Zero Carbon Humber Partnership

Dan Sadler, UK Low Carbon Strategy Director for Equinor, describes how the Zero Carbon Humber proposals could reduce the UK’s annual emissions by 15%.

What is the Zero Carbon Humber partnership and what is planned?

Zero Carbon Humber is an ambition to make the Humber – which is the UK’s largest carbon emitting industrial cluster – into the world’s first net zero carbon industrial cluster by 2040. The Zero Carbon Humber Partnership brings together twelve organisations with different experiences and specialisms, in pursuit of this goal. 

The Partnership’s plan is to achieve this 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 across the Humber region, whilst removing carbon dioxide from power generation and industrial emitters, transporting it to permanent storage in an offshore aquifer in the UK’s Southern North Sea.

The bid’s anchor project is the Equinor-led Hydrogen to Humber (H2H) Saltend project, which will establish the world’s largest hydrogen production plant with carbon capture at px Group’s Saltend Chemicals Park. This will convert natural gas to hydrogen and capture the carbon dioxide (CO2), reducing emissions by about 900,000 tonnes per year initially, as industrial customers switch fuel to low-carbon hydrogen and the site’s gas power plant blends hydrogen into the fuel supply, but this reduction is expected to improve further over time.

The pipeline will also run via Uniper’s proposed hydrogen site in Killingholme on the south bank of the river Humber; the British Steel metalworks near Scunthorpe; SSE’s Clean Power Hub at Keadby; and Drax’s planned bio-energy with carbon capture near Selby. 

How will Zero Carbon Humber benefit the livelihoods of people who work in the region?

The proposals could 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.

Jon Butterworth, Managing Director, National Grid Ventures, “The Humber region offers unmatched potential to protect and grow jobs and decarbonise the UK’s largest industrial heartland. A key to unlocking that potential will be to deliver the transport and storage infrastructure that will incentivise industrial emitters to adopt carbon capture technology.”

Will Gardiner, CEO, Drax Group, “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.”

Why are you taking climate action?

The Humber is the UK’s largest carbon emitting industrial cluster. According to the BEIS Industrial Strategy Grand Challenge documents, it is responsible for 12.4Mt CO2, which is over a third of the total for all six UK industrial clusters. Clearly if the UK wants to reach net zero, the Humber has to be central to this.

Over 75% of the Humber’s emissions come from local industry, which are also major employers and central to the social and economic fabric of the region. As such, any decarbonisation needs to be done sensitively and as a transition, in order to future-proof key sectors and protect jobs and skills.

Low carbon hydrogen and carbon capture are the main methods that many of these industries can use to decarbonise, making a significant impact upon overall emissions, but there is further potential for things like decarbonising maritime through ammonia (which can be created by mixing hydrogen and nitrogen, and can fuel marine vessels without emitting carbon dioxide) which can also result.

This sounds expensive – how will your work be funded?

In October the Partnership submitted a bid worth £75m of public and private money to the UKRI’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, which is seeking to support industrial decarbonisation across UK clusters. This would help to accelerate the project, and we hope to hear the result soon. 

However, that funding only kick-starts the research and development work that will take partners towards a Final Investment Decision, expected in 2023, beyond which this becomes a privately funded multi-billion pound project.