Plans to develop a zero carbon "industrial cluster" in the Humber region based on a hydrogen production facility at Yorkshire's Drax plant plus carbon capture and storage (CCUS) under the North Sea have been outlined in a new report by the Zero Carbon Humber partnership.
The partnership includes Drax Group, Norwegian multinational Equinor and National Grid Ventures.
Their report, Capture For Growth: A roadmap for the world's first zero carbon industrial cluster, sets out how the region could deliver the government's stated aim of establishing a "net zero" carbon industrial cluster in the UK by 2040.
The commitment was made at the COP24 climate talks in Poland, with the UK government backing its "Industrial Clusters Mission" with up to £170m funding.
The Zero Carbon Humber partnership's proposals are supported by new analysis by Element Energy, a Cambridge-based consultancy.
Their findings suggest that a carbon capture and storage facility for the Humber would capture 53 million tonnes of CO2 a year, or around 15% of the UK's current annual CO2 emissions.
The roadmap to the Humber becoming carbon neutral would include:
- developing a hydrogen demonstrator and test facility in the Humber, which the report says could be operational by 2025;
- installing "bioenergy carbon capture and storage" (BECCS) technology at Drax Power Station, linked to its current biomass generation units, to create the world's first carbon negative power station. A trial of BECCS is already underway at Drax, and the report suggests that it could be operational by 2027.
- building a carbon dioxide transport and storage system across the region that the industry can connect to;
- safely storing CO2 captured from Drax biomass generation deep under the seabed in the southern North Sea;
- in the later phases of the project, in 2028-40, scaling up the provision of hydrogen as a fuel to decarbonise industry, power, heat, transport and maritime across the north of England
- creating conditions for new industries which use the CCUS pipeline or low carbon hydrogen to develop in the region.
The report also argues that the proposals could help protect 55,000 jobs and deliver the biggest contribution to the UK's climate goals of any industrial region.
Lord Haskins, chair of the Humber Local Enterprise Partnership, which is supporting the Zero Carbon Humber campaign, said: "I welcome these proposals which set out a clear route to protect jobs, tackle climate change and help the Humber compete globally. Today, the UK is in the lead, but other countries are closing the gap by helping their industries achieve their net zero carbon goals.
"The Humber is uniquely well placed to deliver clean growth, and I hope the next Government will get behind the exciting proposals coming forward from the region."
The report says that the UK is among the top five nations in the race to decarbonise industry by using carbon capture and storage (CCS), but risks falling behind as other countries move to deploy CCS at scale.
Meanwhiel, the Humber region is home to around 100 chemical and refining companies, which together account for around 12% of total employment in the UK chemicals sector.
However, the region is also the UK's largest emitter of CO2, with industries in the area facing carbon taxes of up to £27.5bn by 2040, which would harm competitiveness.
The report also quotes the argument of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), which said earlier this year that deploying carbon capture and hydrogen technologies at scale is essential if the UK is to meet its legally binding target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
It argues that the region could exploit potential major geological storage sites for CO2 emissions deep beneath the southern North Sea.
Irene Rummelhoff, executive vice president, marketing, midstream and processing at Equinor added: "This report sets out how a hydrogen economy can be kick-started from the Humber region and grow across the North of England. Hydrogen has a key role to play in the UK reaching net zero by cleaning up industry, heating, transport and power, as well as delivering improved air quality."
Jon Butterworth, chief operating officer for global transmission at National Grid Ventures said: "The government has set out ambitious plans to develop the world's first zero carbon industry cluster by 2040. We believe this is a challenge that can and should be met. By working together across industry sectors, we can protect UK jobs, drive further economic growth and help the country achieve critically important climate goals that will significantly benefit current and future generations."
Will Gardiner, chief executive of Drax Group commented: "The race to cut carbon emissions is one we can win. This plan sets out a clear blueprint of how to get the Humber to net zero - the impact of decarbonising the most carbon intensive region in the country will make a major contribution to the UK reaching its world-leading climate goals. We need to seize this opportunity. Zero starts here."