Imperial College London

SGI Annual Lecture 2020 - Review


Mercedes Maroto-Valer

Our SGI Annual Lecture 2020 is now available to watch online.

On 10 December 2020 we held a well-attended and highly successful Annual Lecture. This was delivered by Professor Mercedes Maroto-Valer, Associate-Principal (Global Sustainability) at Heriot-Watt University, who talked about ‘Industrial decarbonisation: The role of gas for a green economic recovery’.

 The decarbonisation of industrial clusters is of critical importance to the UK's ambitions of cutting greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. The UK Industrial Decarbonisation Challenge of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) aims to establish the world's first net-zero carbon industrial cluster by 2040 and at least one low-carbon cluster by 2030. Decarbonisation is also critical for a green economic recovery, as the country emerges from the current crisis caused by COVID-19.

Professor Maroto-Valer’s talk looked at the role of gas as enabler of the energy transition and decarbonisation of industrial sectors.

The lecture was chaired by Dr Adam Hawkes and Professor Nigel Brandon, and was followed by a lively Q&A session.

You can now watch the lecture online.

Q&A from the Lecture

You mentioned that the UK has reduced its GHG emissions whilst still growing economically. Is that still the case if one includes the GHG emitted by industry supplying the UK that has moved from the UK to the Far East?

Take a look at this reference: The decoupling of economic growth from carbon emissions: UK evidence

The hydrogen demand balanced scenario suggests a major increase from 2030 to 2035 up to 2040. How can such a massive transition take place? How could all this energy come from renewable sources, without competing with other 'demand' for such energy and how can this strategy be called 'low carbon'? How much hydrogen is realistically going to be used in industry high temperature processes by 2030/2040/2050? Is it mainly aimed at chemical, steel and concrete industries?

For more details relating to these queries, please take a look at this report: Climate Change Committee - the Sixth Carbon Budget Manufacturing and construction

How important is the role of our domestic oil and gas sector in delivering an effective energy transition? How much does unconventional oil and gas production feature in the path to net zero?

The Sixth Carbon Budget: the UK’s path to Net Zero reports "Our Balanced Net Zero Pathway for Fuel Supply involves a transition from producing 1,100 TWh of fossil fuels and 170 TWh of bioenergy in 2018 to producing 425 TWh of low-carbon hydrogen and bioenergy in 2050, for sectors of the economy that are likely to use fuels, rather than electricity. Production of fossil fuels will be much lower by 2050."                                                   

How central is the role of different forms of biomass in the industrial decarbonisation strategies envisioned by IDRIC? Are you addressing the ecological impacts of these form of energy generation, and the extent to which they can be termed carbon neutral?

These are very valid points that we need to consider regarding ecological impacts of bioenergy, including sustainability of biomass. Here is some suggested reading: Energy Transitions Commission: Making Mission Possible: Delivering a Net-Zero Economy                                                      

Is there an implication that energy intensive industry in the UK relocates to the ports where there are sources of low carbon gas?

Most of industrial clusters are already based in/around port locations.           

You have talked a lot about hydrogen, but little about biomethane. Do you see biomethane able to make a significant contribution, and if so where?

Slide 22 showed multiple options for H2 generation as well as biomethane.  You can also look at the report published by the SGI 'A greener gas grid: What are the options?'  

Why is a transition to hydrogen as a fuel source being pursued so much more aggressively compared to other options such as wider scale electrification? Energy input is required for H2 production through electrolysis - if this energy is coming from a renewable source to be carbon neutral, would the process not be more efficient if the conversion was renewable energy to electrification?

We need a variety of options to be able to reach net-zero. For more details, please look at this report: Climate Change Committee - the Sixth Carbon Budget Manufacturing and construction   

What kind of hydrogen fuel cells are more feasible for the maritime industry? and comparing hydrogen and battery system which option is more feasible in the shipping industry?

Here is some suggested reading: Energy Transitions Commission: Making Mission Possible: Delivering a Net-Zero Economy                            


Emily Govan

Emily Govan
Department of Chemical Engineering