Funding allocated to six projects aiming to develop world’s first net-zero industrial cluster

Stanlow Ellesmere Port

UKRI has announced this week that industrial clusters in South Wales, the West Midland, Tees Valley, the North West, Humber region and Scotland will all receive new government funding to accelerate plans to create the first net-zero industrial cluster.

Energy Minister Kwasi Kwarteng said: “The UK is leading the world’s green industrial revolution, with ambitious targets to decarbonise our economy and create hundreds of thousands of jobs.

As we continue to level up the UK economy and build back greener, we must ensure every sector is reducing carbon emissions to help us achieve our commitment to net zero emissions by 2050. This funding will help key industrial areas meet the challenge of contributing to our cleaner future while maintaining their productive and competitive strengths.”

One of the major projects to receive financial backing is Net Zero North West – the coalition of businesses backing the project –which officially launched in October. Participants include CF Fertilisers, Encirc, Essar Oil UK, INOVYN, Peel L&P Environmental, Siemens, Storengy and Tata Chemicals Europe. The North West Business Leadership Team (NWBLT) is also supporting, bringing representatives from the likes of BASF, Unilever and IBM on board.

Funding will be used to develop a “cluster plan” to prepare the North West and North East Wales to remove more than 40 million tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere every year and creating thousands of new jobs.

The consortium of organisations will now progress to the second phase of the project, which will be delivered over a two-year period, to outline technology recommendations that would enable the cluster to reach net-zero by 2040.

Net Zero North West’s chairman Carl Ennis said: “Across renewables, hydrogen, CCUS, nuclear and smart grids, our region is in a truly unique position to become a world-leader in clean growth. Our cluster is already delivering on the ground and paving the way towards a net-zero future, which will protect the manufacturing jobs that have made this region thrive and create a sustainable pipeline of new high-value green jobs for our region.

“With the Prime Minister recently laying out his ten-point plan for a green industrial revolution, this new roadmap funding is a timely vote of confidence in our ability to deliver industrial decarbonisation in the North West and make a significant and rapid contribution to the UK’s net zero-emission targets.”

Net Zero North West said it has undertaken internal research outlining how the cluster and related projects could mitigate and sequester a total of 10 million tonnes of CO2e annually from 2030. This is more than is emitted each year by all homes in the region. It would also support 33,000 jobs, the majority of which would be in the supply chain, the coalition believes.

Elsewhere, BP, Eni, Equinor, Shell and Total have all signed up to spearhead the development of the Net-Zero Teesside project, which focuses heavily on the use of carbon capture, utilisation and storage technology (CCUS).

Drax, Equinor and National Grid have also published a roadmap fleshing out their plans to create the world’s first zero-carbon industrial hub in the Humber region by 2040. The roadmap sets out proposals to build a demonstration hydrogen production facility in the region by 2025 and install carbon capture equipment on one of the four biomass units at Drax’s power station in Selby two years later.

The funding is being administered by UKRI as part of the Industrial Decarbonisation Challenge, which forms part of the £4.7bn Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, also managed by UKRI.

Matt Mace

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