SSE and Equinor are developing plans for what would be one of the world’s largest hydrogen storage facilities.
Earmarked for the pair’s existing Aldbrough site, on the east coast of Yorkshire, the facility could be storing the low-carbon fuel as early as 20208.
The partnership marks the UK’s first end-to-end low-carbon hydrogen proposal, connecting production, storage and demand projects.
The Aldbrough Gas Storage facility, which was commissioned in 2011, is co-owned by SSE Thermal and Equinor.
It consists of nine underground salt caverns, each roughly the size of St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Upgrading the site to store hydrogen would involve converting the existing caverns or creating new purpose-built ones to store the low-carbon fuel.
With an initial expected capacity of at least 320 gigawatt hours (GWh), Aldbrough Hydrogen Storage would be significantly larger than any other facility in operation globally today.
SSE said the site is “ideally located” to store the fuel that will be produced and used in the Humber.
Hydrogen has been identified as the energy transition fuel of the future, and has been pinpointed as a solution for a range of decarbonisation problems.
Importantly, it offers a means to axe emission from a range of hard to abate sectors, like shipping and air travel.
As increasing amounts of green and blue hydrogen are produced in the coming years, facilities like Aldbrough could hold the key to storing excess fuel, allowing it be used on demand.
Blue hydrogen is already part of Equinor’s energy transition strategy and the Norwegian energy giant intends to develop 1.8 gigawatts (GW) in the north-east of England.
That starts with its 0.6 GW H2H Saltend project, which will supply low-carbon hydrogen to local industry and power from the mid-2020s.
This will be followed by a 1.2 GW production facility to supply the Keadby Hydrogen Power Station, proposed by SSE Thermal and Equinor as the world’s first 100% hydrogen-fired power station – that’s due to come online before the end of the decade.
The success of the Aldbrough Hydrogen Storage facility depends on the progress of the “necessary business models” and “associated infrastructure”, SSE said.
Stephen Wheeler, managing director of SSE Thermal, said: “We’re delighted to be announcing our plans for the development of this world-leading hydrogen storage facility with our partners in Equinor, which would play a vital role in creating a low-carbon hydrogen economy in the Humber and beyond.
“By delivering large-scale hydrogen storage capacity, we can utilise hydrogen to decarbonise vital power generation, as well as heavy industry, heat, transport, and other hard-to-reach sectors, safeguarding and creating crucial jobs and investment across the region.”
Grete Tveit, senior vice president for low carbon solutions at Equinor, said: “Hydrogen will be crucial for the UK to reach its net zero ambition. That’s why we are pleased to be working together with SSE Thermal on developing plans to store low-carbon hydrogen at the Aldbrough site, bringing us and our partners in Zero Carbon Humber closer to our joint ambition to support the Humber region to become the UK’s first net zero carbon cluster. Projects such as these are critical for efforts to reaching the goals of the Paris Agreement and contributing to the UK’s goals to become a world leader in low carbon.”
Other projects being developed as part of a collaboration between SSE and Equinor include a low-carbon power station in Peterhead.
The facility, which would support hundreds of jobs, could be one of the first facilities to be equipped with carbon capture and storage.