As the UK strives to achieve net zero by 2050, there remains unanswered questions about how one of our main sectors, manufacturing, will decarbonise while keeping the sector competitive and not costing jobs.
During the first industrial revolution, British manufactured goods dominated world trade, leading to the UK earning the title as the “Workshop of the World.” Despite the sector declining since then, it remains a vital part of the UK economy and contributes £170 billion annually while providing 2.6 million direct jobs and supporting millions more.
While manufacturing is a vital contributor to the UK economy, it is also a significant contributor to the UK’s carbon emissions with estimates suggesting that it’s responsible for around 20 percent of the UK’s annual greenhouse gas emissions. This figure shows the long road ahead for the manufacturing industry. However, it also reveals the enormous potential for low carbon technologies in the sector, particularly for those that are operating off the gas grid but still need high levels of heat and energy for manufacturing and industrial processing.
Currently, two-thirds of emissions from the manufacturing industry come from intensive energy users such as steel and iron. These sub-sectors cannot rely on electricity because they require high temperature heat in blast furnaces. Other energy intensive manufacturing and processing such as melting, rolling, kiln-firing all require similarly high levels of heat, while processing in the food and drink industry such as cooking and baking, drying and sterilisation also need heat and energy.
However, BioLPG could facilitate energy intensive processes such as these as it can reach high temperatures while emitting up to 90% less carbon emissions than conventional LPG and carrying the same low levels of NOx, Sox and PM2.5. Even in its more widely available form, LPG produces less carbon emissions than oil and coal which are other fuels commonly used by manufacturers. Across the UK, bioLPG could potentially replace other high carbon fuels that are used in the manufacturing industry to the sum of 1.66 TWh, reducing carbon emissions by thousands of tonnes for off-grid businesses
A quick and affordable solution
Like many industries, manufacturers have suffered throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. With businesses in recovery mode, costs are set to be tight for many. As Government regulations come into play over the coming years to speed up the decarbonisation transformation, many businesses in the manufacturing sector will have to consider the cost of making a switch to low carbon fuel. With the need to keep costs down, bioLPG can also be an easy and affordable solution. As a ‘drop-in’ fuel, manufacturers can therefore transition from LPG to BioLPG without having to pay for new infrastructure or retrofitting, thus allowing them to save money and reduce their carbon footprint at the same time.
One manufacturing business where LPG has been successful is Pat Munro, which operates its own quarries and manufacturers its own roadstone and concrete in the Scottish Highlands. It’s one of the largest privately owned contractors in the Scottish Highlands and after making the switch to LPG, it has reduced the annual carbon emissions of their asphalt plants by 25% – and its fuel costs by almost 19%.
The ease of installing LPG meant that there was minimal production downtime and ensured that the plant was up and running very swiftly after installing the low carbon emission system. Now that it has transitioned, Pat Munro is benefitting from a cleaner, more cost-effective LPG heating system that has improved the efficiency of the rock drying process overall.
The manufacturing sector isn’t one that can simply dial down the amount of energy or heat that it needs in its production phases. High levels of heat will still be needed in order to manufacturer and produce the products that are exported across the UK and around the world. While the Government continues to develop its position on the future energy mix, it is clear that an industry like manufacturing needs the support of a mixed technology approach that gives them the tools that they need,
The manufacturing industry is a tricky sector to decarbonise but it’s not impossible. It just requires a flexible approach that accounts for all the needs of the sector. Incorporating LPG and bioLPG into the Government’s approach will allow the UK to become a leading figure in green manufacturing and set the standard for the rest of the world.