Ceramics sector calls for support to meet challenge of net zero
THE UK’S ceramics sector is urging Government to support the industry with a range of measures to help manufacturers hit challenging net zero targets and combat “eye-watering” energy costs.
Trade association the British Ceramic Confederation, which represents members with 150 manufacturing sites in the UK, is calling for funding, as part of the Government’s comprehensive spending review, to develop and deploy new decarbonisation technology solutions across the whole sector through the creation of a virtual Ceramics Sustainability Hub.
Based in Stoke-on-Trent, the Hub would coordinate the development of a broad range of technologies, including: fuel switching from fossil fuels to hydrogen, bioenergy and electricity; Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage (CCUS) to remove emissions from processes and fuels; and improved energy efficiency. These could be rolled out across the ceramics sector and act as a catalyst for further investment across the supply chain.
The Government’s Industrial Decarbonisation Strategy requires emissions to reduce by at least two-thirds by 2035 and by at least 90 per cent by 2050 compared with 2018 levels.
Ceramics are fired at high temperatures, usually above 1000oC, with typically up to a third of production costs being energy and carbon in many processes. The sector supplies a diverse range of customers, with construction, particularly housing, being the largest.
Almost all of the British Ceramic Confederation’s members’ 150 manufacturing sites are located away from the Government’s designated hydrogen and CCUS industrial clusters. And with typical kiln operating lifetimes of 25 to 40 years, companies need access to low carbon compatible infrastructure and equipment before supporting policy frameworks are in place, by 2025 at the latest, to be able to decarbonise by 2050.
Chief executive Dr Laura Cohen said: “To switch from firing with natural gas we need to move to hydrogen, bioenergy or electricity. We need policy interventions now for off-cluster manufacturers to remain internationally competitive over this extended period until options are widely available, particularly as most of our members are paying an eye-watering £130/MWh which makes electrification uneconomic.
“Given the scale of the challenge we need much more government funding and supportive policies to work in partnership as we develop and implement decarbonisation technologies for these off-cluster sites. The whole sector has agreed to work collectively as this is too expensive, risky and complex for individual companies to fund.”
Confederation President Edward Naylor, who is CEO of Barnsley-based clay pipe manufacturer Naylor Industries, added: “With the right support, the UK ceramics sector and its supply chain has the potential to become a global leader in low-carbon, sustainable manufacturing solutions.”
James Roper, sales and marketing director of BCC member company Churchill China plc, said: “The establishment of a local Sustainability Hub would be an important part of assisting the UK tableware and wider ceramics industries in moving towards a low carbon environment over the coming years. It would also help to maintain the position of the UK as a producer of world class ceramics delivering a high level of technical excellence.”
Summary of spending review proposal: To hit our 2050 decarbonisation targets the ceramic sector needs to kickstart development of a full range of decarbonisation technologies and disseminate the work across our industry. In our Spending Review proposal, we’ve asked initially for £5M in 2022/3 as the first part of a phased £65M over this full 3 year spending period, matched by industry. Over 70% of the sector are behind this covering site in 60 constituencies and companies have provided letters of support.
Most UK ceramic factories are located away from hydrogen and CCUS clusters so previously many Government innovation funds weren’t accessible for companies. Ceramic manufacturers are relatively small and don’t have the capacity to access grant funding. We want to learn from the success of Glass Futures to have similar benefits for the ceramics sector. The money is mainly for extra projects at manufacturers, with a small amount for staff, rather than new buildings.