Much work ahead for UK industry

Paul Boughton

UK energy intensive industries need to develop and implement new technologies to meet emission reduction targets, as outlined in a report by the first recipient of a new chemical engineering fellowship, in memory of former Labour Party MP Ashok Kumar.

The briefing, published by the UK Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) last week, was prepared by Iwan Roberts, a member of the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) and an Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Doctoral student at University College London.  

It describes the historic trend of improving energy efficiency in industry; highlighting the need for major investment to develop the transformative technologies required over the coming decades.

It goes on to explain how government has to balance the competing goals of reducing carbon emissions while keeping industry in the UK. Over the next decade, existing technologies will be used to continue emissions reduction but beyond 2020, transformative, and potentially expensive, technologies such as Carbon Capture and Storage will be needed to make significant improvements.

The briefing note draws reference to other reports that illustrate how emission reductions could fall well short of government targets without promising new technologies such as coke free steel making, or use of waste derived biologically based feedstocks in the process industries.

The government’s Carbon Plan predicts that total industrial emissions may have to be reduced 70 per cent by 2050 to meet its national targets. However, energy consultancy firm, Element Energy, warns that UK emissions might fall just 13 per cent by 2050, in a scenario of no significant carbon leakage and only the best available technology being implemented.
The Ashok Kumar Fellowship was launched and funded by IChemE and the North East of England Process Industry Cluster (NEPIC) in memory of Kumar, the only chemical engineer serving in government at the time of his sudden death in 2010.

IChemE CEO David Brown says that helping chemical engineers develop a better understanding of parliament and policy-making will be of benefit to both the process industries and politicians: "Too few scientists and engineers pursue a career in politics like Ashok Kumar did but I'm a big believer that more should. This fellowship is partly about stimulating that interest and Iwan's report offers a timely reminder about some of the challenges facing the UK."
Roberts says: “I had some really interesting conversations while researching the note and I was excited to hear the progress being made in the development of these next generation technologies to meet the challenges of moving towards a competitive low carbon manufacturing economy.”

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