USW to take major role in South Wales Industrial Cluster Roadmap and Deployment projects

South Wales Industrial Cluster map

The University of South Wales (USW) is one of a number of Welsh and UK industry partners that have received a significant boost with the allocation of grant funding for South Wales from Innovate UK, the UK Government’s Innovation Agency.

The funding will support the first phase of the South Wales Industrial Cluster (SWIC) Roadmap and Deployment projects, which will seek to identify the best options for cost-effective decarbonisation of industry in South Wales.

The projects will look at the infrastructure required for the development of the hydrogen economy, for large scale CO2 capture, usage and storage (CCUS) and transport as well as onsite strategic opportunities specific to each industry.

Not only will the projects make a vital contribution to the UK’s journey to net zero 2050, they have the potential to strengthen the economic resilience of Welsh industry and communities by ensuring operations in the region are sustainable for the long term.

Jon Maddy, Director of the University of South Wales Hydrogen Centre at Baglan and the academic lead for the South Wales Industrial Cluster, said: “Industry remains a vital part of the economy in South Wales and is a key sector in our challenge to decarbonise. Our research at the Hydrogen Centre means we engage with many industry partners to identify routes to decarbonisation, particularly through the adoption of hydrogen technologies.

 “Over the past 18 months we have teamed up with Chris Williams at Tata Steel to establish and develop the South Wales Industrial Cluster. It is really encouraging that the cluster has now been able to succeed in winning these two important projects, where the USW will take the research and innovation lead.

“There are a number of promising technologies that can be applied to reduce carbon emissions from Industry, but our goal is net-zero emissions and we don’t have all the answers yet.

“We will work with the industry partners to identify promising new approaches that can reduce carbon emissions in individual processes, and achieve broader benefits to take industry in South Wales to net zero emissions.”

Chris Williams, of Tata Steel and FLEXIS, interim lead of the SWIC, said: “These projects present an opportunity to combine the various decarbonisation programmes in South Wales into a single roadmap and infrastructure deployment plan, thus supporting Wales’ net-zero ambitions.

“This regional plan will enable industry to determine its decarbonisation options and so support the development of a clean-growth strategy for Welsh industry and provide a sustainable industrial base for future generations.”

SWIC comprises a diverse set of industries, including oil refining, paper, nickel, insulation, chemicals, LNG import, coin production, general manufacturing, steel and cement. If the SWIC proceeds successfully through the various phases of the UK government’s Industrial Decarbonisation Challenge, it would stimulate significant clean growth, creating more jobs and opening up opportunities nationally and internationally for UK businesses.

It would also enhance the UK’s ability to locally manufacture cement and steel products with low carbon emissions, helping to drive the low-carbon future of UK construction and other sectors such as defence, car manufacturing, and coin production.

The Roadmap project led by CR Plus, the sustainable cost reduction, energy efficiency and project engineering consultancy, will include the partners RWE, Progressive Energy, USW, Celsa Manufacturing, Tata Steel, the Port of Milford Haven, and Vale Europe.

It will draw heavily on the Deployment project and smaller, local hub solutions to deliver a plan that establishes a series of local zero-carbon areas that will lower local emissions, create skilled jobs, improve air quality, and enhance well-being across the South Wales region.

Tony Parton, Managing Director at CR Plus said: “This collaboration provides exciting new opportunities for established industry and the developing net zero carbon industrial sector to transform South Wales into a vibrant ‘just’ economy whilst providing real clean growth.”

The phase one Deployment project focuses on four anchor projects at sites that are responsible for a significant portion of the economic activity in South Wales: Tata Steel’s integrated steelworks at Port Talbot, Tarmac’s Cement Works at Aberthaw, Valero Energy’s Refinery, and RWE’s CCGT Power Plant at Milford Haven.

Led by smart infrastructure solutions provider, Costain, the Deployment project will bring together partners Tata Steel, Tarmac, RWE, Valero Energy, Progressive Energy, CR Plus, Capital Law, Flexible Process Consultants and USW to collaboratively identify ways to tackle common and unique challenges of decarbonisation and clean growth, ultimately helping the UK to establish the world’s first net-zero carbon industrial cluster by 2040 and at least one low-carbon cluster by 2030.

Rob Phillips, energy sector director, Costain, said: “Bringing together global industrial partners, specialist consultants and academia will produce exciting innovations that have the potential to decarbonise these industries not just nationally but internationally.

“This bodes well for the expert potential of UK knowhow and the clean growth agenda. In leading the deployment project, Costain can not only bring our pragmatic experience of engineering and delivering major programmes as well as evolving carbon capture process technology but also our deep understanding of the wider implications for decarbonising UK infrastructure.”

Work on the anchor projects and other industrial sites in South Wales will identify process improvements and assess the viability of clean fuels to reduce carbon emissions, as well as look at Carbon Capture Usage and Storage (CCUS), identifying what existing infrastructure can be used and what new infrastructure will be required.

Together the projects will look to provide the capacity for a future circular economy so that in the long term, captured carbon that cannot be used locally by other industries such as agriculture will be shipped to national CCUS facilities such as HyNet at Liverpool Bay or Acorn at St Fergus. SWIC will also develop options and solutions to support regional hydrogen deployment in order to facilitate net zero carbon by 2050.

This first phase is a step towards securing a further share of the £131m allocated to the Industrial Decarbonisation Challenge by the UK Government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and is a key component of the government’s Clean Growth Strategy.