The UK government sets itself carbon emissions reduction targets every five years under the Climate Change Act 2008.
In April 2021, it announced radical new commitments to cut emissions by 78 per cent by 2035, bringing the UK more than three quarters of the way to net zero by 2050.
The targets, which were enshrined into law in June 2021, cover the UK’s international aviation and shipping emissions for the first time and represent a world-leading position.
However, for the government to match its ‘rhetoric with reality’, as Labour puts it, it needs to significantly reduce the burning of fossil fuels, which is one of the UK’s biggest sources of carbon emissions.
Renewables and why they are not suitable for energy intensive industries:
Generally, one of the government’s approaches to tackling carbon emissions has been implementing renewable energy solutions where possible. Arguably, it has done that successfully: In terms of electricity, the UK’s renewable electricity outpaced its fossil fuel generation for the first time in 2020, according to a report by thinktank, Ember.
However many power stations, and other industries such as cement and steel production, are energy intensive and cannot operate using renewables. Renewables just do not produce the amount of energy they need to do their job, and of course these industries are critical to UK infrastructure. So, fossil fuels are not going to simply disappear overnight.
Taking cement production as an example, this involves the heating, calcinating and sintering of blended and ground raw materials such as limestone in a kiln to form ‘clinker’, which is then mixed with a material called gypsum and ground down to form concrete.
Cement kilns reach peak temperatures of approximately 1,500 °C. Similarly, the temperatures required to make steel are over 1,700 °C. Until recently, fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and natural gas, were the only fuels capable of burning that hot.
Now, industries such as cement, steel and power production are under increasing pressure to reduce their carbon emissions and have alternative fuel options such as biofuels, biomass and fuels made from non-recyclable waste.
Many of these options are not just more environmentally friendly, they are also cheaper than fossil fuels and have a range of other benefits.
Taking our own range of Solid Improved Recovered Fuel (SIRF) pellets as an example, these have been designed specifically for high energy use industries.
They have a consistent specification and are customisable to suit individual customers, offering a high net calorific value. This means they burn hot enough to be viable for use in industries such as cement and steel production.
Reduced carbon emissions:
SIRF pellets comprise processed dry commercial and industrial waste materials such as card, wood, paper and non-chlorinated plastics, which we source from local companies and waste streams.
This waste would otherwise have been destined for landfill and is far cleaner to burn than fossil fuels, resulting in reduced carbon emissions.
Waste sent to landfill releases gases as it degrades, including carbon monoxide and methane, meaning every tonne of landfill generates around 650 kg of CO2.
We commissioned an independent environmental consultant to analyse our pellets, which revealed some highly positive results.
Even taking into account emissions required to manufacture our pellets, which includes energy and transportation at 129kg of CO2 per tonne, our pellets save approximately 530kg of CO2 per tonne compared to waste sent to landfill.
Compared with fossil fuels such as pet coke, which emits 3,222kg of CO2 per tonne, the huge environmental advantages of this alternative fuel are clear.
SIRF pellets are easy to transport and handle, and because they contain >50% biomass, they enable significant carbon tax offsets compared to fossil fuels, and because we produce them in the UK, domestic customers can avoid import taxes.
They also cost significantly less than fossil fuels (or wood pellets) to buy. In fact, taking everything into consideration, SIRF pellets can help contribute to savings of more than 50 per cent of energy costs.
It isn’t just the UK’s government setting tough targets when it comes to carbon emissions, the EU is also aiming for net zero greenhouse gas by 2050. But to meet these targets there is a need for cleaner, sustainable methods of energy generation.
Now, businesses with high-energy-use requirements have a cheaper and greener alternative to fossil fuels. The time to act is now.
Waste Knot Energy will begin producing SIRF pellets in the coming months at our custom-built site in Middlesbrough, with further plants planned across the country.
Contact us to find out more.
Dr Matt Goodwin, Director, Waste Knot Energy0