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Swansea University’s green hydrogen research helps cement manufacturer Hanson to reduce carbon emissions

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A collaboration between researchers at the Energy Safety Research Institute at Swansea University and cement producer Hanson UK has seen the installation of a new green hydrogen demonstration unit at the company’s Regen GGBS plant in Port Talbot, South Wales.

The demonstration unit, which generates green hydrogen through renewable energy, has been developed as part of the £9.2m Reducing Industrial Carbon Emissions (RICE) project which has been part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government, and is aimed at the deployment of industrial scale demonstrations of new technology.

Cement production is energy intensive due to the high temperatures required to produce clinker – the main component of Portland cement.  Hanson’s Port Talbot plant produces Regen GGBS, ground granulated blast furnace slag, which is used as a replacement for up to 80 per cent of the cement in concrete.  Although Regen is also an energy intensive product, using large amounts of natural gas and electricity, its carbon footprint is about one tenth of Portland cement. The aim of the demonstration unit is to replace some of the natural gas used at the plant with green hydrogen, which is considered a clean source of energy as it only emits water when burned, reducing CO2 emissions from the burner and reducing the carbon footprint of Regen even further. 

The demonstration unit is producing hydrogen at Hanson’s Port Talbot plant through the process of electrolysis. Renewable energy is generated through wind and solar on site and the energy is directed into the electrolyser or water splitting device. The electrolyser can efficiently utilise this energy to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen is then passed into the burner to enrich the combustion mixture, saving carbon emissions from the burning of natural gas.  

Leading this work is Dr Charlie Dunnill and his team who are based at the Energy Safety Research Institute

“It has been a pleasure to work with the staff at Hanson and is amazing to see technology from our labs interacting in real time with local industry, actually producing hydrogen that can be burned in exchange for natural gas to lower their green-house emissions. Cement manufacture is one of the most energy and carbon intensive industries and therefore a perfect place to start making impacts in carbon reduction.”

It’s estimated that cement is the source of just under 1.5 per cent of UK CO2 emissions. With demand for cement and cement replacement products predicted to increase by a quarter by 2030, researchers and industry are working hard to reduce the level of carbon emissions associated with production.

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Data from the units installed at Hanson’s Port Talbot plant will be monitored for a period of time in order to achieve maximum efficiencies and also highlight any potential enhancements. Having access to facilities to scale up the demonstration units is a vital part of the project, and Hanson UK has been an enthusiastic participant from an early stage.

“As a company we take our commitment to sustainability very seriously,” said Marian Garfield, head of sustainability at Hanson UK. “In the UK, we have already achieved a 30 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions since 1990 across the business and have set an ambitious new target of a 50 per cent reduction by 2030 from the same baseline. 

“We are constantly looking to improve energy efficiency and carbon reduction at our cement and Regen plants, so we are delighted to be involved with this innovative research project.”

Following the successful deployment of the unit at Hanson’s Regen GGBS plant, further units can now be deployed at additional sites. The team is also in discussions with other heavy industries on the potential to install units at other sites.

Professor Andrew Barron the Principle Investigator of the RICE project summarized the achievement, “As we head towards the UK’s 2050 goal of net zero it is important to give industry scalable pathways to reach that end. The RICE project is all about doing this, since there is no longer time for more research projects, it is time for action”.

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Lesley Griffiths, the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs said: “I am very pleased to see the ambition and ingenuity on display in the work undertaken by Hanson UK and RICE at the company’s Port Talbot plant.

“It is through such innovative and collaborative efforts that we can work with high-emitting industries to find ways to end their contribution to global warming – not just here in Wales but across the world. Wales was at the leading edge of the first industrial revolution and through projects like these we can play a leading role in the green industrial revolution taking place today.” 


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Welsh and UK Governments agree to establish Freeports in Wales

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The Welsh Government has reached agreement with the UK Government on the establishment of Freeports in Wales.

Welsh Ministers have agreed to support Freeport policies in Wales following the UK Government’s agreement to meet the Welsh Government’s demands that UK Ministers provide at least £26m of non-repayable starter funding for any Freeport established in Wales, which represents a parity with the deals offered to English Freeports.

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The UK Government have agreed to meet a number of other demands – including that both Governments will act on the basis of a ‘partnership of equals’ to deliver any Freeports in Wales.

In addition, both Governments have agreed a Freeport will only be implemented if it can be demonstrated clearly it will operate in a manner that aligns with the Welsh Government’s policies on fair work and environmental sustainability, including the commitment to Wales becoming a net-zero carbon nation.

Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething said: “Following considerable engagement between our Governments, I’m pleased we have been able to reach agreement with UK Ministers to establish Freeports in Wales. The agreement we have reached is fair to Wales, and respects the Welsh Government’s responsibilities in devolved policy areas.

“However, we have made it clear to the UK Government that a Freeport will only be implemented if it can be demonstrated, using robust evidence and analysis, that it will support our fair work agenda and deliver long-term, sustainable benefits for Wales, and value for money for Welsh taxpayers.

“I very much hope that the UK Government’s willingness to work with the Welsh Government as equals on Freeports can provide a positive model for future co-operation between our governments on other initiatives.”

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The UK Government’s Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove said: “I am delighted that Wales is the latest area in the UK set to benefit from a new Freeport.

“The UK Government’s ambitious Freeports agenda will help to level up our coastal communities and create new opportunities for people right across the country.

“Together with the Welsh Government, I look forward to seeing innovative proposals come forward that demonstrate tangible benefits for the people of Wales.”

In addition, Welsh and UK Ministers have agreed that the UK Government will provide tax incentives for Freeports in Wales in parity with Freeports in other parts of the United Kingdom for the reserved taxes that have been designated to advance the policy aims. The Welsh Government will design tax reliefs from local and devolved taxes (Non-Domestic Rates and Land Transaction Tax) to support the policy aims.

Both Governments say they will remain open to the possibility of a multi-site Freeport in Wales. In recognition of Wales’ unique economic geography and the Welsh Government’s aspirations for economic development in Wales, the UK Government is willing to relax the 45 km boundary limit for a multi-site Freeport solution, should there be a sufficiently compelling case for doing so.

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Both Governments will also remain open to the possibility of allowing more than one Freeport in Wales, should they be presented with a sufficiently compelling business case.

As with English Freeports, a fair and open competitive process will be used to determine where the policy should be implemented in Wales. Both Governments will work together to co-design the process for Freeport site selection, and both will have an equal say in all decisions throughout the implementation process. This includes the final decision on site selection.

Both Governments have begun the process of designing the bid prospectus for the competition and further details about the timing of next steps will be released in due course.

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Swansea digital agency iCreate enters the metaverse with bespoke digital environments

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Swansea-based creative agency iCreate is entering the metaverse by creating 3D visual environments for Dubai-based NFT boutique Jumi – a new outlet for curated digital art.

The metaverse hit the headlines last year when Facebook’s parent company rebranded to Meta, reflecting the growing potential of the internet to offer an interactive virtual world through AI and 3D digital animation.

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The metaverse offers social connection through technology, interaction with brands and businesses, and online recreation.

It encompasses everything from online video games to virtual shops where you can digitally try on items before you buy them, and bespoke venues for online events of all kinds.

It’s expected to expand into an online world where people will have their own virtual avatars which they take from one virtual environment to another, purchasing virtual products for them and housing them in virtual homes.

This is where iCreate – which specialises in creating digital environments – comes in. The company provides CGIs, 3D flythrough animations, VR tours and marketing brochures to the off-plan property sector.

From interactive, customisable home interiors that enable buyers to plan every detail of their dream home, through to large-scale digital animations of new housing developments, iCreate is adept at creating virtual environments that look and feel like the real thing.

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Now it’s teaming up with Jumi and other partners to create digital environments that will never be built in the real world, but will exist in the metaverse, where people’s avatars can explore and socialise in them.

A key aspect of the metaverse is non-fungible tokens (NFTs): digital assets that can be bought and traded. These are increasingly hitting the headlines as everyone from independent artists to big brands creates and sells digital-only products, music, artwork and more.

Dawn Lyle (right) and the team at iCreate

Jumy, which completed a $1.2M seed funding round last year, is the ultimate NFT boutique marketplace for exclusive digital art. All artworks are curated from the world’s most creative digital artists, to guarantee outstanding quality.

The platform is the world’s first to offer a fully integrated digital art experience where visitors will be able to purchase pieces with payment cards, trade their NFTs, order NFT frames (digital frames for NFT art) and flex their NFTs on metaverse – all in one place.

By collaborating with Jumi, iCreate will make beautiful, exclusive digital environments for displaying NFTs in the metaverse. From here, it’s expected that a new market in bespoke virtual homes and offices will develop over the coming years, as more aspects of all our lives are lived in the metaverse.

Dawn Lyle, iCreate’s co-founder, said: “We’re delighted to have formed this new partnership with Jumi and to be taking our bespoke digital environments into the metaverse.

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“The metaverse offers such a wealth of possibilities, and over the coming years it will become increasingly common to play, meet and do business with people all over the world in virtual settings.

“We’re excited to be creating stunning digital environments in which these activities can take place; in the metaverse, there are no limitations and it’s possible to bring dreams to life, creating astonishing virtual places that delight and surprise. It gives us the opportunity to put all our creative skills to use in exciting new ways and we can’t wait to get started.”

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River Island launches its brand new Swansea concept store this weekend

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Fashion chain River Island is revealing its brand new concept store at Morfa Retail Park in Swansea on Saturday (7 May).

Located at the former New Look store at Unit 6 on the Brunel Way shopping centre, the new store is just a few doors down from its previous outlet, although promises to be an even bigger and better boutique shopping experience.

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Located across two floors, the 8,253 square foot store has been specially curated to the tastes of Swansea shoppers according to the fashion chain.

Set across one level, womenswear will occupy just over half the space, with the remainder split between menswear and kidswear, stocking kids, mini and baby.

To celebrate the new opening, River Island will be hosting a launch event weekend in-store on the 7th and 8th of May, where shoppers can expect to hear celebratory sounds with in-store DJ sets, whilst the first lucky 100 customers through the doors will receive a £10 gift card which can be redeemed in-store or online.

Frances Baker, River Island Property Director said: “River Island is thrilled to be relocating and open ing a new boutique store in Swansea, Morfa as part of our segmentation programme.

“We are excited to introduce our concept store to our existing loyal customers, with exciting opportunities to acquire new customers with our new look-and-feel store.”

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River Island say the store upgrade strengthens its 300 strong estate and solidifies its message of “standing by the high street”, a campaign set up in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic to show solidarity with other high street brands negatively hit by the effects of the pandemic.

The fashion chain say that by investing in finding ways to encourage and entice customers to return to in-person shopping it hopes to “enhance and improve the shopping journey for its customers”.

(Lead image: River Island)

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