Businesses pour £75m into Humber's zero-carbon industrial cluster

A host of organisations have submitted a public and private sector bid of £75m to build key infrastructure to create the world's first zero-carbon industrial cluster in the Humber region.

ZCH could reduce the UK’s annual emissions by 15% and save industries around £27.5bn in carbon taxes by 2040

ZCH could reduce the UK’s annual emissions by 15% and save industries around £27.5bn in carbon taxes by 2040

The £75m had been submitted on behalf of the Zero Carbon Humber (ZCH) Partnership, a group of 12 companies including British Steel, Drax, Uniper and Centrica Storage. The group is aiming to create the world’s first zero-carbon industrial cluster in the Humber region, at the request of the UK Government’s Industrial Clusters Mission.

The Government opened two innovation funds aimed at helping businesses located in key industrial clusters to plan and deploy technology to help reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

ZCH could reduce the UK’s annual emissions by 15% and save industries around £27.5bn in carbon taxes by 2040. The ZCH Partnership has applied for funding from Phase 2 of the Industrial Decarbonisation Challenge, with investment also being provided by the 12 companies within the partnership.

The funding would be used for key pipeline infrastructure to transport stored and captured CO2. At Selby in North Yorkshire, for example, a Drax power station would connect to the network with bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS). The emissions technology forms a key part of Drax’s ambition to become carbon negative by 2030. The pipeline would also be connected to SSE Thermal’s Keadby site, which could make it the UK’s first gas-fired power station equipped with carbon capture technology by the mid-2020s. British Steel, one of the partnership members, would also benefit from the funding, enabling it to lower emissions.

Drax’s chief executive Will Gardiner said: “Advancing the Zero Carbon Humber plan is a major opportunity to decarbonise the UK’s most carbon-intensive industrial region – protecting jobs, tackling climate change and helping this uniquely well-placed area to deliver clean growth after Covid-19.

“Drax’s pioneering work developing bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) could deliver 16 million tonnes of negative emissions a year – critical for the Humber’s efforts to reach net zero and also positioning the UK as a world leader in a vital carbon removals technology that will be needed globally to meet climate targets.”

The bid builds on the Humber’s successful application for Phase One funding, which was announced in April. Organisations involved in the project, including Phillips 66, Uniper and the VPI Immingham plant owned by Vitol, entered a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to build and operate a hybrid CCUS and hydrogen production facility by 2025.

Plans are now in place to install CCS technologies at the VPI combined heat and power (CHP) plant. Refineries owned by Total and Phillips 66 will also explore the use of the technology. The project partners claim that the initiative will contribute £18bn towards UK Gross Value Added (GVA), while safeguarding 55,000 jobs in manufacturing across the region.

The first phase planning could reduce emissions by 900,000 tonnes annually as heavy-industry organisations located within the cluster which to low-carbon hydrogen.

Under the net-zero ambition, the UK Government has committed to fully decarbonising at least one industrial cluster by 2040. This has spurred a race between clusters in the North West, Teesside, Humberside, Grangemouth, South Wales and Southampton to become the first to do so.

BP, Eni, Equinor, Shell and Total have all signed up to spearhead the development of the Net-Zero Teesside project, which focuses heavily on the use of carbon capture, utilisation and storage technology (CCUS).

The North West Energy & Hydrogen Cluster, led by the University of Chester and Manchester Metropolitan University, will create a skills roadmap to develop the “complementary” skill sets of oil and gas works to harness new low-carbon technology such as hydrogen and carbon capture.

Over the coming weeks, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to announce major policy and funding packages for low-carbon sectors, as part of what Downing Street has called a ten-point plan to “build back greener”.

The Financial Times has reported that the plan will also cover hydrogen production and infrastructure; carbon capture and storage (CCS); low-carbon synthetic fuels for aviation and small modular reactors. On the latter, the Conservative Party has pledged to create a nuclear fusion facility by 2040.

Matt Mace



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