Tata Chemicals Europe on Friday officially opened the UK's first industrial-scale carbon capture and usage plant, a move the Tata Group company said signals a key milestone in the race to meet the UK's net-zero targets.
The 20 million pound investment was completed by Northwich-based Tata Chemicals Europe (TCE) in north-west England, one of Europe's leading producers of sodium carbonate, salt and sodium bicarbonate. The company claims it is now able to manufacture one of the lowest carbon footprint sodium bicarbonate and sodium carbonate products in the world, chemicals used to make a wide array of everyday items seen in many households.
In a “world-first”, carbon dioxide captured from energy generation emissions is being purified to food and pharmaceutical grade and used as a raw material in the manufacture of sodium bicarbonate, which will be known as Ecokarb and has potential life-saving uses.
“This unique and innovative process behind Ecokarb is patented in the UK with further patents pending in key territories around the world,” TCE said.
“Ecokarb will be exported to over 60 countries around the world and much of the sodium bicarbonate exported will be used in hemodialysis to treat people living with kidney disease,” it said.
The carbon capture plant, which was supported with a grant through the UK government’s Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy's (BEIS) Energy Innovation Programme, has been hailed as a major step towards sustainable manufacturing – which will see TCE make net-zero sodium bicarbonate and one of the lowest carbon footprint sodium carbonate products in the world. These are used to make essential everyday items like glass, washing detergents, pharmaceutical products, food, animal feed and in water purification.
''The completion of the carbon capture and utilisation plant enables us to reduce our carbon emissions, whilst securing our supply of high purity carbon dioxide, a critical raw material, helping us to grow the export of our pharmaceutical-grade products across the world,” said Martin Ashcroft, Managing Director of Tata Chemicals Europe.
“With the support of our parent company, Tata Chemicals, and BEIS, we have been able to deliver this hugely innovative project, enabling our UK operations to take a major step in our carbon emissions reduction journey. Since 2000 we've reduced our carbon intensity by 50 percent and have a clear roadmap to reduce this by 80 percent by 2030,” he said.
The UK plant captures 40,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year – the equivalent to taking over 20,000 cars off the roads - and reduces TCE's carbon emissions by more than 10 percent. The project is aimed at unlocking the future of carbon capture as it demonstrates the viability of the technology to remove carbon dioxide from power plant emissions and to use it in high-end manufacturing applications.
''This cutting-edge plant, backed by 4.2 million pound government funding, demonstrates how carbon capture is attracting new private capital into the UK and is boosting new innovation in green technologies,” said BEIS Minister Kwasi Kwarteng.
''We are determined to make the UK a world leader in carbon capture, which will help us reduce emissions and be a key part of the future of British industry,'' he said.
Speaking at the opening of the plant this week, local Labour Party MP Mike Amesbury said: ''Manufacturing has been key to this area for over 150 years so it's great to be part of such a historic moment. Even though, today, there are many competing agendas, sustainability is still crucial and we must continue working towards net-zero.
''The investment made by Tata Chemicals Europe in this leading-edge carbon capture plant will not only support the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions here, but it will also pave the way for others to use this technology. Tata Chemicals Europe helps support over 1,000 jobs so this type of sustainable investment will help secure chemical manufacturing in Cheshire for future generations.''
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