£75 million bid win towards Humber’s net zero carbon ambition

The Humber’s ambition to become the world’s first net zero industrial cluster has moved a step closer with the news that the Zero Carbon Humber (ZCH) Partnership has been successful in its bid for Government funding to unlock its major decarbonisation infrastructure project. 

Zero starts here - Zero Carbon Humber (ZCH) Partnership.
Zero starts here – Zero Carbon Humber (ZCH) Partnership.

The Humber’s news is further boosted by a successful bid from the ‘Northern Endurance Partnership’ (NEP) which provides the offshore pipeline and safe storage for emissions captured both in the Humber and in Teesside, which was also successful in a separate bid. The three projects total nearly £240m of private and public funding to decarbonise the North East of England and potentially around 50% of the UK’s industrial carbon emissions. 

In October 2020, twelve leading companies and organisations across the Humber jointly submitted a £75 million bid, with more than two-thirds privately funded, to accelerate decarbonisation in the UK’s most carbon-intensive industrial region, helping to support clean growth, future-proof vital industries and protect and create new jobs. 

Zero Carbon Humber site map
Zero Carbon Humber site map – illustrative only.

The ZCH Partnership’s plan could help the region reach net zero by 2040 through low carbon hydrogen, carbon capture and carbon removal technology. This will be enabled by a shared pipeline network to carry hydrogen to industrial customers and remove carbon dioxide from power generation and industrial emitters, transporting it to permanent storage in an offshore aquifer in the UK’s Southern North Sea via pipelines developed by NEP, serving both ZCH and Net Zero Teesside (NZT). 

The ZCH proposals alone could reduce the UK’s annual emissions by 15% and safeguard 55,000 existing jobs in the region, whilst creating thousands of new STEM roles and developing skills, apprenticeships and educational opportunities in the area. It will also help to secure the future for the Humber’s traditional heavy industry and related supply chains by enabling decarbonisation and creating opportunities for growth in new technologies. 

The ZCH Partnership includes Associated British Ports, British Steel, Centrica Storage Ltd, Drax Group, Equinor, Mitsubishi Power, National Grid Ventures, px Group, SSE Thermal, Saltend Cogeneration Company Limited, Uniper, and the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC).

“We welcome the Government’s support for this important decarbonisation infrastructure project for the Humber region. The country’s largest ports complex, the Humber is the UK’s Energy Estuary, and plays a critical role in the renewable energy industry. Green energy is at the heart of ABP’s growth aspirations, combining offshore wind, carbon capture and storage and hydrogen production.”

Simon Bird, ABP Humber Director

The public funding to the ZCH Partnership is from Phase 2 of the Industrial Decarbonisation Challenge, which forms part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, while the private funding comes from the companies within the ZCH Partnership. 

The ZCH bid’s anchor project is the Equinor-led Hydrogen to Humber (H2H) Saltend proposal, which will establish the world’s largest hydrogen production plant with carbon capture on the Humber’s north bank. H2H Saltend will convert natural gas to hydrogen and capture the carbon dioxide (CO2) in the process. In the first phase, this could reduce emissions by circa 900,000 tonnes per year as industrial customers at px Group’s Saltend Chemicals Park switch fuel to low-carbon hydrogen while Triton Power’s gas power plant blends hydrogen into the fuel supply of its converted Mitsubishi turbines. H2H Saltend is expected to grow over time, contributing to further emissions reductions from the Chemicals Park and across the Humber.

“The successful award of this £75m project represents a huge vote of confidence in the Humber region and the wider North of England. We are pleased that the ambition of this project to support the net zero agenda and our collective capability to build back greener has been recognised. The AMRC is looking forward to engaging local supply chains and enabling growth of high value jobs through the programme. The hard work in earnest starts now and we hope that a successful outcome of the project will make an important step toward levelling up the economy.”

Ben Morgan, Research Director of University of Sheffield AMRC

A pipeline network, developed by National Grid Ventures, will link H2H Saltend to energy-intensive industrial sites throughout the region, to enable further decarbonisation from projects across the Humber through the capture of at least 17 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year and the supply of up to 10 gigawatts of hydrogen by the mid-2030s. The CO2 will be compressed at Centrica Storage’s Easington site and stored under the Southern North Sea using offshore infrastructure developed by NEP (in which Equinor and National Grid are two of the partners) and shared with NZT (in which Equinor is a partner). Net Zero Teesside and the Northern Endurance Partnership made separate bids to the same fund but are closely aligned due to their shared offshore infrastructure and storage options.

The matched funding to ZCH covers obtaining land rights, development consents and front-end engineering design for H2H Saltend and the onshore pipeline infrastructure for CO2 and hydrogen, enabling the scheme to move towards a final investment decision on construction during 2023, with H2H Saltend and associated infrastructure expected to come online around 2026. 

“This funding creates more momentum behind Zero Carbon Humber’s plans to decarbonise the UK’s most carbon-intensive industrial cluster and to create and support tens of thousands of jobs. Drax has kickstarted the planning process for developing bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), which is a landmark moment in our plans to become a carbon negative company by 2030. 

“Drax’s first BECCS unit could be operational in 2027, delivering the UK’s largest carbon capture project, permanently removing millions of tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere each year, whilst showcasing the UK’s global leadership in a clean technology needed in the fight against climate change.”

Will Gardiner, Drax CEO

At Selby in North Yorkshire, Drax Power Station would connect to the completed CO2 pipeline network, underpinning the ZCH scheme with bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) – a vital negative emissions technology that Drax is pioneering and which will be essential to decarbonising the Humber Cluster and helping the UK achieve its legally binding 2050 net zero carbon target. Drax has started the planning process to develop BECCS and its first unit could be operational in 2027, delivering the UK’s largest carbon capture project.

The pipeline network will also run via SSE Thermal’s Keadby site, where it is developing Keadby 3. This could become the UK’s first gas-fired power station equipped with carbon capture technology by the mid-2020s, providing decarbonised flexible power to complement intermittent renewables generation and maintain security of supply. The network will also run via Immingham, where Uniper is planning to add to its European hydrogen ambitions by developing clean hydrogen production at its Killingholme site, in line with Uniper’s pledge to be carbon neutral in Europe by 2035. 

As one of the UK’s leading steel manufacturers, and a significant local employer, British Steel could benefit from the ZCH infrastructure as part of its drive to lower emissions. ABP, the major ports and logistics provider for the region,  will support the global reach of the low carbon products and chemicals produced at Scunthorpe and at Saltend. 

The ZCH projects are supported by the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, which will work with its sister centre, the Nuclear AMRC, to support the anchoring of supply chain opportunities in the UK provided by these new technologies. Both centres are part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult. 

In addition to the key sites that are part of the ZCH scheme, there is further potential for other future projects to attract inward investment and cement the Humber’s reputation as the UK’s Energy Estuary and a world-leading net zero region. These include integrating offshore wind power into hydrogen production, decarbonising the regional gas grid, supplying hydrogen transport fuelling hubs, providing links to CO2 storage services to other industrial clusters and creating the world’s first sustainable maritime refuelling port. 

In October 2020, the ZCH Partnership published a collection of letters of support from other significant businesses, trade bodies, educational institutions, supply chain networks, equality and diversity groups, and local authorities and LEPs. The roll-call of supporters now numbers over fifty-five and is likely to grow further as the project progresses. 

What the Zero Carbon Humber cluster could look like.
What the Zero Carbon Humber cluster could look like.

Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said:

“We were the first major economy to put into law our target to end our contribution to climate change, and today we’re taking steps to be the first major economy to have its own low-carbon industrial sector. 

“While reaching our climate targets will require extensive change across our economy, we must do so in a way that protects jobs, creates new industries and attracts inward investment – without pushing emissions and business abroad.

“Ahead of COP26, the UK is showing the world how we can cut emissions, create jobs and unleash private investment and economic growth. Today’s strategy builds on this winning formula as we transition low carbon and renewable energy sources, while supporting the competitiveness of Britain’s industrial base.”

[Richard Royal – Lionheart Public Affairs]

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