How to Achieve Net Zero and Decarbonisation with Innovative Technologies

How to Achieve Net Zero and Decarbonisation with Innovative Technologies

Climate change is one of the most pressing challenges of our time, posing significant risks to the environment, society and economy. To avoid the worst impacts of climate change, the global community has agreed to limit the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5°C. This requires a radical transformation of the way we produce and consume energy, as well as how we manage land use and waste.

Net zero means that all greenhouse gas emissions produced are counterbalanced by an equal amount of emissions that are eliminated or removed from the atmosphere. Achieving this will require rapid decarbonisation, which is the process of reducing and removing net greenhouse gas outputs by reducing the amount emitted, using zero or low-emission energy sources, increasing energy efficiency and by carbon sequestration.

Different sectors of the economy have different roles and responsibilities in achieving net zero and decarbonisation. Some sectors, such as power generation, industry, transport and buildings, are major sources of greenhouse gas emissions and need to reduce their emissions intensity and switch to cleaner fuels and technologies. Other sectors, such as forestry and agriculture, can act as natural sinks for carbon dioxide and enhance their capacity to absorb and store carbon. All sectors need to adapt to the changing climate conditions and increase their resilience.

In this blog post, we will explore some of the innovative technologies that can help with net zero and decarbonisation in different sectors. These technologies are heat pump, CHP (combined heat and power), H2 burner/hybrid, electrification, CCUS (carbon capture, usage and storage), and waste heat recovery. We will provide a brief overview of each technology and how it works, as well as its benefits, challenges and examples of applications.

Heat Pump

A heat pump is a device that transfers heat from a low-temperature source (such as air, water or ground) to a high-temperature sink (such as a building or a process). It works by using electricity to compress and expand a refrigerant fluid that absorbs and releases heat as it changes the state between liquid and gas. Heat pumps can provide heating, cooling and hot water for various applications in different sectors.

Heat pumps have several benefits for achieving net zero and decarbonisation. They are highly efficient, meaning that they can deliver more heat than the electricity they consume. According to the Carbon Trust, heat pumps used for heating can offer carbon emission savings of around 30% when compared to conventional natural gas boilers. When heat pumps are partnered with a renewable electricity supplier, heat generation is 100% carbon neutral. Heat pumps can also integrate with other renewable energy sources, such as solar thermal panels or biomass boilers, to provide hybrid systems that maximise efficiency and reliability. Furthermore, heat pumps can offer demand response services to the grid by shifting their operation to times when electricity is cheaper and greener.

Some examples of heat pump applications in different sectors are:

  • Residential: heat pumps can provide space heating and domestic hot water for individual homes or apartment blocks. They can be installed indoors or outdoors, depending on the available space and noise levels. They can be air-source, water-source or ground-source, depending on the availability and suitability of the heat source.
  • Commercial: heat pumps can provide heating, cooling and hot water for offices, shops, hotels, schools, hospitals and other buildings. They can be installed in rooftops, basements or facades, depending on the building design and layout. They can be air-source, water-source or ground-source, depending on the availability and suitability of the heat source.
  • Industrial: heat pumps can provide process heating and cooling for various industrial applications, such as food and beverage production, chemical processing, metalworking, etc. They can recover waste heat from industrial processes or ambient sources and upgrade it to useful temperatures. They can be air-source, water-source or ground-source, depending on the availability and suitability of the heat source.

Some of the challenges and barriers for heat pump deployment are:

  • High upfront cost: heat pumps are typically more expensive to purchase and install than conventional heating systems. The payback period depends on various factors, such as the type and size of the heat pump, the energy efficiency of the building, the fuel price and the availability of subsidies.
  • Poor energy efficiency of existing buildings: heat pumps work best when they operate at low temperatures (around 35°C) and supply heat to well-insulated buildings with low-temperature distribution systems (such as underfloor heating or fan coils). Many existing buildings in the UK are poorly insulated and have high-temperature distribution systems (such as radiators), which reduce the efficiency and performance of heat pumps.
  • Lack of awareness: many consumers and stakeholders are not familiar with heat pumps and their benefits. They may have misconceptions about their reliability, comfort, maintenance or aesthetics. They may also lack information about the available incentives and support schemes for heat pump installation.
  • Technical issues: heat pumps may face technical issues such as noise pollution, planning permission, grid connection, refrigerant leakage or disposal. These issues may require careful design, installation and operation of heat pumps to minimise their impact.

CHP (Combined Heat and Power)

CHP (combined heat and power) is a process that generates both electricity and heat from a single fuel source (such as natural gas, biomass, hydrogen, etc.). It works by using a prime mover (such as an engine, turbine or fuel cell) to drive a generator that produces electricity while capturing and utilising the waste heat that is normally lost in conventional power generation. CHP can provide heating, cooling and power for various applications in different sectors.

CHP has several benefits for achieving net zero and decarbonisation. It is highly efficient, meaning that it can deliver more useful energy output than a separate generation of electricity and heat. According to the Carbon Trust, CHP can achieve energy savings of up to 40% when compared to conventional power generation and on-site boilers. CHP can also reduce carbon emissions by using low-carbon or renewable fuels, such as biomass or hydrogen, or by integrating with carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS) technologies. CHP can also enhance energy security and resilience by reducing network losses and providing backup power in case of grid outages.

Some examples of CHP applications in different sectors are:

  • Power generation: CHP can provide baseload or peaking power to the grid or to local consumers while supplying heat to nearby buildings or industrial processes. CHP can also support grid stability and flexibility by providing ancillary services, such as frequency response or voltage control.
  • Industry: CHP can provide process heating and cooling for various industrial applications, such as food and beverage production, chemical processing, metalworking, etc. CHP can also reduce operating costs and improve competitiveness by lowering energy bills and enhancing productivity.
  • District heating: CHP can provide heating and hot water for multiple buildings or communities through a network of pipes that distribute hot water or steam. District heating can reduce carbon emissions by using waste heat from power plants or industrial processes, or by using low-carbon or renewable fuels for CHP generation.

Some of the challenges and barriers for CHP deployment are:

  • Policy support: CHP faces uncertainty and inconsistency in policy support and market incentives. For example, the government’s Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme, which provides financial support for renewable heat generation, is due to close in 2021. The government’s Net Zero Strategy, which sets out policies and proposals for decarbonising all sectors of the UK economy by 2050, does not provide clear guidance on the future role of CHP in achieving net zero.
  • Fuel availability: CHP depends on the availability and affordability of suitable fuels for its operation. For example, natural gas is currently the most widely used fuel for CHP, but it may face competition from other sectors or be subject to carbon pricing or regulation in the future. Low-carbon or renewable fuels, such as hydrogen or biomass, may have limited supply or higher cost than conventional fuels.
  • Technical issues: CHP may face technical issues such as noise pollution, planning permission, grid connection, heat demand matching or maintenance. These issues may require careful design, installation and operation of CHP systems to minimise their impact.

H2 Burner/Hybrid

An H2 burner/hybrid is a device that uses hydrogen or a blend of hydrogen and natural gas to produce heat or power. It works by using a burner (such as a gas turbine, boiler or engine) to combust the fuel and generate heat, which can be used for heating, cooling or power generation. H2 burner/hybrid can provide flexible and reliable energy services for various applications in different sectors.

H2 burner/hybrid has several benefits for achieving net zero and decarbonisation. It can reduce or eliminate carbon emissions by using low-carbon or renewable hydrogen as a fuel, or by integrating with carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS) technologies. It can also provide fuel flexibility and compatibility with existing infrastructure by using blends of hydrogen and natural gas, which can reduce the need for costly modifications or replacements. Furthermore, it can support the integration of variable renewable energy sources by providing backup power and grid balancing services when needed.

Some examples of H2 burner/hybrid applications in different sectors are:

  • Power generation: H2 burner/hybrid can provide baseload or peaking power to the grid or to local consumers while supplying heat to nearby buildings or industrial processes. H2 burner/hybrid can also support grid stability and flexibility by providing ancillary services, such as frequency response or voltage control.
  • Industry: H2 burner/hybrid can provide process heating and cooling for various industrial applications, such as food and beverage production, chemical processing, metalworking, etc. H2 burner/hybrid can also reduce operating costs and improve competitiveness by lowering energy bills and enhancing productivity.
  • Transport: H2 burner/hybrid can provide propulsion and auxiliary power for various transport modes, such as ships, trains, buses, trucks, etc. H2 burner/hybrid can also reduce emissions and noise pollution by using low-carbon or renewable hydrogen as a fuel.

Some of the challenges and barriers for H2 burner/hybrid deployment are:

  • Hydrogen availability: H2 burner/hybrid depends on the availability and affordability of low-carbon or renewable hydrogen as a fuel. However, hydrogen production is currently limited and costly compared to natural gas. Hydrogen supply chains also require significant investments in infrastructure and logistics to ensure the safe and efficient delivery and storage of hydrogen.
  • Cost competitiveness: H2 burner/hybrid faces competition from other low-carbon technologies, such as heat pumps, electrification or CCUS. The cost competitiveness of H2 burner/hybrid depends on various factors, such as the fuel price, the carbon price, the technology maturity, the policy support and the market incentives.
  • Safety issues: H2 burner/hybrid may face safety issues such as flammability, explosion or leakage of hydrogen. These issues may require strict standards and regulations, as well as public awareness and acceptance, to ensure the safe operation of H2 burner/hybrid systems.

Electrification

Electrification is the process of replacing fossil fuel-based energy sources with electricity from low-carbon or renewable sources. It works by using electric devices (such as heat pumps, electric vehicles or induction furnaces) to provide heating, cooling, transport or industrial services. Electrification can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by using clean electricity instead of combustion-based fuels.

Electrification has several benefits for achieving net zero and decarbonisation. It can reduce carbon emissions by using electricity from low-carbon or renewable sources, such as wind, solar or nuclear power. The UK has committed to decarbonise its electricity system by 2035, which will enhance the emission savings from electrification throughout the lifespan of electric devices. Electrification can also improve energy efficiency by using electric devices that are more efficient than their fossil fuel counterparts. For example, heat pumps can deliver more heat than the electricity they consume, while electric vehicles can convert more energy into motion than internal combustion engines. Furthermore, electrification can enhance digitalisation and smart control by using electric devices that can communicate with each other and with the grid, enabling demand response and optimisation of energy use.

Some examples of electrification applications in different sectors are:

  • Transport: electrification can provide propulsion and auxiliary power for various transport modes, such as cars, buses, trains, bikes, scooters, etc. Electrification can also reduce emissions and noise pollution by using clean electricity instead of petrol or diesel. Electric vehicles can also support grid stability and flexibility by providing vehicle-to-grid services, such as storing excess electricity or supplying electricity back to the grid when needed.
  • Heating: electrification can provide space heating and domestic hot water for individual homes or apartment blocks. Electrification can also reduce emissions and air pollution by using clean electricity instead of natural gas or oil. Heat pumps are the most common electric devices for heating, but other options include electric boilers, electric radiators or electric underfloor heating.
  • Industry: electrification can provide process heating and cooling for various industrial applications, such as food and beverage production, chemical processing, metalworking, etc. Electrification can also reduce operating costs and improve competitiveness by lowering energy bills and enhancing productivity. Induction heating is one of the most widely used electric technologies for industry, but other options include electric arc furnaces, electric infrared heaters or electric heat pumps.

Some of the challenges and barriers for electrification deployment are:

  • Grid capacity: electrification may increase the demand for electricity and put pressure on the grid capacity and reliability. This may require significant investments in grid infrastructure and reinforcement to ensure adequate supply and quality of electricity. It may also require smart grid technologies and solutions to manage the variability and uncertainty of demand and supply.
  • Intermittency: electrification may depend on the availability and affordability of low-carbon or renewable electricity as a source. However, some sources of electricity, such as wind and solar power, are intermittent and variable, depending on weather conditions and time of day. This may require backup power sources or storage solutions to ensure continuity and security of supply.
  • Consumer behaviour: electrification may require changes in consumer behaviour and preferences to adopt electric devices and services. For example, consumers may need to switch from driving petrol or diesel cars to driving electric vehicles, or from using natural gas boilers to using heat pumps for heating. This may require awareness raising, education and incentives to overcome barriers such as lack of familiarity, high upfront cost or range anxiety.

CCUS (Carbon Capture, Usage and Storage)

CCUS (carbon capture, usage and storage) is a process that captures carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions from industrial processes or power generation and either uses them for beneficial purposes or stores them permanently underground. It works by using various technologies (such as absorption, adsorption or membrane separation) to separate CO₂ from flue gases or process streams, then compressing and transporting it by pipeline or ship to a suitable location for usage or storage. CCUS can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by preventing CO₂ from entering the atmosphere.

CCUS has several benefits for achieving net zero and decarbonisation. It can reduce carbon emissions by capturing CO₂ from hard-to-decarbonise sectors, such as cement, steel or chemicals, or from fossil fuel-based power generation. The UK has committed to deploying CCUS in four low-carbon industrial clusters by 2030, capturing 20-30 MtCO₂ per year across the economy. CCUS can also create value by using CO₂ for various purposes, such as enhanced oil recovery, synthetic fuels, chemicals or building materials. The UK has a potential market of up to £160 billion per year for CO₂-derived products by 2050. Furthermore, CCUS can enable negative emissions by combining it with bioenergy (BECCS) or direct air capture (DACCS), which can remove CO₂ from the atmosphere and store it permanently underground.

Some examples of CCUS applications in different sectors are:

  • Power generation: CCUS can provide baseload or peaking power to the grid or to local consumers while reducing carbon emissions from fossil fuel-based power generation. CCUS can also support grid stability and flexibility by providing ancillary services, such as frequency response or voltage control.
  • Industry: CCUS can provide process decarbonisation for various industrial applications, such as cement production, steelmaking, chemical processing, etc. CCUS can also reduce operating costs and improve competitiveness by lowering carbon taxes and enhancing productivity.
  • Waste management: CCUS can provide waste-to-energy conversion for various waste streams, such as municipal solid waste, biomass, sewage sludge, etc. CCUS can also enable negative emissions by capturing and storing biogenic CO₂ from waste combustion or anaerobic digestion.

Some of the challenges and barriers for CCUS deployment are:

  • High cost: CCUS is currently expensive and uncompetitive compared to other low-carbon technologies or conventional alternatives. The cost of CCUS depends on various factors, such as the capture technology, the CO₂ concentration, the transport distance, the storage capacity and the policy support. The cost of CCUS is expected to decrease over time with technological innovation and economies of scale.
  • Lack of infrastructure: CCUS requires significant investments in infrastructure and logistics to ensure safe and efficient capture, transport and storage of CO₂. The UK has one of the largest potential CO₂ storage capacities in Europe (an estimated 78 Gt of CO₂ storage capacity in the UK Continental Shelf), but it lacks sufficient pipelines or ships to transport CO₂ from capture sites to storage sites.
  • Regulatory uncertainty: CCUS faces uncertainty and inconsistency in regulatory frameworks and market incentives. For example, the UK does not have a clear definition or standard for low-carbon hydrogen production using CCUS. The UK also does not have a comprehensive legal framework for long-term liability and monitoring of CO₂ storage.

Waste Heat Recovery

Waste heat recovery is a process that captures and utilises waste heat from industrial processes or power generation that would otherwise be lost to the environment. It works by using various technologies (such as heat exchangers, heat pumps, organic Rankine cycles or thermoelectric generators) to transfer, upgrade or convert waste heat into useful heat or power. Waste heat recovery can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by improving energy efficiency and reducing fuel consumption.

Waste heat recovery has several benefits for achieving net zero and decarbonisation. It can reduce carbon emissions by capturing and utilising waste heat from hard-to-decarbonise sectors, such as cement, steel or chemicals, or from fossil fuel-based power generation. The UK has an estimated recoverable potential of low-temperature waste heat (up to 250°C) of up to 83.7% of the total waste heat potential in the industry. Waste heat recovery can also create value by providing heating, cooling or power for various applications, such as district heating, industrial processes, waste-to-energy conversion or transport. The UK has a potential market of up to £160 billion per year for waste heat-derived products by 2050. Furthermore, waste heat recovery can enhance digitalisation and smart control by using waste heat recovery systems that can communicate with each other and with the grid, enabling demand response and optimisation of energy use.

Some examples of waste heat recovery applications in different sectors are:

  • Power generation: waste heat recovery can provide baseload or peaking power to the grid or to local consumers while reducing carbon emissions from fossil fuel-based power generation. Waste heat recovery can also support grid stability and flexibility by providing ancillary services, such as frequency response or voltage control.
  • Industry: waste heat recovery can provide process heating and cooling for various industrial applications, such as cement production, steelmaking, chemical processing, etc. Waste heat recovery can also reduce operating costs and improve competitiveness by lowering energy bills and enhancing productivity.
  • District heating: waste heat recovery can provide heating and hot water for multiple buildings or communities through a network of pipes that distribute hot water or steam. District heating can reduce carbon emissions by using waste heat from power plants or industrial processes instead of fossil fuels.

Some of the challenges and barriers for waste heat recovery deployment are:

  • Low quality: waste heat is often low in temperature and quality, which limits its potential for direct use or conversion into useful energy. Waste heat recovery may require additional technologies or processes to upgrade or transform waste heat into higher-quality forms of energy.
  • High cost: waste heat recovery is currently expensive and uncompetitive compared to other low-carbon technologies or conventional alternatives. The cost of waste heat recovery depends on various factors, such as the waste heat source, the waste heat sink, the waste heat recovery technology and the policy support.
  • Lack of awareness: waste heat recovery is often overlooked or undervalued as an energy efficiency measure or a low-carbon solution. Many industrial operators or consumers are not aware of the potential benefits or opportunities of waste heat recovery. They may also lack information about the available technologies or incentives for waste heat recovery.

Conclusion

The UK has made significant progress in decarbonising its economy and achieving its net zero target by 2050. The UK had reduced its emissions by 54% between 1990 and 2023, decarbonising faster than any other G7 country, while growing the economy by 70%. The UK had also developed a series of strategies and policies to support the development and adoption of key technologies for net zero and decarbonisation, such as H2 burner/hybrid, electrification, CCUS (carbon capture, usage and storage) and waste heat recovery. These technologies could provide flexible and reliable energy services for various applications in different sectors, such as power generation, industry, transport, heating and cooling. They could also reduce or eliminate carbon emissions by using low-carbon or renewable energy sources, or by capturing and storing CO₂ permanently underground.

However, the UK still faced many challenges and barriers for achieving net zero and decarbonisation by 2050. The UK needed to accelerate the transition to low-carbon technologies and products while ensuring competitiveness, affordability and security of supply. The UK also needed to overcome the high cost, low availability, lack of infrastructure, regulatory uncertainty and consumer behaviour barriers that hindered the deployment of these technologies. The UK also needed to strengthen its international partnerships and cooperation on net zero and decarbonisation, especially with emerging economies that had high potential for low-carbon development.

The UK had a unique opportunity and a moral responsibility to lead the world in the fight against climate change by hosting COP26 in November 2021. The UK showcased its progress and achievements in decarbonising its economy and encouraged other countries to pledge to a more viable path for their industries’ futures. The UK also sought to leverage around £100 billion of private investment as it developed new industries and innovative low-carbon technologies, supporting up to 480,000 jobs in 2030. The UK had the vision, the ambition and the capability to transform its industrial sectors into world leaders in low-carbon technologies and products while creating jobs, growth and prosperity for its people.

Frequently Asked Questions on Achieving Net Zero and Decarbonisation with Innovative Technologies

What is the role of government policy in achieving net zero and decarbonisation?

Government policy plays a crucial role in achieving net zero and decarbonisation. Policies can incentivize the adoption of low-carbon technologies, provide funding for research and development, and set regulations that limit greenhouse gas emissions. However, policy support needs to be consistent and long-term to provide certainty for businesses and investors.

How can individuals contribute to achieving net zero and decarbonisation?

Individuals can contribute to achieving net zero and decarbonisation in many ways. This includes reducing energy consumption, switching to renewable energy sources, adopting energy-efficient technologies, and supporting businesses that are committed to sustainability. Public awareness and education are also important for driving behavioural change and demand for low-carbon products and services.

What are the potential impacts of net zero and decarbonisation on jobs and the economy?

The transition to net zero and decarbonisation can have significant impacts on jobs and the economy. On one hand, it could lead to job losses in high-emitting sectors such as coal mining and oil and gas extraction. On the other hand, it could create new jobs in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and other low-carbon sectors. The net impact on jobs and the economy depends on various factors, including the pace and scale of the transition, the availability of skills and training, and the policy and market conditions.

What are the potential risks and challenges of relying on innovative technologies for net zero and decarbonisation?

While innovative technologies are crucial for achieving net zero and decarbonisation, they also come with potential risks and challenges. These include technical risks, economic risks, regulatory risks, and social risks. For example, some technologies may not perform as expected, may be more expensive than conventional alternatives, may face regulatory barriers or public opposition, or may have unintended environmental or social impacts. These risks and challenges need to be carefully managed to ensure a successful and sustainable transition to net zero and decarbonisation.

How can businesses and industries contribute to achieving net zero and decarbonisation?

Businesses and industries can contribute to achieving net zero and decarbonisation by reducing their greenhouse gas emissions, improving their energy efficiency, switching to renewable energy sources, and developing and adopting low-carbon technologies. They can also engage with their customers, suppliers, employees, investors, and other stakeholders to drive demand for low-carbon products and services and to influence policy and market conditions. Corporate leadership and innovation are key to accelerating the transition to net zero and decarbonisation.

What is the role of international cooperation in achieving net zero and decarbonisation?

International cooperation is essential for achieving net zero and decarbonisation. Climate change is a global problem that requires global solutions. Countries need to work together to share knowledge and technologies, coordinate policies and actions, and provide financial and technical support to developing countries. International agreements such as the Paris Agreement provide a framework for global cooperation on climate change. However, more needs to be done to increase ambition and accelerate action towards net zero and decarbonisation.

 

Innovative Technologies for Industrial Decarbonisation: Your Path to Net Zero

Are you prepared to elevate your facility’s energy efficiency and carbon reduction to the next level? Are you looking to reduce costs, boost competitiveness, generate employment, enhance health, and bolster resilience? Do you require expert advice and assistance to evaluate and implement decarbonisation measures in your industrial setting?

If you answered affirmatively to any of these inquiries, then Innovative Technologies for Industrial Decarbonisation is your solution. We are a premier consultancy firm with a focus on solutions for industrial decarbonisation. Our team possesses the experience, expertise, and resources necessary to assist you in reaching your decarbonisation objectives and targets.

Our services encompass a wide range of areas, including:

  • Assessment of carbon audit and baseline
  • Analysis and selection of decarbonisation technology
  • Creation and evaluation of decarbonisation pathways
  • Optimization and multi-criteria decision analysis
  • Project management and implementation
  • Monitoring and reporting

We partner with you throughout the entire process, from planning to execution, ensuring the success and sustainability of your industrial decarbonisation project. We also offer training and education to your staff and stakeholders to ensure they are fully engaged and knowledgeable.

Don’t delay any longer. Reach out to us today for a complimentary consultation and quote. Let us assist you in transforming your facility into a high-performance, low-carbon operation. Let us help you make a positive impact on both 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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