Research focus / Policy agenda
“We need net-zero carbon emissions in industry, on a global scale, to protect our future. But we’re running out of time,” says Dr Gbemi Oluleye, Research Associate in the Department of Chemical Engineering.
The challenge of achieving net-zero carbon emissions in industry is not just about the scientific process surrounding technology development, it’s about creating economic and policy frameworks to make it a viable proposition. The future of research in this area will lie at the interface of science, engineering, business and policy.
Most people recognise that, to protect our future, we need to achieve net-zero carbon emissions in industry on a global scale. But to do that, we need to buy into a narrative that is efficient, secure and sustainable. “The world is already on the verge of change,” says Dr Gbemi Oluleye, a researcher in the Department of Chemical Engineering. “But we need to do it much faster. We’re running out of time.”
Modelling the future
Oluleye develops optimisation-based decision-support frameworks for energy system design. These models show how industrial energy systems can be decarbonised, and she examines the possibilities within the wider context of policy creation, business models for accelerated technology adoption, affordability and creating value from decarbonisation to maintain industrial competitiveness.
“I am exploring how to integrate low-to-zero carbon technologies, and alternative fuel options such as hydrogen, biomethane or biogas,” says Oluleye. “But the challenge is not just about the scientific element, it’s about the adoption of these technologies in industry and achieving decision-support frameworks for decarbonisation. It’s about exploring economic and policy frameworks to make it a viable proposition.”
So, for the past year, Oluleye has been collaborating with industry to better understand the business, technical and policy challenges of net-zero decarbonisation. “We need to create a business case that industries, particularly manufacturers, will adopt, to ensure they do not just move their sites to another country where emission regulations aren’t as stringent.
“This means factoring in who will fund it. Energy is the mainstay of any economy. It impacts everything we do – if we’re to achieve net-zero carbon emissions, particularly in industry, we have to work towards simultaneous innovations in business models and policy frameworks to drive adoption of the technical solutions and determine who bears the bulk cost of it.
The framework is able to explore new business models that prevent a situation where an increase in production costs is not shouldered by industry nor pass-through to customers, but a system is created to find by-products that have value in other sectors of the economy, thereby promoting large-scale adoption.
“This model gives us a pathway to commercial viability. For example, my recent work on integration of biogas-fuelled solid oxide fuel cells in industry shows how to achieve market adoption in the short and medium term. Our mathematical optimisation models provide evidence to industry and to policymakers to speed up the process of adoption of greener technologies to reduce our carbon emissions and achieve the net-zero targets.”