'Now is the time for a joined up transition' key message to come out of Frontier Energy's Innovation Summit

21st February 2022

'Now is the time for a joined up transition'

This article has been written exclusively for the Frontier Energy Network by Member, Nick Cottam who was in attendance at the Innovation and Investment in Energy Summit in London. All Summit Recordings & Presentations are available in the Members portal. Frontier looks forward to hosting the Energy 2050 Summit taking place from 21st - 22nd September 2022 in London & Online under the theme 'Building a Bridge to Net Zero' and we welcome you to get in touch to find out more. 

  • Can the world be more optimistic about reaching net zero?

  • Is the UK’s revised target date of 2035 realistic?

  • Do we have the up and coming technologies to support a viable, cost effective and sustainable transition to a low carbon economy?

Yes to all three questions according to an upbeat panel of speakers at Frontier's recent Innovation and Investment in Energy Summit which took place recently at Tobacco Dock in London and online. While there were elephants in the room – covid certainly, brexit inevitably and the thorny issue of energy security – the Frontier Energy Summit set a positive tone for the practicalities of transition. Speakers were insightful and informed about the supply chain of new technologies and latest developments, collectively designed to make transition a reality.

It’s all about scale

“The next unicorns are going to come from clean technology businesses,” said Andrew Smith, an Executive Director at Greenbackers Investment Capital. But …. “Investors want to be able to consume companies quickly and it can be difficult for them to get their hands around that end of the market.”

Early stage investment speakers at the event agreed that now was the time for clean technology to drive development in such areas as hydrogen, floating wind power and carbon capture. “We want to support 1000 clean technology firms by 2025,” said Stuart Ferguson, an Investment Partner at Sustainable Ventures. The challenge, he and other speakers noted was to scale up from the ideas stage, helping to turn start-ups into viable businesses and attract the investment they required.

The Frontier event covered the early stage to deployment and end of life energy investment cycle, from seed capital to heavy industry. It featured both investors and the companies pitching for their funding and advice. Among the latter were firms like CSX Carbon which has devised what it claims to be a more accurate system for carbon measurement as part of the offset process, and Carnot Engines which has developed a ceramic engine which it maintains is twice as efficient and, running on hydrogen or biofuels, can help to revolutionise the transport system. “Our vision,” said Carnot CEO Archie Watts “is to decarbonize our target markets by running them on ammonia and hydrogen. “Our technology can bring engine efficiency up from 35% to 75% and we can help halve fuel costs.”

At the industrial deployment end of the energy market, notably in the UK, speakers outlined the deployment of Carbon Capture Use and Storage (CCUS) as a means of swallowing up nearly 50% of the country’s industrial carbon from 2025. “We are building the infrastructure for transporting and storing carbon,” said Andy Lane who is Managing Director of the East Coast Cluster in the UK. “We think we can get to about a billion tonnes of stored carbon. The challenge is to link the different bits together.”

Join us on the journey

The East Coast Cluster, one of two priority CCUS clusters in the UK, was set to make a big impact on the UK’s carbon targets and other countries were looking on with interest, said Lane who also leads the Northern Endurance Partnership and is BP’s VP for CCUS solutions. “This is the enabling journey to net zero,” he claimed and was the only realistic chance of getting heavy industry to net zero – sectors such as iron and steel, chemicals and cement.

Also represented at the Summit was the UK’s other low carbon cluster, Hynet, which is designed to produce, store and distribute low carbon hydrogen by 2025. “We are initially building two blue hydrogen production plants,” explained Hynet project manager Rachel Perry. “We will be looking to deliver 4GW of low carbon hydrogen by 2024.” Both plants will capture carbon as part of the process, the aim being to remove over a million tonnes of CO2 a year from industry in the region.

Bring us your carbon

“This is a new way of thinking,” added Perry. “You have to be fast nimble and innovative and we’re doing a huge amount of stakeholder engagement for both the CO2 pipeline and for our hydrogen network.” The feedback, perhaps predictably, is that most people are in favour of targeting net zero carbon emissions; the issues are cost and competitiveness, not to mention energy security.

End of life payback time on the carbon account for Eni UK, delegates heard, included the repurposing of existing oil and gas assets in Liverpool Bay. According to Eni’s Martin Currie, who is a director of Liverpool Bay CCS, the end of life wells were suitable for storing up to 10 million tonnes of CO2 and had very low compression costs. “The complexity,” he admitted “is our interaction with other partners but this should help to protect existing jobs and create new ones in the region. Companies are already setting up because they know there is a CO2 transportation and storage project in the area.”

In fact, argued Currie, the UK was currently the best place to be for CCUS and the Government had set out a strategic pathway which was starting to produce results. One of them, arguably, is the Whitetail Clean Energy project, a proposed zero emissions power plant to be built on Sembcorp’s Wilton International site on Teeside. The plant would generate zero emissions by burning natural gas with pure oxygen, explained Sembcorp Corporate Affairs Director, Michael Jenner, making it more efficient and faster than a conventional plant relying on CCUS – and with half the carbon footprint. “Up to 98% of the carbon from this plant will be captured,” he said.

While speakers agreed that innovation and investment were essential to drive the transition to a low carbon economy, so too were collaboration and partnerships on the road to deployment. “We need to be investing in kit,” said the National Grid’s Duncan Burt, a keynote speaker at the event “but there is also a need for more manufacturing partnerships. We have a target to operate the grid at zero carbon by 2025 and we want to see the UK and the US co-operate very hard to get to net zero by 2035. This will provide the engine room for green hydrogen, EVs and a whole range of digital integration technologies.” Another upbeat speaker at an upbeat event in the face of some very big transition challenges.

Written exclusively for the Frontier Energy Network at the Innovation and Investment in Energy Summit by Nick Cottam, Member & Energy Journalist

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