Industrial Heat Decarbonisation workshop

23rd May, York

More than half of the greenhouse gas emissions from UK industry result from processes that provide heating. Fossil fuels still dominate the generation of heat and cooling in industrial processes, but breakthroughs in research and innovation are creating new possibilities to reduce the sector’s emissions and create synergies to help decarbonise other sectors, such as home heating.

The one-day workshop brought together researchers from IDRIC and the EPSRC Network+ Decarbonisation of Heating and Cooling, along with stakeholders from national and local government, regulators, and industry, to discuss the latest research findings and identify what more needs to be done to accelerate the deployment of decarbonised heating technologies.

Participants discussed recent progress across a range of options for low- and high-temperature heat, from fuel-switching to hydrogen and electricity, to the use of CHP for more efficient heat and power generation, and recent advances in high-temperature heat pumps and thermal energy storage.

There is also enormous potential to recover and re-use waste heat from industrial processes. For example, up to 90% of the electrical input for gas compression in industry is dissipated as waste heat, with 48 TWh/year of waste heat created by industrial thermal processes across the major UK industrial clusters. Surplus industrial heat is a valuable resource that can be re-used in industrial processes or fed into local heat networks to provide heat for domestic households.

Options for decarbonising the generation of industrial heat and recovering surplus heat are developing rapidly, but challenges remain. Changing production processes always comes with risks, and more certainty about the implications of new technologies (e.g., regarding heat transfer) and possible impacts on the end product is needed to support decision-making.

Continued collaboration and knowledge exchange between academia and process industries are critical to building collective knowledge and gathering more evidence on fuel switching and heat recovery.

Developing bespoke applications and their practical integration into industrial processes is also capital-intensive and requires expertise and skilled staff. Non-technical barriers that need to be addressed include the capital costs involved in retrofitting and new equpiment, continued high energy costs (especially for electricity and compared to other countries), the availability of new or upgraded grid connections, the hydrogen supply chain (generation and distribution), infrastructure and contractual arrangements for the provision of heat through heat networks.

Policy is important in incentivising and enabling steps to reduce emissions from industrial heating. Anna Pultar, IDRIC’s Senior Policy Research Lead, joined representatives from DESNZ, the Association for Decentralised Energy, and the Chemical Industry Association to discuss opportunities for governments to help tackle these challenges.

Emission standards and carbon pricing create incentives for decarbonisation but need to be combined with enabling measures to overcome financial and practical barriers, and ensure businesses remain competitive. Recent advances in business model support for hydrogen and CCS are welcome, but there was general agreement that greater awareness of the challenges for industrial fuel switching and energy efficiency is needed to support timely action, in particular in industries further away from future hydrogen and CCUS networks. Funding for innovation and deployment of technologies, in particular for extensive testing of new technologies is urgent, together with investment in skills, and support for stakeholder coordination and knowledge exchange to speed up heat decarbonisation across the UK’s industrial base.

Further information:

This workshop is part of a programme of events organised by the Network for Heating and Cooling Research with the aim of collective advancement of science, engineering and technology combined with planning, demand management and effective policy. Further details about the EPSRC Network+ can be found here: Our Network | Net Zero Research Network (net-zero-research.co.uk)

IDRIC Research projects involved in the workshop:

Contact: policy@idric.org