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Today, there’s general agreement on the need to reduce the impact of waste such as plastics on the environment, and to find lower carbon fuels and feedstocks for sectors including transportation and chemicals manufacturing.
The pressure on industry is coming from several directions. Consumers, inspired by media coverage including the BBC’s Blue Planet series, are demanding action on marine and other plastic waste. Government legislation and targets, including the UK’s 2050 goal for net zero carbon, mean that reducing waste and emissions is imperative. And now shareholders are adding to the pressure, by demanding increasingly robust sustainability and decarbonisation strategies from the businesses they invest in.
In combination with technological advancements, all these factors are driving investments in large-scale facilities to produce innovative fuels and other chemicals from waste. However, with specific requirements for safety and security, logistics, utilities and infrastructure, and workforce expertise, choosing the optimal investment location is critical to success.
Investment drivers: carrots, as well as sticks
Creating chemicals and fuels from waste is not only an important step towards a more circular economy but also turns a low value feedstock into a high value product which can attract additional funding. For example, the UK government’s Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) incentivises the production of alternative fuels for transport,  and its Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution specifically supports R&D to decarbonise the aircraft and maritime sectors .
According to the World Economic Forum and McKinsey and Company , in order to reach ‘Net Zero’ by 2050 the aviation sector will need a step change in the production of Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF). Even if all planned SAF projects are completed by 2030, there will only be capacity to produce 4 million tonnes per year, which would replace less than 2% of the 300 million tonnes of fuel used by commercial airlines in 2019. New projects are urgently needed to fulfil global demand and climate change objectives.
Finding the Right Location
Companies investing in this high-growth area need access to considerable expertise in commercial R&D and project management, as well as a secure industrial site with low-cost, high-voltage power, heat and industrial gases. They also require easy access to the right sort of waste and viable, sustainable means of importing feedstocks and exporting products. Very few sites in Europe are able to provide the necessary mix of skills and infrastructure.
Wilton International in Teesside is already the location of choice for a number of companies in this sector, precisely because it meets these various requirements. The site’s advantages include Tier 3 COMAH safety and security status; world-scale utilities including heat, and an industrial gases network. Logistics benefits include proximity to Teesport - a major deep-sea port - and pipeline connections to the North Tees storage terminals and the wider Teesside industrial cluster. Other connectivity benefits include private, mainline-connected rail sidings on site and direct access to the UK’s trunk road network.
For investing businesses, Wilton International can enable the fast delivery of large-scale industrial projects, including waste processing facilities. Several plots on the site are pre-consented for heavy industrial use, which can simplify the planning process significantly. Sembcorp Energy UK’s experience of managing major projects, as well as the local availability of a skilled industrial workforce, can further reduce project costs, risk and timeframes. And when it comes to R&D, the UK Centre for Process Innovation which engages in collaborative R&D with industry has expertise in scaling biotechnologies from inception to commercial scale, is in the Wilton Centre adjacent to the Wilton International site.
Committed to Sustainability
Showing clear commitments to sustainability, companies on the Wilton International site have developed innovative waste recycling processes and are working hard to improve their carbon footprints. They include Biffa Polymers, producing rHDPE from recycled plastic milk bottles, Alpek Polyester UK, incorporating recycled waste into their food-grade PET, and Power Minerals, producing fertilizer from waste fly-ash.
Another company on the site exemplifies the circular economy. As well as producing bioethanol and high protein animal feed from locally grown, feed-quality grain, Ensus passes on the carbon dioxide by-product to their partner company, which then cleans and liquefies it for use in soft drinks and food production.
Innovation and Technology Scale-Up
This considerable on-site expertise has proven invaluable for innovative waste recycling companies.
Renew ELP, for example, is in the process of building a commercial scale plant to produce chemicals from otherwise un-recyclable plastic waste, using their novel CAT-HDR technology. ReNew will shortly commence construction of the world’s first commercial scale plant at Wilton. The plant will use their innovative process to chemically recycle end-of-life plastic waste into hydrocarbon feedstock’s and valuable chemicals - aiming to process up to 80,000 tonnes of waste plastic each year.
Nova Pangaea Technologies is another highly innovative company on the Wilton International site - with its demonstration plant that turns discarded plant-based biomass into biochemicals and biofuels, using their novel proprietary REFNOVA process.
A Warm Welcome for Investing Businesses
As site managers and major landowners, Sembcorp Energy UK looks forward to supporting businesses who are interested in becoming part of Wilton International’s sustainable industrial cluster. As a leading energy business, the company is also firmly committed to playing its part in the UK’s transition to a sustainable future.Inward Investment Circular Economy Sustainability Site Infrastucture Energy & Utilities