Scottish Industrial Cluster

Scottish Industrial Cluster

Overall emissions

  • 11.9 megatonnes of CO2 equivalents across whole cluster (4.3 megatonnes of CO2 equivalents solely from Grangemouth)

Key sectors

  • Main sectors: 
    • chemicals & fertilisers
    • refining
  • Other significant sectors:
    • energy
    • paper
    • cement
    • beverages
    • waste
    • glass

Geographic spread

The Scottish Industrial Cluster runs from Dunbar and the southern coast of the Firth of Forth, over 160 miles up the east coast of country to St Fergus, Aberdeenshire. The geographic area of the Scottish cluster covers 80% of Scotland’s industrial emissions. Within this area are 28 of Scotland’s most heavily emitting industrial sites.

Scottish Industrial Cluster

Scotland: Map of Scotland’s largest industrial CO2 emitters. Source – Scotland Net Zero Road Map

Economic scale

  • 14,000 full-time onshore jobs in the Scottish petro-chemical industry and supply chain
  • 180,000 employed in manufacturing

Academic Cluster Lead: Dr Maxine Akhurst

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.

Dr Maxine Akhurst

Maxine Akhurst is a geologist with experience in offshore and onshore geological research and modelling, specialising in carbon dioxide storage since 2008. She is an experienced leader of carbon dioxide storage research within UK- and EU-funded projects. Maxine leads science development for CO2Stored, the UK national carbon dioxide storage database. Her interests include carbon dioxide storage site screening, selection, appraisal, performance and risk assessment and leader of storage site characterisation to meet regulatory requirements. She is a Directorate member of Scottish Carbon Capture and Storage, has led three Scottish Government and industry consortium CCS projects, and contributed her expertise to numerous CCS research projects.

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

The Scottish Cluster unites communities, industries and businesses to deliver CCS, hydrogen and other low carbon technologies, supporting Scotland, the UK and Europe to meet net-zero goals.

The Cluster has a clear roadmap, ready access to key infrastructure and a series of CO2 reduction projects aligned to the county’s net-zero goals. With the potential to address up to 9 million tonnes of CO2 that currently comes from the top emitting sectors in Scotland, the cluster offers a very large CO2 transportation and storage solution. This includes shipping CO2 through Scottish ports, which is crucial to reducing industrial emissions in some areas of the UK, and even Europe. If Scotland secures up to 40% of the UK’s CCUS programme, it could create up 45,000 new jobs by 2030 and up to 100,000 by 2050.

What is unique about your cluster?

  • Scotland has the UK’s largest CO2 storage potential and one of the largest in Europe, meaning it can act as a major transport and storage hub and play a key role in enabling the wider CCS industry in the UK and internationally.
  • Wind turbines in Scotland provide two thirds of the UK’s renewable energy supply which will be key to green hydrogen economy.
  • The cluster is very spread out and pipelines for CO2 storage are required from Grangemouth to Aberdeenshire (~160 miles). Re-use of existing pipeline infrastructure can enable cost-effective CO2 transport.
  • Hydrogen is already produced through steam methane reforming at Grangemouth, meaning it is well placed to transition to low carbon production of hydrogen.
  • Scotland is home to over 80% of the UK’s oil and gas sector by production. This means it has a skilled and experienced workforce – both directly and through the supply chain – as well as existing infrastructure, which can enable a transition to net-zero emissions.

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

Research and innovation will enable us to:

  • Push for improved policies, especially concerning monitoring and liability issues for CCS, to guide investment
  • Assess existing or proposed fiscal policies from the UK and Scottish governments to support net-zero investments
  • Understand how fiscal mechanisms could be developed to incentivise industry to make decarbonising investments
  • Quantify the positive addition the CCUS industry can make to the jobs market, directly and through supply chains
  • Understand the readiness of skills/training providers in the area of decarbonisation
  • Assess how existing jobs will be impacted by energy transition and identify reskilling opportunities for redeployment to low-carbon projects
  • Develop effective regulation for decarbonisation standards for hydrogen and CCUS technologies, including certification of competencies
  • Understand how to utilise existing assets for repurpose applications (eg. pipeline re-use)
  • Optimise hydrogen transport and storage approaches for particular geographies and transportation scenarios (eg. pipe vs rail vs shipping)
  • Establish a UK baseline for N-amines (potential emissions associated with amine-based carbon capture systems) which could be used in atmospheric dispersion modelling to determine acceptable emission limits
  • Develop technologies for emissions monitoring in operational plants

What work is IDRIC already doing with your cluster?

IDRIC’s research to support the Scottish Cluster includes projects to understand the reskilling requirements for the transition to net zero and how hydrogen storage and transport networks can be optimised. Ten of our projects are led by Scottish research institutions, who have long established links with local industry.

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

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).

Industrial strategy and climate policy goals for decarbonisation must not come at the expense of social and environmental justice for communities and workers.
IDRIC Project MIP 2.4 aims to contribute new insights and approaches to advancing a ‘just transition’ in the UK to ensure the costs and benefits of industrial decarbonisation are distributed fairly.

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.

Sense of place is a geographical concept that encompasses the branding of spatial areas, as well as the lived experience and place attachments of local communities. This project will investigate how the process of decarbonisation involves transformations to the sense of place of industrial areas, based on the recognition that industrial decarbonisation is inherently a contested place-making process.

In so doing, this project seeks to produce an integrative framework guiding a socially acceptable, place-based process of decarbonisation and path to net zero emissions that will positively impact UK industrial clusters and offer guidance for decarbonisation elsewhere.

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.

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 £44 billion 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 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.

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.

Useful Links

Deployment project and roadmap:

Other useful links: