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The University of Birmingham is part of a £20 million centre launched to tackle carbon emissions from industrial clusters.

The Industrial Decarbonisation Research and Innovation Centre is led by Heriot-Watt University, with two of its first phase projects being led by the University of Birmingham.

Funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) through its industrial decarbonisation challenge, the Centre will identify and research opportunities to reduce costs, risks, timescales and emissions across clusters of energy-intensive industries that currently make a significant contribution to UK carbon emissions.

The first of the Birmingham projects explores how new technologies, infrastructure and systems can be designed and deployed to provide low-carbon energy to industry across the UK. The focus will be on the fuels used in areas such as the Black Country, with a particular emphasis on assessing alternatives to natural gas, including hydrogen and electrification.

Dr Jonathan Radcliffe is leading the project and is also Academic Lead for the Black Country Industrial Cluster within IDRIC. He says: “Decarbonising industry is critical to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and limiting global warming. Within IDRIC, research teams at the University of Birmingham will be working with partners in the private sector and other institutes to assess options and learn from experience. 

“Our involvement in the Black Country Industrial Cluster will show how we can support local businesses and communities, then use the knowledge to help decarbonise industry across the country. The ‘Repowering the Black Country’ project exemplifies the diverse and distributed industrial base in the UK - we will require a range of integrated technological solutions alongside new business practices, with clear and long-term policy drivers. In particular, we need a better understanding of how infrastructure development can enable this transformation. The work undertaken through IDRIC will be an important contribution to decarbonisation at local, regional and national scales.”

The second project to be funded by IDRIC is led by Professor Yulong Ding, and will investigate ways of enhancing energy efficiency and reducing emissions from gas compression and industrial thermal processing, two major emission hotspots within industrial clusters. The project will demonstrate the industrial waste heat recovery, storage, and integrated utilisation at an industrial relevant scale.

Professor Ding says:"Industrial air compression alone consumes around 10% (30 TWh) of the UK electricity supply and between around 10 and 30% in many other countriesUp to 90% of the electrical input for gas compression is dissipated as waste heat. Alongside this, industrial process heating across major UK industrial sites creates around 48 TWh/year of waste heat. We are pleased to have to opportunity to work with our industrial partners across these industrial clusters to address these two challenges in an integrated manner. The work is not only for decarbonising the industrial clusters, it is also highly relevant for heating and cooling decarbonisation – one of the biggest challenges in achieving our net-zero 2050 target.” 

Matthew Rhodes, Programme Director, Repowering the Black Country, said: “The Black Country Cluster is delighted this funding has been allocated to IDRIC by government. We’re the only one of the six clusters to be focusing exclusively on the challenges of decarbonising small and medium-sized energy intense businesses, and our partnership with the University of Birmingham and IDRIC will enable us to access critical academic expertise.”   

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