North West sets out roadmap to achieve industrial decarbonisation

The Protos site

A roadmap to decarbonisation for the region has been unveiled by Net Zero North West (NZNW).

Its report, published today (April 12), focuses on progress so far in developing a Cluster Plan, and how it will deliver on its bid to be the UK’s first net zero carbon industrial cluster by 2040.

Industry in the North West produces 16.7 million tonnes of CO2 every year.

The Cluster Plan sets out a series of interventions that will be required to reach net zero:

  • Decarbonising the power sector – renewables alone will not be enough to reach net zero. Hydrogen and natural gas with carbon capture will also be required to meet energy demands. This will require the grid to be substantially reinforced.
  • Decarbonising industrial processes – through energy efficiency, carbon capture and use of low carbon fuels like hydrogen industrial processes will be decarbonised.
  • Hydrogen production – hydrogen will play a central role in the region’s decarbonisation strategy, providing low carbon power and enabling fuel switching for industry. Hydrogen with carbon capture through the HyNet project could produce 4GW of the Government’s new 10GW hydrogen target by 2030.
  • Electrolytic hydrogen produced from regionally based renewable generation will also contribute.
  • Carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) – the development of regional CO2 transport and storage infrastructure underpins both the direct capture of CO2 from industry and the production of low carbon hydrogen by HyNet. It will be expanded to include Energy from Waste (EfW) and biomass facilities combusting biogenic fuels (so-called Bioenergy Carbon Capture and Storage or ‘BECCS).

Ged Barlow, Net Zero North West chief executive, said: “This is a landmark point in the development of the North West’s Cluster Plan. For the first time we have a clear and credible roadmap to reaching net zero in 2040.

“We’ve long had the ambition to be the first cluster to decarbonise and this report shows how we’ll get there. There are a plethora of low carbon projects already happening in the North West from renewables to nuclear and hydrogen to ammonia and all of these are going to be needed to reach net zero.

“This regional decarbonisation strategy will not only help the UK meet its net zero targets, it will be crucial in giving us greater energy independence as set out in the Government’s Energy Security Strategy last week.”

Myles Kitcher, managing director, Peel NRE, part of Peel L&P, said: “Today’s report shows how far we’ve come. There’s been a huge amount of work to understand how the range of projects we have in the North West – from harnessing tidal power in the Mersey, to strategic energy hubs like Protos in Cheshire to hydrogen and carbon capture – can all work together to reduce industrial carbon emissions to zero.

“But we can’t be complacent. There is still work to be done to ensure that we have the right skills and supply chain here in the North West to deliver on this opportunity which will be an important focus for year two of the Cluster Plan project.”

Andy Hulme, head of innovation and growth, North West Business Leadership Team, said: “We’re delighted to see the launch of this Cluster Plan report. The work to develop it leaves no doubt about the scale of the challenge in decarbonising industry in the North West.

“However, it also demonstrates viable, deliverable routes to achieving the ambition to reach Net Zero by 2040. The key is creating the conditions to unlock the private investment which is needed to make it happen.”

The £120,000 Cluster Plan project, which is jointly funded by UK Research & Innovation (UKRI), under the Industrial Decarbonisation Challenge Fund (IDCF), and by industry, will form part of a national cluster plan strategy being prepared by UKRI and government.

In the second year of the Cluster Plan an investment case will be developed which builds on the NZNW Economic Prospectus published in 2021 and will set out the skills requirements and supply chain opportunities.

The region stands to benefit from £207bn of targeted investment, which will turbocharge the UK economy by £285bn GVA and safeguard or create more than 660,000 jobs.

The Cluster Plan is being developed by a consortium of partners including Net Zero North West, Peel NRE, North West Business Leadership Team, Cheshire & Warrington LEP, University of Chester, Liverpool City Region LEP with research partners including EQUANS, Uniper, Progressive Energy, Cadent and SP Energy Networks.

Alongside hydrogen and carbon capture project, HyNet North West, the region is also unlocking hydrogen as a clean fuel for transportation, including plans for the UK’s first plastic to hydrogen facility at Protos in Cheshire. Building on its strong heritage in the nuclear sector a North West Nuclear Arc has been established that will provide clean and sustainable energy across the North West and North Wales.

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