Humber Industrial Cluster

Humber Industrial Cluster

Overall emissions

  • 20 megatonnes of CO2 equivalents per year (14.6 megatonnes from industrial emission and 5.4 megatonnes from power generation)
  • The biggest cluster for industrial and power carbon emissions in the UK

Key sectors

  • Iron & steel
  • Refining
  • Chemicals
  • Energy from waste and biofuel
  • Cement and lime
  • Glass

Geographic spread

The Humber Cluster spans both banks of the Humber Estuary, connected by the Humber Bridge and hosting the ports of Goole, Grimsby, Hull, Immingham and Killingholme.

Humber Industrial Cluster

Map of Humber Cluster’s vision for decarbonisation. Source – Humber 2030 Vision (PDF)

Economic Scale

£18 bn of the UK’s economy is generated in the Humber each year, driven largely by its deep expertise in industrial processes. 20% of the Humber region’s economic value comes from energy-intensive industries and 360,000 jobs are supported by industries such as refining, petrochemicals, manufacturing and power generation. Energy intensive industries account for around one in ten jobs in the Humber region.

Prof Joe Howe, University of Chester, Humber Cluster Lead

Our Academic Cluster Leads provide strategic input and connectivity with the industrial clusters and act as a bridge between the research community and activities within the clusters.

Prof Joseph Howe

Professor Howe is the Director of the Thornton Energy Research Institute at the University of Chester. He has extensive experience in working interchangeably with industry on major environmental projects and initiatives across the UK. Currently Joe is driven by the opportunities afforded to UK industry in delivering of the £600bn of infrastructure projects by 2030. Joe is pro-actively engaged with the UK’s emerging clean growth agenda including his roles with the UK Decarbonised of Gas Alliance and the chairing of the NW Hydrogen Alliance. He is particularly passionate about STEM skills and sits on the Board of the Department of Education: Engineering Construction Industries Training Board.

What is the high-level vision for the net-zero cluster?

The Humber Industrial Cluster aims to reach net zero by 2040 and create over 50,000 jobs in region. The Humber Region will become a SuperPlace, where carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS), renewable energy, and hydrogen come together to be at the forefront of technical developments in the race to net zero.

What is unique about your cluster?

  • The Humber Industrial Cluster is the biggest CO2 emitter in the UK
  • It is home to two of the UK’s six oil refineries and one of its two integrated steelworks.
  • Multiple low carbon hydrogen projects are underway in the Humber and it is recognised by the World Economic Forum as one of two world leading clusters
  • The cluster has easy access to a concentration of offshore CO2 storage in the southern North Sea
  • It is also home to Europe’s largest biomass power station (DRAX), supporting the potential for negative emissions of up to 16 megatonnes CO2 equivalents per year
  • The region has one of the UK’s most established offshore wind clusters
  • East Coast Cluster: in collaboration, the Humber and Teesside cluster are delivering shared onshore and offshore infrastructure to capture and store carbon from across their regions. The East Coast Cluster was selected for Track 1 CCUS Cluster Sequencing Process to share £1bn for deployment of CCS in the region.

What are the key research and innovation challenges in your cluster?

Research and innovation will enable us to:

  • Address key differences between sectors (such as refineries, chemicals and steel industries) to ensure they’re working together to tackle decarbonisation in the most effective way
  • Use a whole systems approach to better understand how industrial decarbonisation integrates with heat, transport and power decarbonisation systems
  • Accelerate the development of hydrogen transport and storage systems
  • Assess the potential of waste heat, resulting from increased hydrogen production
  • Develop non-amine-based carbon capture technologies
  • Explore novel uses of CO2 emissions, such as to enhance food production in greenhouses
  • Address water stress issues that increased water use from CCUS and hydrogen will cause and ensure the needs of industry, nature and local populations are all met
  • Design standards for CO2 and hydrogen pipelines
  • Develop a common CO2 specification for clusters that minimises overall cost to projects
  • Quantify the net environmental impact of low carbon projects
  • Explore the role of natural sequestration in wetland, salt marsh and other natural features in the Humber estuary and coastal regions that the Humber Cluster sits on
  • Understand inward investment opportunities for new and relocating businesses who can “profit” from cluster decarbonisation infrastructure
  • Understand the regulatory framework needed to ensure performance guarantees by low carbon projects (eg. CO2 capture rates and compliance with low carbon hydrogen standards)
  • Support workforce planning by reviewing UK Government departments’ education and training policies, including an international comparative study.
  • Transition from measuring the skills gap between supply and demand to understanding why there is a gap and finding innovative solutions to overcome it
  • Predict any wider implications of large infrastructure projects on local economy
  • Understand and enhance public interest and community support for low carbon projects

What work is IDRIC already doing with your cluster?

Given the Humber Cluster’s ideal access to the Southern North Sea, IDRIC are funding projects to accelerate both geological CO2 and hydrogen storage solutions. As home to Europe’s largest biomass power station, our projects are also developing processes to use BECCS in the production sustainable aviation fuels, and exploring how BECCS can have a positive impact on the natural environment.

This is just a snapshot of the projects we’re funding to support the region; our full portfolio is below:

This project will deliver a reservoir model of a key UK CO2 storage complex: the Bunter Sandstone of the Southern North Sea. This saline aquifer is the primary storage unit targeted by two ongoing CCUS feasibility studies (OGCI’s Net Zero Teesside and Equinor’s Humber Industrial Decarbonisation Deployment projects) and as such has a high likelihood of forming the storage reservoir for one of the UK’s first CCUS operations. The reservoir model will provide a testbed for optimizing different CCUS operations targeting the aquifer, leading to a reduction in cost and risk to operators. Important geological information will be delivered to a wide range of industrial and academic research projects to further the collective understanding of this important storage reservoir. The Bunter Sandstone is already the focus of several academic studies, but interest in the aquifer system is expected to grow as the industrial feasibility studies progress. The detailed geological framework developed as part of this project will enable researchers to investigate increasingly complex physical and chemical interactions and processes critical to the operation of these CCUS projects.

This project will examine both the policy mixes and governance dynamics of industrial decarbonisation in the UK. It will pursue three integrated outputs:

  • A series of reviews looking at the sociotechnical policy aspects of industrial decarbonisation, especially the difficulties of, and types of policy instruments for, iron and steel, cement, chemicals, oil refining, food and drinks, pulp and paper, glass, and ceramics;
  • Producing an institutional and policy mix mapping for the six geographic UK clusters, and assessing how these meet various criteria, including consistency, coherence and credibility;
  • Examining the governance dilemmas of large-scale CCUS projects through the lens of project management and megaprojects, applied to five of the six clusters.

This project will develop an open source techno-economic and environmental portfolio assessment toolkit to design low carbon infrastructure for industrial clusters. It will address two important cluster challenges:

i. How to share the cost of new or modified infrastructure (e.g. CCS, hydrogen production and distribution, increased electrification)
ii. Identify and rate opportunities for resource cascading (e.g. heat integration across industries).

Meeting the challenge of industrial decarbonisation requires large scale fuel switching to clean hydrogen, either blue hydrogen from fossil sources coupled with CCUS or green hydrogen using renewables like wind and solar. Hydrogen will soon be blended with natural gas and supplied safely to over 650 homes as part of a trial in Winlaton in the north-east of England. In Buckhaven, Scotland, H100 Fife project is will bring renewable hydrogen into 300 local homes in the first phase of this project. The UK is taking the first steps to expand the use of hydrogen in national gas network.

Industrial decarbonisation policy seeks to address a number of technical and economic challenges in reducing industrial emissions. However, like all policy it is also the outcome of a political process, and creates new political dynamics.

Interest groups form coalitions to deploy ideas to try to influence outcomes, constrained or enabled by the institutional context for policy making. A range of actors have diverse interests in industrial decarbonisation policy, including: foundation industries; new technology firms; fuel, technology and infrastructure providers (e.g. in areas such as CCUS, hydrogen, bioenergy); consumers, taxpayers and workers, both in general and in particular regions. In theory, government seeks to balance these interests in designing policy; in practice policy will also reflect the political importance of different interests and how organised and effective interest groups are in putting their views.

At the same time, policy outcomes distribute resources and powers across these groups, and through path-dependence help create pathways of decarbonisation. These developments can in turn create political risks.

For each industrial sector, the most efficient and cost-effective capture technology will depend on the characteristics of the CO2 source, CO2 destination/sink, the specific location, and local resources. Although some capture technologies are already operated at industrial scale (e.g. amine-based capture), these may not be optimal for all required applications and may need to be adapted. Advanced tailored sorbent-based technologies allow flexible operation together with reduced capital and operational costs as they offer higher capture capacities and significantly lower energy penalties than the current state of the art systems. In the past decade, significant breakthroughs in separation science have been made through the discovery of novel nanoporous materials (e.g., Metal-Organic-Frameworks). However, to fully utilize the potential of these materials, the integration between materials science and process engineering is required. The lack of such integration has been identified as one of the key bottlenecks that limit the prospect of novel materials for CCUS technologies to reach the market.

Large-scale CCUS requires the availability and flexible utilisation of a CO2 transport and storage network. Important challenges, however, are the time varying injection profile and dynamic storage capacity of any site within the network which need to be determined to establish its attractiveness as potential store.
Also, from the network operator’s viewpoint, the overall cost of storing a contracted amount of CO2 needs to be considered in a dynamic, time dependent framework that respects complex engineering, economic and regulatory constraints.

The world-leading UK national CO2 storage database CO2Stored provides freely available detailed information on more than 570 prospective storage units around the UK. The database has been the starting point for all recent public-private and industry storage capacity appraisals. It provides the first, significant step to industry and researchers to inform their plans for UK-wide industrial decarbonisation by CCUS.

To accelerate industrial decarbonisation at scale, low carbon technologies (including carbon capture usage and storage (CCUS) and Hydrogen production) require a strong social licence to operate (SLO).
SLO refers to the level of support for projects and technologies assembled to deliver industrial decarbonisation in the region. High levels of SLO are achieved when projects are seen as credible and legitimate, and depend on establishing trust between society and those responsible for delivering and regulating projects. Thus, it is important to understand specific contexts and past events which will influence the evolving social licence in each region.

The Energy Institute held a hydrogen energy transition workshop with stakeholders in hydrogen production, storage and distribution, which identified the following needs to facilitate the large-scale deployment of a hydrogen energy system:

The relative lifecycle analysis of hydrogen value chain options, both for:

  • energy intensity and associated CO2 emissions
  • wider feedstocks and emissions

The basis for making a demonstration of safety (a ‘safety case’) for facilities and operations in the foreseeable hydrogen value chain.
These needs were further scoped into three research projects.

UK clusters are major consumers of industrial oxygen gas, in particular steel producers, chemical plants and general manufacturing. Currently, the global £44billion oxygen market is growing 4-5% annually and deep decarbonisation technologies can be key suppliers. Hence, the main challenge this project is focusing on is innovative solutions for utilisation of co-produced oxygen to enable deep decarbonisation to fully benefit from the benefit of water electrolysis.

The utilization of hydrogen as a fuel is one way to enable the decarbonisation of industrial clusters and domestic heating. This project responds to this opportunity by assessing the potential for subsurface storage of hydrogen in rocks, thereby avoiding the requirement for surface storage facilities.

The steel, oil refining, and chemical industries account for about 40% of UK industrial GHG emissions. Industrial reorientation towards low-carbon technologies is challenging because incumbent firms in these industries are locked into existing technologies, skills, and business models. Additionally, incumbent firms are reluctant to make large low-carbon capital expenditures, because this may weaken their position in cut-throat international competition.

Translational Energy Research Centre is supporting a three-stage research project which aims to understand more about how the gasification of biomass with carbon capture could be used in producing hydrogen and sustainable aviation fuels.

Production of valued chemicals and fuels from biomass gasification with CO2 capture has great potential: In the short term, it will enable the displacement of virgin-fossil energy sources and will contribute to an efficient mix of renewable energies. In addition, they will contribute to the decarbonisation of industrial sectors. The energy efficiency and capital cost of converting biomass and residual wastes to aviation fuels are major barriers to widespread adoption.

To achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, the Committee on Climate Change has advised the UK should:
1) Quadruple low-carbon electricity supply
2) Deploy bioenergy with carbon capture & storage
• Where is BECCS infrastructure going to be located?
• How will the environment be affected by the land use change associated with the deployment of BECCS?

The Industrial Decarbonisation Challenge (IDC) was set up to accelerate innovation and deployment of low carbon technologies and associated infrastructure while simultaneously stimulating economic growth within a wide variety of industrial sectors. The industrial clusters are significant hubs of economic strength both within their local communities and nationally. It is important that the significant reduction in carbon emissions required to achieve net zero maintains or increases this economic activity both during and after the transition. The technologies behind decarbonisation routes for industry are largely understood and at high technology readiness levels. The critical information that is needed to build investor confidence and transition to these low carbon technologies, is to understand which combination of these technologies and underpinning infrastructure offers the best economic benefits in the long term, when coupled to the transitioning energy system.

The Energy Institute held a hydrogen energy transition workshop with stakeholders in hydrogen production, storage and distribution, which identified that there are insufficient suitably qualified/certified technicians, mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, control and instrumentation engineers, project managers and other front line staff to cater for a transition from a petroleum based energy sector to a hydrogen based energy sector. In addition, there lacks the required competence profiles for the comparable roles, and suitable training to facilitate re-skilling against those profiles.

The purpose of this project is to enable development of the core and supply chain workforce needed to deliver Industrial Decarbonisation across the UK’s Industrial Clusters. This goal will be achieved through establishing a mechanism whereby the skills requirement can be determined and by promoting pathways to realising these skills. This process will not only help deliver a prepared workforce for the industrial clusters but will drive supply chain development and form a coherent community between Government, academia, training providers and industry. It will also afford a skills mechanism which may be exploited to the benefit of other industrial grand challenge areas.