Two research projects led by University of Bath engineers have won funding as part of a £6 million investment by the Industrial Decarbonisation Research and Innovation Centre, IDRIC.

Prof Marcelle McManus, Director of the University of Bath Institute for Sustainability, is also one of IDRIC’s research co-directors. She will lead a project to create a carbon accounting framework aimed at combatting the problem of tracking carbon emissions on a global, rather than local or industrial, level. The project will carry out work in the Black Country and South Wales alongside partners the University of Warwick, University of Birmingham, Energy Systems Catapult, TATA Steel and SWIC.

Dr Xinyuan Ke, from the Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering, will lead research aimed at decarbonising cement and concrete by creating new carbon capture and CO2 utilisation techniques. Research will take place in the Humber and South Wales, with partners including Lafarge Cauldon Limited / Aggregate Industries Ltd and CEMEX UK.

Dr Ke says: “Decarbonisation of cement is an imminent challenge for UK's industry sector. Carbon capture combined with CO2 utilisation (CCSU) techniques have the best potential to help the sector to reach the net-zero target.

“My research aims to provide the cement sector with a cost-effective CCSU technology to enable this sector to rapidly achieve its ambitious targets, with a fraction of the investment required compared to other CCSU technologies available.

“I am really excited to be awarded this project and join the IDRIC network. Industrial decarbonisation is a multidisciplinary challenge that requires efforts from experts in different fields and joined forces between academics and industries, which is why this funding scheme is so unique and will open many doors for future collaborations."

Prof McManus added: “As principal investigator of my project I'm really pleased to be working with industry directly to help innovate methods to decarbonise rapidly. As a research Director of IDRIC, I am very excited to see such a range of projects funded and look forward to working with everyone to meet the UK and international targets.”

Universal Carbon Accounting Framework urgently needed

Prof McManus says that a universal framework for carbon accounting, which her project will aim to create, is needed to fully grasp and measure emissions. She says: “None of the carbon accounting frameworks that exist today fit the needs of the complex nature of decarbonising industry and business, and their respective clusters.

“The ability to measure and account for carbon is critical to effective decarbonisation and the survival of local industry, but multiple carbon accounting tools, which can be company or sector specific, mean that carbon reductions are hampered. For example, global carbon reduction might temporarily result in local carbon increases (due to onshoring) or might be credited to a different company than that bearing the costs. We need a new approach.”

Prof McManus’s project will work with Cross Catapult initiative, the Energy Systems Catapult and industrial partners to create a pathway to a Unified and Consistent Carbon Accounting Framework (UCF).

She adds: “Driven by industrial need, we will translate the fundamental research already undertaken in the clusters and by Birmingham, Bath and WMG to create a dynamic framework targeted at achieving global best-case scenarios which will help to decarbonise clusters and industry.”

The project will also seek to influence policy and regulation using life cycle analysis techniques, and host workshops and secondments to engage wider industry and gather data and case studies to determine specific priorities.

IDRIC leading decarbonisation research

The funding for the projects is part of a wider £6 million IDRIC award to support the reduction of carbon emissions in the UK’s largest industrial clusters, as part of the UKRI Industrial Decarbonisation Challenge (IDC). Decarbonising these clusters is a key step towards reaching the UK’s net zero emissions target, a priority that has recently been reinforced by the government-commissioned Net Zero Review.

The £6 million funding will go towards 20 projects covering a wide range of technological, environmental, economic, skills and social aspects of decarbonisation.

The funding extends IDRIC’s current research programme of 40 projects which is accelerating research and innovation through a whole system approach. IDRIC collaborates with over 200 partners and stakeholders including academic institutions, industry, community representatives and policy makers to address urgent innovation needs - realising goals with impact as well as sharing and integrating knowledge across disciplines and sectors.