South Wales Industrial Cluster

South Wales Industrial Cluster

Overall emissions

  • 16 megatonnes of CO2 equivalents per year (10m tonnes from industrial emissions and 6m tonnes from power generation)
  • 5% of total UK emissions
  • Second biggest cluster for industrial and power carbon emissions in the UK

Key sectors

  • Steel and metals
  • Petrochemical and chemical
  • Cement
  • Power
  • Insulation
  • Paper
  • General manufacturing

Geographic spread

A total area of 7,614 km2, running from the Pembrokeshire coast to the Severn Bridge, along the M4 corridor. The cluster includes the industrial areas of Milford Haven, Pembroke, Llanelli, Swansea, Neath and Port Talbot, Bridgend, Cardiff, Barry, Newport and the South Wales Valleys. It combines Cardiff Capital Region and Swansea Bay City Region

South Wales Industrial Cluster

South Wales: Map of South Wales Industrial Cluster’s vision for decarbonisation. Source – SWIC

Economic scale

The industrial and power sector in Wales is directly responsible for over 100,000 jobs. In 2019, the sectors covered by the South Wales Industrial Cluster contributed an estimated £17,750m GVA to the Welsh Economy (nearly 25% of the total GVA in Wales).

Academic Cluster Lead: Jon Maddy, University of Cardiff

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.

Jon Maddy

Jon Maddy is the Director of the University of South Wales’ Hydrogen Centre at Baglan, where he leads the University’s R&D activities on hydrogen production, purification, storage, and application across several sectors. He has four decades of experience in hydrogen in industry and academia, supporting the mission of the USW Hydrogen Centre to focus on industrial facing hydrogen and fuel cell research, with a strong emphasis on industrial and academic collaboration. Jon is the academic lead for the South Wales Industrial Cluster, collaborating with over 40 industrial partners, and is also a member of the UK Government Hydrogen Advisory Council.

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

The founding vision of the South Wales Industrial Cluster is:

“Developing a world leading truly sustainable industry befitting the societal needs of 2030, 2040, 2050 and beyond”.

To achieve this, SWIC has a target of achieving Net Zero industrial emissions by 2040, whilst maintaining competitiveness and growing the industrial economy of South Wales.

What is unique about your cluster?

The South Wales Industrial Cluster (SWIC) is large in terms of current CO2 emissions and geographic area.

Significant progress is being made, but SWIC includes the UK’s largest and fourth largest single industrial CO2 emitters, as well as significant power industry CO2 emissions.

SWIC has no proven geological offshore storage capacity close to its coastline. This leads to a regional focus on CO2 shipping, and an emphasis on CCU and green hydrogen for decarbonisation.

The SWIC Area accounts for ~56% of Wales on-shore renewable energy generation capacity and is now developing a growing off-shore renewables capability in the floating offshore Celtic Sea project, together with the development of off-shore wind power manufacturing capability.

The Bristol Channel has the second highest tidal range in the world and has substantial potential for power generation from proposed tidal barrage or tidal lagoon projects. Marine current and wave power generation also have significant potential off the South Wales coast

Key measures affecting industrial decarbonisation are devolved to the Welsh Government (e.g. economic development, environment, planning, skills and education, water and flood defence), whilst other important policy measures are reserved (e.g. energy policy, industrial development and protection of trading interests)

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

Research and innovation will enable us to:

  • Enhance the efficiency of pre-combustion carbon capture and improve carbon capture and utilisation (CCU) technologies to upscale CO2 to higher value products
  • Better understand the value of waste as a resource, both in terms of recovery of energy and building block chemicals for a profitable circular economy
  • Support the practical development of industrial hydrogen and other fuel switching combustion technologies, and to understand the implications on downstream processes
  • Explore the use of hydrogen to replace coke as iron ore reductant in steelmaking
  • Produce higher efficiency heat to power cycles
  • Develop hydrogen and CO2 non-geological storage solutions – both medium and large-scale and for interim and long-term. CO2 will need to be stored before being transported by road, rail, ship; hydrogen must be stored to accommodate seasonable production and demand fluctuations.
  • Design cost effective hydrogen deblending and purification technologies for widespread use in fuel cells
  • Develop novel routes to biobased chemicals and materials to replace fossil fuels for chemical production
  • Assess the environmental impact of fugitive hydrogen emissions
  • Address the disparity between reserved and devolved planning policy, especially in land use restrictions, renewable energy planning and planning for flood mitigation
  • Evaluate the economics of hydrogen transition beyond the end of government subsidies
  • Analyse and address the skills, training and competency development requirements in transitioning to a low carbon economy

What work is IDRIC already doing with your cluster?

IDRIC is funding projects to support SWIC in their key aims of enhancing CCU and optimising CO2 shipping and port infrastructure. Research to accelerate the production of green hydrogen and make use of waste industrial heat is underway, as well work to understand the public perceptions of industrial decarbonisation in the region.

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

Globalisation has brought new uncertainties and insecurities that threaten citizens’ resilience, characterised by social scientists as ‘World Risk Society’. This is the social context –the ‘new normal of risk’ – within which industrial decarbonisation will have to be delivered, a situation magnified because most of the Industrial Clusters are in regions of the UK with pockets of severe social deprivation alongside the existing industry. Currently, there is no research on the social implications of regional industrial system decarbonisation framed in terms of these wider currents of risk society.

Optimising approaches for the movement by ships of CO2 from clusters without nearby CO2 geo-storage to those with suitable storage capacity. Considering specific CO2 waste streams from different sources (with a range of purities and phases) within regions, production volumes, port capabilities and attributes, and the design of appropriate port-side CO2 transit infrastructure. Developing a techno-economic model.

This project focuses on the design of new infrastructure and systems to provide low-C fuels and heat to industry, away from the main clusters

Industry emissions away from the six clusters account for c. 50 MtCO2, just over half of all emissions from the sector. In industry, 47% (8.5 Mtoe) of energy demand is met by natural gas, predominantly for high and low temperature processes and drying/separation, so the associated emissions will not be directly affected by electricity decarbonisation.

To meet net-zero commitments these emissions, dispersed across the UK, need to be addressed. The appropriate supply-side option will be dependent on the use case and local context, but this data is scarce.

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.

Research approach will produce an integrative framework guiding a socially acceptable, place-based process of decarbonisation and path to net zero emissions. SW will be a key case study for the project, working with communities to understand lived experience and local knowledge.

  • Heavy Industry releases up to 50% of consumed energy as waste heat
  • Tata Steel Port Talbot steelworks produces waste heat at a continuous 760MW
  • Capturing all energy is the equivalent to heating 500,000 homes & offsetting 1MT of CO2 annually

Gas Compression (GC) and Industrial Thermal Processing (ITP) are two major and often co-located CO2 emission hot spots within industrial clusters (ICs), contributing >5MT CO2/year to UK emissions. Both GC and ITP processes in ICs are highly energy-intensive and inefficient.

Transition to zero-carbon fuels (ZCFs), such as ammonia, hydrogen and biogas, is critical to industrial decarbonization.

In the near term, ZCFs may be more likely to be utilized in blends with conventional hydrocarbon fuels, e.g., H2 can be used together with diesel to fuel internal combustion engines by inducting hydrogen/air mixtures, and ammonia can be blended with biogas or natural gas to fuel gas turbines.

It is essential to understand the fundamental combustion charactristics of pure ZCFs or ZCFs/conventional hydrocarbon blends to assist the early introduction of ZCFs in existing combustors to contribute to IDRIC targets of low carbon industrial cluster by 2030 and zero carbon industrial cluster by 2040. Optical combustion characterization has the advantage of being non-intrusive.

Tata Steel, Dwr Cymru Welsh Water (DCWW) and other industries within the South Wales Industrial Cluster (SWIC) are significant emitters of greenhouse gases (GHGs) including CO2, CO and CH4. These industries are actively seeking to decarbonize these emissions. The economic costs of decarbonization are reduced if carbon is converted to valuable platform chemicals such as volatile fatty acids (VFAs), instead of being captured for disposal or converted into GHGs such as CH2.

Industrial decarbonisation through CCUS and/or blue hydrogen, produced from natural gas with CCS, involves processing of numerous complex mixtures. Gas separations are crucial along with blending, compression, dehydration, transportation and geological storage. Thermodynamic properties are absolutely fundamental to these processes, many of which operate in regimes (of composition, temperature, pressure) not commonly encountered.

Although engineers have numerous thermodynamic models available, there is a lack of consistent and reliable models verified for the relevant conditions. Cubic equations of state (EoS), the workhorses of chemical engineering thermodynamics, can be reliable for predicting phase equilibria but are often inaccurate for phase properties such as density and enthalpy. Modern fundamental EoS, based on the multi-fluid Helmholtz energy approximation (MFHEA), offer substantial advantages.

As part of the transition to fully decarbonize steelmaking and other processes, this project aims to investigate a Sorption Enhanced Water Gas Shift (SEWGS) process route, to discover optimal technical configurations and provide greater understanding of the potential economics of adopting a SEWGS for hydrogen and carbon dioxide recovery.

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.

Algae are organisms with the potential to provide efficient green CCU, with a consumption of 1.8 kg CO2 per kg of algae produced. Unfortunately, large-scale production is limited by the requirement to use natural light for photosynthesis. Most importantly for Industrial scalability natural light restricts photobioreactor geometries, limiting design to 2D (typically raceways or tubular systems) that make large scale operation problematic and uneconomic.

This project will explore the use of bio-based mechanisms to help industry, and industrial processes, be decarbonised.

A range of mechanisms are needed to decarbonise effectively and rapidly, and in order to achieve net zero across multiple sectors some form of bio and land-based carbon management is required. This includes utilising the ability of agriculture to contribute negative emissions that can be netted against the residual emissions from industrial clusters which are the hardest to decarbonise. Linking industrial clusters with the wider regional setting will also enhance their opportunity to provide lasting sustainability, and promotes integration with local environmental and ecological impacts and opportunities.

Useful Links

Deployment project and roadmap:

Other useful links: