This industrial energy research atlas presents an overview of industrial-related energy research in the UK. The atlas is strictly related to energy demand reduction (or energy efficiency) rather than the broader but closely related activities of carbon emissions reductions and/or sequestration.
Following the IEA’s definition, industrial energy research is classed as either focussing on a reduction in energy consumption in processes including combustion, or on the development of new techniques, processes and equipment for industrial application. Note that the term “industrial energy research” does not mean solely research carried out by or in industry (although it does include this), rather research into industrial activities, which broadly fits into one or both of the above categories.
The compilation of the atlas has been particularly difficult for the industrial sector. Research in other areas not covered by this atlas often has the side-effect of improved energy (or other resource) productivity. There is also problem of classification related to products manufactured for, and applied in, widely different areas and sectors other than industry. For example, products manufactured for the domestic sector are necessarily excluded from this document, although they inevitably drive energy trends within industry itself.
Characterisation of the Field
The industrial sector of the UK economy is the only one to have experienced a significant fall of roughly 40 in final energy demand since the first oil price shock of 1973/74. This was in spite of a rise of over 40 in industrial output in real terms. Consequently, the sector as a whole has seen a dramatic improvement in energy intensity; the primary cause of the drop in energy intensity (or energy ratio) for the economy as a whole. But this masks different underlying causes: (i) improvements in end-use efficiency; (ii) structural changes in industry; and (iii) fuel switching from coal use in favour of ‘cleaner’ fuel.
The industrial sector is very diverse in terms of manufacturing processes ranging from highly energy intensive steel production and petrochemicals processing to low energy electronics fabrication. Whereas the former typically employs large quantities of (often high temperature) process energy, the latter tends to be dominated by energy uses associated with space heating. It is useful for analysis purposes to subdivide the multitude of processes into four broad categories: low temperature (Tp < 394 K), medium temperature (Tp = 394 692 K), high temperature (Tp > 692 K), and mechanical drives. There are around 350 separate combinations of industrial sub-sectors, devices, and technologies in the UK. Each combination offers quite different prospects for energy efficiency improvements and carbon reductions, which are strongly dependent on the specific technological applications. This large variation across industry does not facilitate a cross-cutting ”one size fits all” approach to the adaptation of new technologies in order to reduce energy demand, but rather requires tailored solutions for separate industries. Conversely, certain “behavioural” or “good practice” measures are suitable for adoption across the board precisely because of their explicit independence from the type of technology employed.
In the short term, the road map and priorities for enabling technologies for industrial energy demand reduction are quite clear. There are a variety of technologies that will lead to improvements in industrial processes, boiler operation, compressed air usage, electric motor efficiency, the effectiveness of heating and lighting systems, and other ancillary uses (such as transport). But the prospects for the commercial exploitation of innovative technologies by the middle of the 21st Century are highly speculative. One of the principal research challenges over the longer term is to provide policy makers with a range of technology assessment methods that will enable them to assess ongoing progress with developments in high temperature processes, improved materials, process integration and intensification, and improved industrial process control and monitoring. Key amongst the appraisal methods applicable to the energy sector is thermodynamic analysis: energy, exergy and ‘exergoeconomic’ techniques. These approaches are usefully supplemented by techniques such as environmental life-cycle assessment (LCA), environmental cost-benefit analysis (CBA), and the generation of cost supply curves. Thermodynamic methods provide an indication of the maximum improvement potential available from different energy technologies. However, it is important to recognise that this ‘maximum’ perhaps an80 improvement in end-use efficiency in some cases - cannot be achieved in practice. Technical and economic barriers will limit the improvement potential to something closer to 30 . Even that would make a significant contribution to energy demand and carbon reduction in UK industry.
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Table 2.1: UK Capabilities
The UK engineering and science communities are well placed to make significant innovations in terms of both the understanding of industrial processes and the development of novel techniques. Some of these are identified in other sections of the Atlas, for example under various aspects of the ‘Demand Reduction’, ‘Future Sources of Energy’, and ‘Materials for Advanced Energy Systems’ Themes. Mechanical engineers could potentially be at the centre of the drive towards greater thermodynamic efficiency of energy systems, but the UK has fallen behind its Continental European and North American counterparts in this regard. By contrast, British chemical engineers (a rather smaller community) have been internationally active in devising both new processes and methods for improving process performance. Expertise in some of the other fundamental sciences of industrial relevance, such as combustion, fluid dynamics and heat transfer processes, is high. Likewise the materials science and engineering communities are well placed to develop novel materials that could withstand high temperature or corrosive environments, and that can be produced by way of energy efficient and environmentally benign methods. The attention of electrical engineers since the 1970s has been concentrated on electrical power generation and distribution, rather than its industrial end-uses like electric motors and lighting systems. Major strides have obviously been made in the electronic equipment and information technology areas, which contribute to reducing industrial energy intensity. There are significant economic and organisational barriers to the achievement of technical improvements aimed at producing a low energy and low carbon economy. Here the social sciences have a major role to play, and the UK is quite well placed in contributing towards their application in industry. But more needs to be done in terms of encouraging them to address energy issues in an industrial context.
Table 2.1: UK Capabilities
Table 3.1: Research Funding | Table 3.2: Key Research Providers
Basic and strategic research oriented towards solving industrial problems is mainly sponsored by the UK Research Councils, principally the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), and the Carbon Trust. Traditionally the Research Councils have responded to grant applications submitted by individual academics: the so-called ‘responsive mode’. More recently they have moved in the direction of more co-ordinated programmes via the Carbon Vision Programme (joint EPSRC and Carbon Trust), the EPSRC SUPERGEN Programme, and the UK Energy Research Centre (funded by three of the UK Research Councils - the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the EPSRC, and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)).
SUPERGEN takes a new approach to supporting research into sustainable power generation and supply. This multidisciplinary initiative is managed and led by EPSRC in partnership with BBSRC, ESRC, NERC and the Carbon Trust. The initiative aims to help the UK meet its environmental emissions targets through a radical improvement in the sustainability of power generation and supply. Researchers work in consortia, multidisciplinary partnerships between industry and universities, focused on major programmes of work. This promotes interaction, generation of new ideas and transfer of research results as well as significant step changes in tackling broad challenges rather than incremental progress.
The UK Energy Research Centre’s mission is to be the UK’s pre-eminent centre of research, and source of authoritative information and leadership, on sustainable energy systems. It undertakes world-class research addressing whole-systems aspects of energy supply and use, while developing and maintaining the means to enable cohesive UK research in energy. To achieve this it is establishing a comprehensive database of energy research, development and demonstration competences in the UK. It also acts as the portal for the UK energy research community to and from both UK stakeholders and the international energy research community.
Table 3.1: Research Funding
Table 3.2: Key Research Providers
Table 4.1: Research Funding | Table 4.2: Key Research Providers
The term Industry encompasses a wide range of activities, resulting in a diverse set of organisations providing applied research within the UK. There is limited research that applies directly to energy demand reduction within industry but there is a large volume of research that relates to processes and individual components that are encompassed within the industrial and service sectors.
Three funding schemes have been identified which relate to industrial and service sector energy/carbon reduction. The DTI’s Technology Programme covers an extensive range of research programmes, and although no call refers specifically to Demand Reduction in UK Industry, a number have components that can be related back to industry.
The Applied Research Grants from the Carbon Trust is open to UK businesses and research institutions and aims to support the development and commercialisation of technology with the potential to reduce UK carbon dioxide emissions. There are approximately 100 current projects, with total committed funds of £90 million, of which £13 million has been spent thus far. They are endeavouring to encourage and support the progress of low carbon technologies towards large scale deployment.
Much of the applied research in the UK is relatively small scale and is being completed by smaller UK firms. There are a couple key players who are recognised globally. Key players in terms of large scale research establishments include AEA Energy and Environment and BSRIA.
A number of organisations address energy and carbon management, these are primarily consultancy firms. Closely linked with these are the small numbers of firms that provide policy and strategy advise and consultancy services. These firms in general are relatively small when compared to the key players. Technological research is undertaken by a significant number of organisations ranging from academic organisations to technology companies. Company-based research is centred on looking at new technologies which can be applied to processes within industry.
Table 4.1: Research Funding
Table 4.2: Key Research Providers
This mode of operation leads to a much more controlled and shorter flame length and the following advantages:
This project aims to deliver the following key benefits:
Public Research, Development and Demonstration (RD&D) funding into energy has declined dramatically within the UK over the past two decades or so.
International Energy Agency (IEA) figures indicate that the scale of this decrease stands at around 90 , from around £250 million to under £50 million, in the period from 1988 to 1998. Whilst this mirrors the trend in many OECD countries, it is particularly severe within the UK because of the magnitude, which is significantly larger than that in any other OECD country. Secondly, the UK budget is now on a par with those of the smaller Spanish, Danish and Norwegian economies, rather than the other leading economies in France and Germany.
The privatisation of public owned and operated utility companies (amongst others) in recent decades has partly caused this decline. For example, British Gas formerly spent £70 million pounds per year on R, D & D, but now Lattice, which took over most of British Gas’s research functions, spent just £14 million in the 15 months to March 2002.
Research on energy use in industry is highly dispersed; reflecting some 350 separate combinations of industrial sub-sectors, devices, and technologies in the UK. Specialist facilities can be found in the previous sections under basic and applied research.
Table 7.1: Networks
As for RD&D funding, the extent to which networks proliferate in the field of industrial energy research is somewhat limited. The only specifically industry related network that have been identified in the UK are the Ocean Margin LINK programme and the South East England Innovation Relay Centre (SEEIRC).
The SEEIRC is one of the many European Innovation Relay Centres (IRCs), which were established in 1995, to create a pan-European platform to stimulate trans-national technology transfers needs, and to exploit their research results. It provides services across the south east of England, excluding companies in London (normally within the M25 motorway), which include surveillance for nascent technologies, advice in sourcing new technology and expertise, help in promoting technology to potential partners, and practical tips on drafting abstracts. Many of the requested and/or offered technologies are directly related to industrial processes and are therefore highly relevant to this Research Atlas. Full details of all the technologies can be found in the full Technology Offers and Requests document at http://seeirc.org/TO-TR.pdf.
The service is freely available to any company located in the counties of Berkshire, Hampshire, Oxfordshire, Kent, Surrey, West & East Sussex and the Isle of Wight. The SEEIRC has three consortium partners, the Defence Diversification Agency, Technology Enterprise Kent and Thames Valley Technology, with the entire network comprising 240 support organisations that help industry to find support partners across Europe, as well as in the UK.
Table 7.1: Networks
Table 8.1: EU Framework Programmes
CORDIS is an information space devoted to European research and development (R&D) and innovation activities. Research activities that are currently being undertaken are under Framework Programme 7 (FP7).
IST concentrates on the communications industry and moving forward with new communication systems. New Production and Processes Devices, is closely related to industry as it looking into life cycle optimisation in processes. The outputs from this area could feed directly into the research being undertaken in industry energy demand reduction.
Aside from the EU Framework Programmes, COST is a European wide support scheme set up by a Ministerial conference in 1971 to encourage co-operation in Science and Technology. Present areas that are relevant to industry which are supported included Agriculture, Food Science & Biotechnology, Environment, Forestry and Forestry Products, Material, and Telecommunications & Information Science Technologies.
Within COST there are now 34 participating countries including the 25 Member States of the European Community. COST supports the co-ordination and networking of existing research and activities of public value. COST does not fund research.
Table 8.1: EU Framework Programmes
Table 9.1: International Activities
The UK is involved in several international research collaborations, which are mainly confined to a European extent. Most of these involve the Department for Trade and Industry (DTI). They are, specifically, the DTI’s Global Watch Service, Innovation Relay Centres (IRCs) and IEA’s Energy Technology Data Exchange (ETDE).
The Global Watch Service provides support dedicated to helping UK businesses improve their competitiveness by identifying and accessing innovative technologies and practices from overseas.
IRCs are currently co-funded by the EC under the 5th Framework Programme as part of the Innovation and SME Programme.
Finally, ETDE is a multilateral organization formed in 1987 to further international information exchange. It is a group of countries/entities who have chosen to co-operate to meet a key information need in a more cost-effective way. There is an IEA Implementing Agreement on Industrial Energy-Related TechnologySystems but the UK does not participate.
Table 9.1: International Activities