£80m boost to help UK businesses tackle carbon emissions


The UK government announced the disbursement of over £80 million funding on 28 June, intended to give a boost to a range of projects geared towards ditching fossil fuels in favour of cleaner energy sources. Projects include hydrogen-powered cornflake production and low-carbon Scottish whisky distillation.

Breakfast giant Kellogg’s is among 29 of the projects pledging to change their production processes to cut emissions. The company plans to use hydrogen to fuel their cereal making process in Manchester, backed by around £3 million of government investment.

And one of Scotland’s oldest whisky makers, Annadale Distillery, seemingly takes a step towards a low-carbon future with the help of a £3.6 million government investment in new thermal heating technology. This will see the distillery work with Exergy3 Ltd to develop a system that stores energy from electricity in special ceramic bricks, to then produce heating gas that could fully decarbonise the whisky-making process.

University of Edinburgh spinout Exergy3 has developed a “decarbonisation machine” that the firm says can replace up to 100 per cent of the fossil fuels currently used in high temperature industrial processes.

A demonstration machine will be installed at the Annandale Distillery in Dumfries and Galloway and used to produce a carbon-neutral whisky.

Currently, around half of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide come from high temperature processes, used in many industries from food and drink to district heating networks and combined heat and power plants.

Exergy3’s modular energy storage system instead takes excess renewable energy from the National Grid and stores it at temperatures of up to 1200C with apparently minimal energy losses.

Minister for Energy Security and Net Zero Graham Stuart announced the winners at the Climate Innovation Forum, where he called on industry leaders and international bodies to get behind a green innovation drive.

Also receiving a slice of the funding is Britain’s biggest biscuit maker, Burton’s Food Ltd – home to Maryland cookies and Jammie Dodgers – which will see them innovate to swap out a gas oven for low-carbon electric, at their Dorset bakery, with the help of around £3.3 million from the government.

Around £950,000 will also go to consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble (P&G) to explore how to integrate CCUS into their manufacturing, by extracting carbon from the company’s waste streams to help cut emissions. The project will form part of a new research drive, CarboNation, in partnership with Newcastle University’s School of Engineering and Centre for Process Innovation.

The energy projects receiving backing were announced as part of the latest round of the government’s £1 billion Net Zero Innovation Portfolio, which aims to scale up low-carbon technologies for use across UK industries.

The £82.9 million announced comprises:

  • Industrial Fuel Switching competition: 13 businesses, from a paper factory to glass manufacturers, will receive a total of £52.5 million to support projects developing low-carbon alternatives to fossil fuels, such as hydrogen or biofuels.
  • Hydrogen BECCS Innovation Programme Phase 2: Five project winners have been awarded a total of £21.2 million to turn biomass and waste, such as sewage, into hydrogen with carbon capture.
  • CCUS Innovation 2.0 competition: 11 winning projects, including recycling CO2 for fertiliser production, will be given a total of £9.2 million to develop the latest technology in carbon capture usage and storage.

The UK government has committed to reducing overall UK energy demand by 15% by 2030, alongside an ambition for the UK to move towards greater energy independence.

Dr Markus Rondé, chief executive officer of Exergy3, said:

“The decarbonisation of industry is a fundamental part of the UK’s race to net zero. However, so far, the extremely high operating temperatures of many industrial processes have made it technically and financially challenging.

“The NZIP funding enables us to build a full-scale demonstrator at the Annandale Distillery in Scotland. For Exergy3’s technological and commercial development this will be a great leap forward and we are all very excited to try Annandale’s first batch of low-to-no carbon whisky.”

Scott Frame, Vice President, R&D and Site Leader, Newcastle Innovation Centre, said:

“CarboNation is a great example of where innovation can be applied to carbon capture and use technologies to solve specific challenges that are not only relevant to P&G, but both the wider Fast Moving Consumer Goods industry and society at large.

“We’re really excited to have received this grant, alongside other valued partners, in order to accelerate P&G’s understanding within this area, supporting our collective pursuit of wider sustainability goals.”

Alongside the funding allocated today, the government has also published new reports to support the transition to alternative energy sources for UK industry. This includes guidance on designs for hydrogen technology systems, as part Industrial Hydrogen Accelerator programme.