Chemical engineers to play an important role in the UK’s Clean Growth Strategy

The world’s nations meet today for the 23rd annual Conference of parties (COP23), under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Bonn, Germany. Ahead of the talks, IChemE’s Energy Centre has welcomed the publication of the UK Government’s Clean Growth Strategy. The document, described as ‘an ambitious blueprint for Britain’s low carbon future’, has been long awaited by the chemical and process industries, and sets out how to achieve economic growth while protecting the environment and reducing carbon emissions. It was published earlier this month. 

The report illustrates, in broad terms, how the Government will invest some £2.5b of previously- announced research funding to support low carbon innovation. This funding, which runs to 2021, covers programmes delivering low carbon energy, transport, agriculture and waste. The proposal includes up to £505m from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s Energy Innovation Programme, which aims to accelerate the commercialisation of innovative clean energy technologies and processes.

The report also signals a reversal of the Government’s 2015 decision to cancel the £1bn funding for building technology for carbon capture usage and storage (CCUS).

Chair of IChemE’s Energy Centre, Professor Stefaan Simons, said: 

“IChemE welcomes the Clean Growth Strategy and the Government’s recognition that financial support will be needed. However, it is important to maintain focus and complacency is not an option. The report alludes to the establishment of energy efficiency schemes and we await the details of these.

“The proposal to collaborate with global partners and invest up to £100m in CCUS is a positive move. The Energy Centre is soon to publish a Green Paper on this very issue, stating that carbon capture and storage is technology-ready, whilst utilisation of carbon dioxide still needs further development if its impact is to go beyond niche products. However, what is also needed is an effective market mechanism if rapid deployment is to be realised. It is, therefore, disappointing that the Clean Growth Strategy does not address this issue, nor the future of the EU Trading Scheme and the regulation that accompanies it, which will clearly be impacted by Brexit.”

The launch of the Clean Growth Strategy coincided with the publication of joint industrial decarbonisation and energy efficiency action plans aimed towards reducing reliance on carbon-based resources for electricity and heating, from the seven of the most energy intensive industrial sectors – cement, ceramics, chemicals, food and drink, oil and refining and pulp and paper. Chemical engineers play an important role in these industry sectors and have the skills to reduce the industry emissions and help deliver these targets.

Simons added:

“The joint decarbonisation plans outline a move to deploy greenhouse gas removal technology and improve energy, resource, and process efficiency. There is scope for significant energy savings and emissions reductions to be made in the chemicals sector. Much has already been done, but more can be achieved now with this backing from the UK Government. Chemical engineers have the expertise to play a key role here. Their unique systems-approach to integrated solutions can deliver results that benefit the industry and the communities they serve.”

Simons noted that the continued uncertainty over Brexit will complicate matters for UK industry and the Government must address this.

“The overall report lacks some tangible targets and mechanisms for delivery, IChemE looks forward to seeing the details of these when they are published.”