Equinor plans 1.8GW of low-carbon hydrogen production in UK, tripling previous target

Energy major Equinor has outlined plans to deliver 1.8GW of low-carbon hydrogen production capacity in the UK by 2030, primarily through its work on the Zero Carbon Humber industrial cluster.

Pictured: Equinor's chief executive and president Anders Opedal at the firm's recent Capital Markets Day event. Image: Equinor

Pictured: Equinor's chief executive and president Anders Opedal at the firm's recent Capital Markets Day event. Image: Equinor

The business announced the plan following a meeting with UK Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng and Norwegian Energy Minister Tina Bru this week. It entails a tripling of Equinor’s previous hydrogen vision for its UK operations.

Equinor’s largest UK hydrogen project is located within the Zero Carbon Humber Project, which is among the projects striving to develop the UK’s first net-zero industrial cluster. There, it is leading the production of a 600MW gas reformer that will produce ‘blue’ hydrogen – hydrogen made using natural gas, with most emissions from the process captured using man-made technologies.

Hydrogen produced by that facility will enable businesses at the Saltend Chemicals Park and the onsite Saltend Cogeneration Power Station to switch to a hydrogen blend. A demonstration is due to come online by 2025. An Equinor spokesperson told edie that around 95% of the emissions generated through hydrogen production at this facility will be captured. 

Elsewhere, Equinor is developing a further 1,200MW of low-carbon production capacity to fuel the Keadby Hydrogen power station, in partnership with SSE Thermal. It is hoped that the power station will come online this decade.

Under the Ten Point Plan for the green industrial revolution, the UK Government is targeting 5GW of low-carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030. The term “low-carbon” covers blue hydrogen and green hydrogen, the latter of which is produced using electrolysis enabled by renewable electricity. Equinor claims that, when the work of its partners on its two major hydrogen projects are added to its own 1.8GW goal, more than half of the 5GW goal could be accounted for.

“Without carbon capture and storage (CCS) and hydrogen at scale, there is no viable path to net-zero and realising the Paris goals,” Equinor’s president and chief executive Anders Opedal said.

“Our low-carbon projects in the UK build on our own industrial experience and will play a major role in setting the UK’s industrial heartlands in a leading position. The projects will also contribute to providing hydrogen and low-carbon solutions to three to five industrial clusters by 2035. We will do so by working together with governments, partners and customers.”

Equinor updated its climate targets late last year. Having previously committed to reaching ‘near-zero’ emissions for North Sea operations by 2050, it set a net-zero target with the same deadline, covering both upstream production and final consumption.

As for the UK Government, the announcement from Equinor comes as the private sector continues to await the publication of the Hydrogen Strategy. The Strategy was originally due last year and the Climate Change Committee (CCC) is pushing for it to now be published before Parliament rises for summer recess in late July.

In the meantime, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has launched a £60m competition for projects developing innovations in the fields of low-carbon hydrogen production, hydrogen transport and storage. Called the Low Carbon Supply 2 Competition, the scheme is funded through the Government’s £1bn Net Zero Innovation Portfolio. Successful applicants will receive up to £300,000 per project in the first instance.  

Negative emissions technologies warning

Alongside hydrogen, CCS forms a major part of Equinor’s plans for the low-carbon transition in the energy sector. Other energy majors investing significantly in CCS include ExxonMobil and Drax.

CCS technologies are in their relative infancy at a commercial scale, but the sector is growing rapidly. 2020 saw a 33% year-on-year increase in the total global capacity of CCS facilities operating and under development, according to one analysis, with 65 facilities operating at a commercial scale as of December 2020. Climate advisory bodies including the CCC have stated that negative-emissions technologies will be a “non-optional” part of the jigsaw of technologies and processes in the net-zero transition.

This week, however, a new scientific report has been published outlining how nations should prepare to reduce emissions twice as rapidly as they would under current plans, in case carbon removal technologies are not able to scale or perform as hoped. Cuts to emissions, crucially, would need to take place in the 2020s. By 2030, global emissions would need to be 70% lower than 2019 levels to limit warming in line with the Paris Agreement’s ‘well-below 2C’ pathway, the paper concludes.

Sarah George



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