Solent Industrial Cluster

Solent Industrial Cluster

Overall emissions

  • 2.6 mega-tonnes of CO2 equivalents annually

Key sectors

  • Refining

Geographic spread

The Cluster runs along 50 miles of the south coast of England, spanning Heathrow to Bournemouth, and including the Isle of Wight.

Solent: Infographic of the Solent Cluster’s vision for decarbonisation. Source – The Solent Cluster

Economic scale

The Solent region is projected to contribute up to £22billion to GDP, through a new hydrogen production facility.

Academic Cluster Lead: Dr Lindsay-Marie Armstrong, University of Southampton, Solent Cluster

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 Lindsay-Marie Armstrong

Dr Lindsay-Marie Armstrong is an Associate Professor within Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences at the University of Southampton and the Chair of the Clean Carbon University Strategic Research Group which is a network of over 150+ academic and industrial partners driving researcher and innovation towards a decarbonised future. She sits on the UK Industrial Decarbonisation Multi-cluster Committee and is an adviser and member of the Industrial Key Stakeholder forum supporting BEIS with the scoping of the industrial decarbonisation agenda. Her research is heavily multidisciplinary bridging the fields of chemical engineering, mechanical engineering and mathematics as she develops computational tools for accelerating scale-up of reactive technologies. She has extensive knowledge of reactive multiphase modelling, particularly for carbon capture and utilisation technologies.

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

The Solent Cluster partnership represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity for communities, the region, and the UK and can affect real change in energy production and consumption. The cluster will play a fundamental role in the world’s fight against climate change, enabling the UK to reach Net Zero emissions by 2050.

The aim is for the Solent to embrace future fuel technologies as a reliable alternative in a wide variety of industries and sectors. In becoming a leading centre for low carbon investment, the cluster can grow the regional economy, protect skilled jobs, and create new employment opportunities in the technologies and industries of tomorrow, while significantly reducing carbon emissions.

What is unique about your cluster?

  • The Solent Cluster has only a small number of major CO2 point sources: ExxonMobil and SSE
  • Local suitable CO2 storage is being explored but being a key UK port opens an important opportunity to explore CO2 shipping
  • The cluster aims to be leader on sustainable fuel production in the UK, creating carbon-free fuels for maritime and aviation industries
  • 40% of all industrial CO2 ever captured (120 million metric tonnes in total) has been carried out by one of the founding members of the Solent Cluster, more than any other company in the world

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

Research and innovation will enable us to:

  • Accelerate developments in blue and green hydrogen technologies
  • Accelerate water-to-methanol and waste-to-SAF technologies through to deployment
  • Address challenges associated with multi-scale fuel switching (moving to cleaner and more economical fuel alternatives), and give a better understanding of the socio-economic impact of fuel switching
  • Address issues with hydrogen pipelines transport and storage, particularly in linking the hydrogen network to clusters without clear storage options
  • Accelerate the deployment of CO2 shipping, gaining a better understanding both the offshore and onshore infrastructure requirements
  • Give a better understanding of how to promote hydrogen more effectively in the whole energy system
  • Support legislative and regulatory frameworks for whole system integration of hydrogen and carbon capture utilisation and storage (CCUS), including shipping
  • Identify skills gaps and modelling demand, as well as developing appropriate skills and training policy
  • Give a better understanding of the public acceptance of CCUS technologies, hydrogen technologies and fuel-switching
  • Explore land-use considerations such the environmental impact of new pipelines across protected nature reserves

What work is IDRIC already doing with your cluster?

With Solent’s critical role in the future of CO2 shipping and its exploration of local storage options, IDRIC is funding research to both optimise CO2 shipping infrastructure and to provide up-to-date information on all potential UK storage resources. Projects are designing toolkits to better understand the socio-economic impact of fuel switching, as well as addressing the skills gaps involved in this transition.

This is just a snapshot of the projects we’re funding to support the region; our full portfolio of project with the Solent 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.

Shipping of CO2 is the critical enabling action required to facilitate Carbon Capture and Storage.

The Carbon Capture and Storage National strategy is to store around 50Mtpa by 2035, as set out in the Net Zero Strategy.

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 £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.

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.