New report outlines path towards decarbonisation for the off-grid manufacturing sector

  • New report from Liquid Gas UK and Ecuity Consulting LLP outlines opportunities to decarbonise the off-grid manufacturing sector with LPG and bioLPG
  • CO2 emissions from the manufacturing sector accounts for 21% of the UK’s total greenhouse gas contribution
  • Replacing coal and oil in non-domestic buildings with LPG and bioLPG would save 3.5mt of CO2 – equivalent to taking over 240,000 cars off the road
  • BioLPG produces 24 times less air quality damage costs than biomass – making it far better for air quality

A new report released by Liquid Gas UK (LGUK), the trade association for the LPG industry in the UK, outlines the route to decarbonising manufacturing off-grid businesses using LPG and bioLPG. The report found that LPG and bioLPG have the potential to replace one-third of all the coal and oil currently used to heat non-domestic buildings as well as for industrial processing, saving 3.5million tones of CO2 – equivalent of taking over 240,000 cars off the road.[1].

LGUK’s latest report, developed in conjunction with Ecuity Consulting LLP highlights how there are an estimated 62,000 non-domestic buildings off the gas grid that are being heated by oil, coal or LPG.  Despite manufacturing emissions falling by 53% since 1990 as a result of improved energy efficiency and a shift to lower-carbon fuel sources, it still contributed over 102 million tonnes of CO2e in 2019, which represented 21% of the UK’s total greenhouse gas contribution. Several processes and sub-sectors have no obvious route to decarbonisation, tackling these emissions will be crucial for the UK to meet its net zero target in 2050.

In total, LGUK estimates there to be the potential of 18.7 TWH of energy that could be provided through LPG now and bioLPG in the future across non-domestic buildings.

Historically, manufacturing has been difficult to electrify due to the long lifetime of industrial facilities, resulting in high technology swapping costs, especially for those with recent infrastructure upgrades. The report explores the option of hydrogen as a potential solution to the decarbonisation of industrial energy consumption that cannot be electrified – such as for the production of steel and cement. However, green hydrogen production is currently low, and supply is expected to initially be concentrated around particular demand hubs. Here, LPG and bioLPG could play a role as a flexible, easily storable and transportable biofuel. There is also a strong opportunity for LPG and bioLPG in the sub-sectors of manufacturing, particularly for off-road mobile machinery such as in food vans where a versatile and portable fuel is required.

The report explored a range of options toward decarbonising off-grid non-domestic buildings and found that 100% electrification through heat pumps was not a credible option for off-grid buildings as around half (48%) of all non-domestic retail businesses were built before 1919 and lacked thermal insulation to ensure sufficient heating.

The report found that the key industrial sectors where LPG and bioLPG could be deployed is in food & drink manufacturing, iron and steel production and non-metallic mineral production. In the food & drink sector, around 0.2 TWh of bioLPG could be needed to enable steam and low-temperature heat processes. Around 1.5 TWh of bioLPG could be consumed in the mineral products sector to support the manufacturing of non-metallic mineral products where alternative fuels such as biomass and electricity may impact product quality. A further 1 TWh of bioLPG could be used by iron and steel producers to facilitate processes such as melting and sintering which require high temperatures in blast furnaces.

With thousands of businesses facing tough years ahead of them as they recover from the impact of Coronavirus, the cost of decarbonising their business will increasingly become a challenge. The cost of a commercial air source heat pump would on average cost a business £14,000 while a commercial LPG boiler is around £4,300.

The report also found that while both biomass and bioLPG boilers emit low levels of CO2, air quality damage costs are 24 times worse when using biomass than when compared to LPG or bioLPG. The application of biomass on this scale would result in a cost damage of £730m, compared to just £30m for LPG and bioLPG. Based on a lifetime modelling study if the fuels were used in a distillery, biomass would produce 250 times more Particulate Matter 2.5 and 60% more Nitrogen Oxide than LPG and bioLPG.

George Webb, CEO, Liquid Gas UK commented:

“It is clear that the manufacturing sector will have to adopt a diverse range of solutions to decarbonisation. As the Government seeks ways to clamp down on emissions to meet its 2050 net-zero target it is essential that manufacturing, as such a critical industry, is not forced down a ‘one size fits all’ approach.  This is especially important in the last year where industries across the UK have suffered a massive economic blow because of the impact of Covid-19.”

“As we head towards COP26 it is vital that the manufacturing sector builds upon the good work done so far and meet net-zero. However, this must be done in a pragmatic way that recognises the unique challenges faced by off-grid manufacturers. It is vital that the Government does not impose harsh economic costs on the manufacturing sector by forcing them to take up expensive solutions towards the path of net-zero.

“Switching your off-grid heating to LPG today, with the transition to bioLPG, cuts carbon, improves air quality and sets you on a cost-effective pathway to Net Zero. The industry is proud to support the manufacturing sector, and looks forward to working in partnership to meet Net Zero together.”