Whilst Industrial clusters have a big role to play in the clean energy transition across the globe, with 3,000 such clusters identified in Europe alone, few have the diversity and scale of the Humber – the UK’s energy estuary. Thinking of these Clusters as cities where energy consumption can be optimized and made more efficient, processes electrified where possible – and carbon dioxide (CO2) captured where not – is a helpful construct. However, that is only part of the story…
The Humber is the largest cluster of industrial CO2 emitters in the UK
With around 14 MTCO2 of emissions per annum – 30% more than the next largest in the UK. It is one of six Industrial Clusters which have been funded by the UK Government’s Innovate UK funding agency to develop a roadmap to achieve Net Zero status by 2050.
With around 360,000 jobs supported by the region’s industry and a contribution to the UK’s economy of $25Bn (£18Bn), it is clear why decarbonising the Humber Industrial Cluster makes climate sense, economic sense, and human sense.
Private sector industries have already made significant advances in resource and energy efficiency but achieving deep decarbonisation will require deployment of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), fuel switching (hydrogen, electricity, biomass) and bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS). Whilst expensive today, CCS technologies become increasingly competitive as alternative carbon abatement become extremely costly the closer we get to net zero (“well north of $200/Te”, according to David Eyton, BP’s EVP for Innovation and Engineering).
Humber industry is already on the right track: with projects including Zero Carbon Humber, The Gigastack Project, Humber Zero, The Northern Endurance Partnership and V Net Zero recognised nationally and internationally as bold, innovative Deployment Projects, with recent funding already announced for some of these by the UK Government .
These projects are crucial in leading the Humber to become the first low-carbon industrial cluster in the 2030s, but stakeholders in the region have an even more ambitious target in mind: Net Zero.
To develop this understanding of what will be needed to achieve net zero by 2040, two regional organisations – the Humber Local Enterprise Partnership and CATCH – have teamed up with industrial partners to secure funding from Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency, to deliver the Humber Industrial Cluster Plan. This overarching, technology-led roadmap will identify how best to configure the Deployment Projects with emerging low-carbon infrastructure and identify opportunities to drive emissions to zero – and beyond – whilst also identifying opportunities for inward green investment.
However, viewing Net Zero only through the lens of today’s technology will necessarily be limiting: the Plan’s modular approach will allow incorporation of new technologies, new industries, and new economic paradigms, to provide a dynamic and evolving optimisation roadmap. It will provide confidence to both the UK Government and the Region that the gap to Net Zero can be successfully closed – and signal how this can be done progressively and cost effectively to 2040.
The Humber is already well-placed on the map for low-carbon energy but the success of this collaborative public-private programme will ensure the UK’s Energy Estuary also becomes known as a centre of green, sustainable industry – green growth, blue horizons.