Net-Zero industrial clusters

The UK's six largest industrial clusters, home to energy-intensive industries, emit around 40 million tonnes CO2 a year (UK Research and Innovation). 
 

Explore some of the technologies, ideas and approaches that will play a part in achieving the net zero vision.

Waste to energy – and other resources

Soggy ‘black bag’ household waste isn’t the ideal fuel for power stations. But higher quality refuse-derived fuel, that includes industrial and construction waste specially sorted at material recycling facilities can make for more efficient energy generation. Combined with carbon capture and storage, this waste-to-energy technology can help achieve net zero.

At WSP, we work on all kinds of waste-to-energy plants. We’re also exploring ways of pushing the boundaries of what can be done with plastics waste – to turn it into a valuable resource such as a fuel or feedstock instead of burning it.

Related areas

  • Carbon assessment and strategy
  • Carbon capture usage and storage

Energy from waste could give coal power stations a new lease of life

We’re working with one client to re-use an old facility to generate electricity

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Combined heat and power (CHP)

CHP is ideal for industrial clusters’ dense networks of consumers – from companies that use high-temperature steam in industrial processes to those that simply want to heat their buildings.

How can CHP go zero-carbon? A decarbonised fuel such as hydrogen is key. Gas turbines can already run on a blend of hydrogen and natural gas without many modifications, and hydrogen turbines are in development.

It will also be vital to make efficient use of the high-pressure steam produced in CHP plants – both for generating electricity and other uses, including steam reformation of hydrogen.

We are working with a client in the Middle East on a project that involves installation of new steam turbines on an existing power plant that also provide steam to a desalination plant. The desalination plant is being decommissioned and we are developing options to make use of the extra steam.

Related areas

  • Carbon capture usage and storage
  • Hydrogen: fuelling net zero

Directly connected solar PV

WSP is already enabling industry clients to make use of directly connected solar PV plants next door to their factories. Energy doesn’t get much more local than that.

For example, we supported Tata Global Beverages in Hartlepool, where Tetley teabags are made, in commissioning a behind-the-meter solar plant and ensuring suitable technical protections were in place to avoid any disruption to the factory’s operation.

In Leeds, we’ve designed a park-and-ride scheme with car port integrated solar PV. This charges a battery which, in turn, charges electric buses and private vehicles. Industrial organisations could follow this approach, installing solar panels in car parks to empower their employees to choose zero-carbon transport or provide power to other on-site uses.

Related areas

  • Brownfield onshore wind
  • Future mobility

What are the technical considerations for solar carports?

We lay out the steps to using solar carports to supplement or meet onsite energy needs

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Zero-carbon construction

How can construction go carbon-free? Design approaches, materials used and construction sites will all have to change.

Designs will become modular, permanently temporary and super adaptable for future uses.

We’ll be using wood much more. Innovations in cement and steel manufacturing will cut out carbon emissions by using new raw materials and hydrogen. Carbon capture will most likely be a key solution.

Finally, construction sites will be zero waste and, of course, serviced by all-electric equipment running on zero carbon power.

Related areas

  • Retrofit or new build?
  • Hydrogen: fuelling net zero

Can we make a totally recyclable building?

Three engineers devise answers to this problem

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Zero-carbon fleet and freight

Industry has a big opportunity to cut CO2 emissions from transport. Solutions can take many forms – including the large-scale electrification of fleet operated vehicles and pioneering hydrogen-powered heavy goods vehicles and trains.

WSP’s work with owners and developers on fleet strategy includes advising a blue-chip company on introducing the charging infrastructure to add 600 electric vehicles to its fleet by 2025.

The opportunity also extends beyond companies’ own fleets to low-emission deliveries and servicing. Our ongoing work with England’s Economic Heartland is considering a decarbonised future particularly for the first and last mile delivery sector and we are advising private sector clients on the opportunities in the logistics sector.

Related areas

  • Future mobility
  • Directly connected solar PV

How can we cut emissions in maritime?

By 2025, all new vessels ordered for UK waters need to be designed with zero-emission capable technologies on board

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Brownfield onshore wind

Despite removal of subsidies and challenging planning policy, onshore wind can play an important role in decarbonising industry – thanks to the falling cost of the technology.

Some companies with large energy usage are building their own wind turbines on their own land to feed renewable energy into plants behind the meter. Others are entering into corporate power purchase agreements to buy 100% of the energy from a wind farm development, making that development viable for investors.

Opportunities for building wind turbines in industrial areas exist across the UK. At the Port of Sheerness, for example, WSP’s engineers have helped operators install four 2.5MW turbines beside the area used to receive shipments of luxury cars.

Related areas

  • Directly connected solar PV
  • Flexible, local power systems

How can we continue to develop onshore wind?

Thanks to fresh thinking, UK onshore wind is experiencing a renaissance

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Future mobility

How will people get to work in a net zero industrial cluster? Future mobility models – with demand-responsive shared travel, zero-emission public transport, micro-mobility options and better provision for walking and cycling – all have a fundamental part to play.

This shift in mobility will be fuelled by electricity across all modes and, for heavy-duty cycles such as buses, trucks and trains, hydrogen. Recent figures show that 4.4% of all cars and vans registered in the UK are now plug-in, with half of those battery electric. Electric and hydrogen fuel-cell buses are already on our street, so the journey to zero-carbon is well underway.

Against this backdrop, we are helping bodies such as Transport for the South East navigate through the actions required to achieve the vision of zero-carbon mobility with what could be a complex future mobility landscape.

Related areas

  • Zero-carbon fleet and freight
  • Energy-efficient organisations

New mobility now

How will transport, mobility and technology come together in future transport systems?

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Open-loop geothermal

There could be an untapped source of low-carbon energy right under your feet. Where ground conditions are suitable, geothermal energy can be used to heat or cool industrial buildings. And, with open loop systems, it can be done in a confined area with a very small footprint – without burying long lengths of pipe.

Instead, water is taken from an abstraction borehole, passed through a heat exchanger to warm the water in the building’s plumbing system and then put back into the ground through a recharge borehole a short distance away. The ground does the heat transfer.

We are currently exploring the potential for open-loop geothermal to heat commercial and other mixed use buildings in Colchester’s Northern Gateway development.

Related areas

  • Brownfield onshore wind
  • Combined heat and power (CHP)

Geothermal can help us meet heat, cooling and energy needs

Read more about the application of geothermal energy

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Energy-efficient organisations

Achieving net zero carbon emissions requires organisations to consider every aspect of the way they source and use energy.

Low-carbon electricity from nuclear, offshore wind and solar accounts for an increasing proportion of the generation mix (30% will come from offshore wind alone by 2030). So, electrifying as much of their operations as possible – from road transport to industrial furnaces – offers organisations a path to decarbonisation.

But they also have a role to play in balancing supply and demand by implementing measures such as battery storage or demand-side response that shuts down processes when demand is high.

At WSP we call this creating a 360-degree energy strategy.

Related areas

  • Flexible, local power systems
  • Energy storage

How can we evolve our carbon emissions accounting?

We consider a more comprehensive way of calculating carbon emissions

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Carbon assessment and strategy

Industry can reduce CO2 emissions through low-carbon products, manufacturing and processes. The key is accurately quantifying carbon, assessing every part of the lifecycle and devising long-term reduction strategies. For petrochemicals company SABIC, we developed a roadmap to reducing corporate carbon intensity by 25% by 2025.

With resources constrained, industry will have to embrace the circular economy. Waste must become a resource, while energy consumption must be factored into every decision. And the natural environment must be enhanced – with the added benefit of carbon sequestration – through pioneering biodiversity offsetting projects such as that at Duqm Refinery in Oman, for which WSP provided expertise.

Related areas

  • Energy-efficient organisations
  • Waste to energy – and other resources

Helping Sabic reduce emissions

How can Sabic meet its target to reduce emission intensity 25% by 2025?

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Flexible, local power systems

An increasingly flexible and local electricity grid creates an opportunity for industry.

As more renewable generation comes online, more technical and commercial solutions – such as battery storage, synchronous condensers and more flexible services – will be needed to keep the grid balanced. Market changes mean that balancing the grid will become the responsibility of companies that own and operate it at the level of distribution, as well as the transmission system operator.

Devolving responsibility will enable industrial and domestic consumers to provide vital balancing services such as constraint management through more flexible use of their existing assets and new investments such as electric vehicles. With the rise of peer-to-peer energy trading, more consumers will become prosumers – producing energy as well as consuming it.

Related areas

  • Energy storage
  • Brownfield onshore wind

Will you soon be trading energy with your neighbours?

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Collaboration is needed to drive the net zero agenda

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Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage

Not every sector will be able to eliminate all CO2 emissions, so achieving net zero will require negative emissions in some sectors.

This is where bioenergy comes in – burning wood pellets in power stations such as Drax, and then capturing and storing the CO2 produced. New trees planted to replace those felled for biomass would remove more CO2 from the atmosphere, ensuring that the net result is negative emissions.

These negative emissions then offset those from hard-to-reduce sectors such as aviation, ensuring the UK can still achieve net zero.

Related areas

  • Carbon capture usage and storage
  • Hydrogen: fuelling net zero

Is zero carbon hydrogen achievable?

Exploring the options – including bioenergy with carbon capture and storage

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Hydrogen: fuelling net zero

Hydrogen is the prime candidate to replace natural gas. With potential to both fuel industries - such as glassmaking - and to heat homes, it emits only water when burnt. And because hydrogen can be transported and stored in similar ways to natural gas, it can respond to seasonal fluctuations in demand.

Using renewable energy to produce ‘green’ hydrogen through electrolysis, has niche applications – such as on-site production for fuel-cell electric buses or trains. However, industrial processes and domestic heating are likely to rely on steam reformation of methane to produce ‘blue’ hydrogen – with the resulting CO2 captured and stored.

Related areas

  • Carbon capture usage and storage
  • Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage

Supporting Hynet to advance the UK’s most advanced hydrogen and CCUS project

We’re leading on the conceptual design of a new hydrogen pipeline in the North West, supporting Progressive Energy

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Retrofit or new build?

Across many of the process industries, assets are ageing. Needing to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide we put into the atmosphere, organisations are faced with either retrofitting their existing facilities or building new ones.

Retrofitting low-carbon technology such as low-energy motors into factories could reduce running costs in the long term, but it requires capital investment now.

Where new build is the most cost-effective way forward, offsite manufacturing and modular construction can reduce waste, provide schedule certainty and overcome technical challenges.

Related areas

  • Zero-carbon construction
  • Carbon assessment and strategy

Carbon capture usage and storage

To achieve net zero, the UK will need to capture and store CO2 emissions from biomass power generation, large-scale hydrogen production and chemical processes in industries such as cement manufacture.

While some captured CO2 could become feedstock in industrial processes, the majority will have to be piped offshore and stored under the seabed in disused oil and gas fields or saline aquifers.

Locations with the right infrastructure and geology could receive shipments from places with less favourable conditions. Industries in South Wales, for example, could ship CO2 to Merseyside for storage in depleted offshore gas fields.

Related areas

  • Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage
  • Hydrogen: fuelling net zero

What are the options for heavy industry to decarbonise?

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What’s the future for carbon capture usage and storage?

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Energy storage

Storing energy can enable large power users to avoid peak Triad charges – this is the levy paid during the highest three half-hour periods of demand on the networks over the winter months. Storing energy is also a potential source of future revenue - by helping to balance the grid.

Today, batteries are the most promising energy-storage technology. With early-adopting investors beginning to go ahead with schemes, WSP has worked with firms including EDF, Centrica and Kiwi Power on direct battery connections to industry.

As more renewable energy comes into the grid, more battery storage will be needed. This could see other storage technologies – using flywheels, hydrogen production or gravity based solutions – become commercially viable.

Related areas

  • Directly connected solar PV
  • Flexible, local power systems

Why don't process industries make more use of offsite construction?

In process industries, modular build and offsite manufacturing for construction have been talked about for a decade.  Yet serious offsite and modular construction is still not widespread.  Why is this, when other industries have embraced this approach and the benefits that it brings?

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How can industry achieve zero carbon?

Amidst growing public awareness of the climate crisis, industrial organisations are increasingly setting themselves net zero CO2 emission targets. However, many are finding that this is easier said than done: it is a challenge for which there is no single solution.

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Getting value from ESOS

For the Environment Agency’s Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS) to be more than a box ticking exercise, it must be used to build robust business cases for energy-saving projects.

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