New research will study the unforeseen effects of decarbonising UK industry


Deacrbonising the UK's heavy industry could have unforeseen environmental consequences - a new research project will examine what they might be.

The 12-month Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) project is set to model a variety of energy pathways across key industrial heartlands in England and Wales. LCA measures the environmental impact of a product or process across its whole life cycle, from the extraction of raw materials and resources used in manufacture right through to end-of-life disposal.   

The research is one of 20 projects funded by Innovate UK, the government’s national innovation agency, and coordinated through the Industrial Decarbonisation Research and Innovation Centre’s (IDRIC) £6m wave 2 funding package

History has shown us that scientific innovation can have negative and unexpected knock-on effects. Prof. Adam Hawkes Director, Sustainable Gas Institute

Professor Adam Hawkes, Director of Imperial’s Sustainable Gas Institute said: “History has shown us that scientific innovation can have negative and unexpected knock-on effects. Take plastic, it’s in use so widely because of its strength and durability, but those same advantages have created a truly global pollution impact. Our project will look at the decarbonisation of energy supply across key industrial sectors, so we can highlight, consider and address any negative environmental impacts before they occur.” 

Industries that use large amounts of energy, such as chemical, steel and cement manufacturing, are obvious targets for decarbonisation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). The government’s Industrial Decarbonisation Strategy provides a roadmap for improving efficiency, accelerating the uptake of low-carbon technologies and investing in infrastructure and technology that will meet low-carbon future needs.  

The SGI’s Dr Jasmin Cooper, who is leading the project, said: “Examining decarbonised scenarios for some of the UK’s most significant heavy industrial supply chains and applying LCA will allow us to identify and quantify potential pollution sources. This could be anything from indirect GHG emissions from the use of hydrogen instead of natural gas to more intensive water use or even by-product pollution from new processes.” 

The research will focus on industrial clusters in petrochemical and cement industries with research in the Humber, South Wales, Black Country and the North West.  

“There’s sound scientific evidence that the industrial decarbonisation strategy will make huge inroads into reducing GHGs. Our project aims to identify areas of unintended consequence, along with opportunities for further reducing the environmental impact. The results should support informed decision-making for even greater sustainability throughout key industrial processes.” 

The project is one of three successful bids to the IDRIC programme from Imperial College London. “Integrated Design and Optimisation for Nationwide Deployment of Direct Air Capture Units”?led by, Dr Ronny Pini and Dr Maria Papathanasiou will focus research in Scotland and Teesside, followed by other clusters at a later date. A third, led by Prof. Niall MacDowell and partnered with DRAX, OGCI will examine “An integrated framework for levelled up & low carbon industrial clusters.” 


Greg Brina

Greg Brina
Business School


Industry, Energy, Net-Zero
See more tags