and implementation
  • Monitoring and reporting

We work with you every step of the way, from planning to execution, to ensure that your industrial decarbonisation project is successful and sustainable. We also provide training and education to your staff and stakeholders to ensure that they are fully engaged and informed.

Don’t wait any longer. Contact us today for a free consultation and quote. Let us help you transform your facility into a low-carbon and high-performance one. Let us help you make a difference for your business and the planet.

Francois Pierrel
Francois Pierrel
Hi, my name is François and I am passionate about solving process engineering problems. Over the years, I have developed a number of process equipment and control systems which have had a significant impact on reducing energy usage, waste and impact on the environment. My business ethos is to always get to the root cause of problems and data analysis and modelling are always at the forefront of any project we undertake.

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