At Protos, 2021 has been a busy year! We’ve pioneered new phases of investment, working hard to deliver a low carbon destination for the North West. With COP26 rocketing net zero ambitions up the international agenda toward the end of the year, it shone a spotlight on progress made over the last year at Protos and in the surrounding industrial heartland.  

With the year now nearly over and the Christmas lights up, we’re using December as a chance to look back on the year. So, as we head into an exciting 2022, let’s explore the last 12 months at Protos...  

In January we started our second phase of works worth £10 million. With work well underway on new site roads, bridges and ecology areas. Protos has been a hive of activity all year, with the Energy Recovery Facility in construction and locals enjoying fabulous nature areas at Snipe Haven and Goldfinch Meadow. 

Back in February we were thinking about net zero goals and the role manufacturing has to play in a green recovery. Britain is the ninth largest manufacturing nation in the world, and here in Cheshire we have an especially high concentration of manufacturing and industry from chemical production automotive, pharmaceuticals, and oil. For us, a mix of carrot and stick is the policy solution – companies need fiscal incentives to innovate, but ideas like a Carbon Tax are worth serious consideration too. 

March saw us celebrating British Science Week and our partnership with nearby Thornton Science Park. To quote Professor Joe Howe “The partnership between Protos and Thornton Science Park is a perfect example of how industry and research & development can work together to tackle climate change” – we agree!  

We had another busy month in April. Like many in the industry interested in net zero and low carbon solutions, we were beginning to turn our minds to COP26 and what we wanted to see. Peel NRE Executive Director Myles Kitcher spoke about the role Protos has in delivering low carbon energy and sustainable waste management, as we took part in a panel discussion on how North West businesses can drive the net zero agenda. This month also saw specialist PET (polyethylene terephthalate) recycler Enviroo gain planning permission to build at Protos – a key part of our Plastic Park plan. 

A pivotal moment saw Protos secure a £250,000 grant from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in May for the Ince Bioenergy Carbon Capture (InBECCS). Working with the Bioenergy Infrastructure Group at the Protos biomass facility, the project will pioneer the first negative emissions project in the North West and could be ready as early as 2025, with the possibilities for carbon capture at the heart of plans. Stay tuned for a progress update on this next year! 

As June drew to a close, Peel NRE signed a letter of intent to supply hydrogen from plastic to hydrogen facilities to refueling stations planned by Element 2. Our consented plastic to hydrogen facility at Protos will be able to supply up to two tonnes of hydrogen per day – that’s sufficient to fuel approximately 80 HGVs, 1000 buses or 5,000 cars per day.  

The consultation on our Protos Plastic Park, launched in July. These plans could save 170,000 tonnes of CO2 every year, while creating over 130 jobs and a UK-first. A few days later, Protos appeared in a new Net Zero North West report showcasing £207 billion of net zero investment in the region – showing us to be the top part of the UK for post-lockdown green investment.  

It was a pleasure, in our July community newsletter, to provide an update on the latest projects funded by the Protos Community Benefit Fund, including improving the Elton allotments, supporting the Elton Village Youth Hub and providing equipment for the bowling green at Helsby Sports Club.  

We discussed the potential of going plastic free in August and what the future holds for everyday usage. Although eliminating plastic use altogether seems an impossible task, our Plastic Park facility – which we hope there will be more of in time – will enhance recycling rates and be able to turn non-recyclable plastics into hydrogen to power HGVs, buses, and cars. Continuing to innovate and design unnecessary plastic out of existence is the way forward. 

Jayne Hennessy, Development Manager at Peel NRE authored a piece in September on the role of the waste and recycling sector in hitting net zero goals. She floats some policy solutions here – “A carbon tax would drive innovation in the sector” and how more operations like InBECCS (which will cut emissions by 7,000 tonnes per annum) are needed. 

We were excited to have a visit from Planet Mark’s Zero Carbon Tour en route to COP26 in October. The team set off from Cornwall and were touring the UK up to Glasgow, showing the progress made and solutions needed to hit net zero. Gemma Davies and Cllr Matt Bryan from Cheshire West and Chester Council, alongside Joe Manning from the Cheshire & Warrington LEP joined us as we showcased low-carbon initiatives already developed and in-development at Protos. Then, we headed to COP26… 

November saw the world turn its eyes to Glasgow. We played our part in COP26 discussion both in Glasgow and the region, with Protos Development Director Jane Gaston taking part in North West Route to Net Zero official roadshow in Runcorn. Protos is at the heart of industrial decarbonisation and we’re always keen to show how the Green Industrial Revolution is becoming a reality, with a focus on the circumstances needed to encourage real innovation. 

The dust settling on COP26 has given us the opportunity to consider the legacy of the conference, as national debates on successes and failures continue on. The North West put on a strong and united front for net zero at COP26, and we now need a more coherent, consistent, and focused government policy. It is not going to be easy hitting our targets, and no sector can do it alone – we hope to play a role for years to come in innovating and delivering for a more sustainable industry. 

For now, thank you to all our colleagues, partners, stakeholders and communities who have been part of our journey this year.  

Stay tuned for a year of activity and progress in 2022. Until then, wishing you a wonderful festive period and a healthy, happy and prosperous new year!