Equinor has formally entered its flagship hydrogen project into the second phase of a key UK Government funding competition.
In order to support its bid the Norwegian energy giant has struck a series of co-operation agreements with companies interested in consuming the fuel.
Based in the north-east of England, the Hydrogen to Humber (H2H) Saltend project could be a world first and a catalyst for decarbonisation in the region.
Equinor (OSLO: EQNR) is proposing to build a 600 megawatt (MW) low carbon hydrogen production plant with in-built carbon capture and storage.
Holding the unwanted title of the UK’s most carbon intensive industrial cluster, widespread efforts are ongoing to decarbonise the Humber region.
H2H Saltend could enable industries at Saltend Chemicals Park and East Yorkshire to reduce CO2 emissions by nearly one million tonnes annually.
That is a 30% reduction in the Saltend facility’s total current emissions.
Emissions would be tackled using a CCS facility also located in Saltend, east of Hull.
Six prospective industrial operators in the region are backing the plans and have signed varying agreements for the development and commercialisation of the project.
Centrica Storage, which operates the nearby Easington gas storage site, as well as North Sea platforms, and chemicals supplier Ineos Acetyls are two of H2H Saltend’s biggest backers.
Deals have also been struck with Pensana, Triton Power, Vital Energy and Vivergo Fuels, with each company standing to benefit from the project in diverse ways.
Beyond these initial off-takers, the low carbon hydrogen may also be used more broadly to decarbonise multiple sectors.
Heavy industry, transport, heating and pharmaceuticals could all benefit from having the fuel readily available.
Cluster sequencing contest
In order to progress H2H Saltend, Equinor has entered the project into ”Phase 2′ of ‘Track 1’ of Westminster’s CCS cluster sequencing process.
UK Government unveiled its phase one winners, the East Coast Cluster and Hynet, in October.
The initial two schemes will be up and operational by the mid-2020s, with the second cohort following before the end of the decade.
H2H Saltend has been backed by 23 letters of support from organisations across the region including MPs, local authorities, business and trade bodies, educational institutions and diversity groups.
An agreement has also been signed with px Group, owner and operator of Saltend Chemicals Park, confirming the project location.
Equinor’s executive vice president for marketing, midstream and processing Irene Rummelhoff said: “We are delighted to submit our formal plans to Government for our flagship H2H Saltend project, as well as three other low carbon projects across the UK.
“This shows the strength of ambition from Equinor in the UK, building on its considerable experience of similar projects internationally.”
A foundation for decarbonisation in the Humber
The Norwegian company has touted H2H Saltend as the “kick-starter project” for the wider Zero Carbon Humber partnership.
Comprise of twelve organisations, the scheme is committed to making the Humber the world’s first net zero industrial cluster by 2040.
It is also fundamental to Equinor’s ambition to establish at least 1.8 GW of hydrogen production in the region by 2030.
Plans are in the offing to develop, in partnership with SSE Thermal, the world’s first at-scale 100% hydrogen power station at Keadby in Lincolnshire.
There are also proposals for a hydrogen storage facility at Aldbrough in East Yorkshire.
In partnership with gas distribution network operator Cadent, Equinor recently announced plans for potential hydrogen town trials in northern Lincolnshire.
Ms Rummelhoff said: “H2H Saltend is an exciting ground-breaking project which will provide low carbon hydrogen to multiple industries in the Humber by 2026, and the demand for this is clear from the industrial operators’ agreements we already have in place.
“Importantly, it is also a major step to a wider hydrogen economy which can reduce emissions across several sectors, act as a catalyst for greater inward investment and economic growth, and working with our partners, also ultimately result in a Zero Carbon Humber.”
David Brooks, chief executive of Ineos Acetyls, said: “As a business with a long tradition of developing lower carbon solutions, Ineos Acetyls is proud to back Zero Carbon Humber’s efforts to build the world’s first net zero industrial cluster and help make the region competitive for generations to come. At Ineos, we believe that achieving net zero by 2050 is only possible by significantly increasing the use of hydrogen, making the H2H Saltend project a critical component of the cluster strategy.”
Martin Scargill, managing director of Centrica Storage, said: “Centrica are the UKs largest energy supplier and we are committed to being a net zero business by 2045 and helping our customers be net zero by 2050. Fuel switching our operations at Easington to Hydrogen would provide a unique opportunity to make a step-change reduction in our emissions, whilst also paving the way to provide large-scale, flexible, low carbon energy storage solutions for the UK “
Paul Atherley, chairman of Pensana, said: “We are establishing a world-class, independent and sustainable, rare earth processing facility at the Saltend Chemicals Park. We are also looking to process end-of-life magnets from wind turbine nacelles using an innovative hydrogen decrepitation process. We very much look forward to working with Equinor using hydrogen from the H2H Saltend project, not as a fuel, but in establishing this innovative process route as a key component in the circular economy for rare earth magnets in the UK.”
Mick Farr, president of Triton Power, said: “Triton Power’s highly efficient Combined Heat & Power (CHP) Power Station at Saltend stands ready to convert to a Hydrogen blended fuel, and ultimately to accommodate 100% Hydrogen.
“This will significantly reduce CO2 emissions from thermal power generation, which remains a vital component of the varied energy mix needed to enable security of supply through the energy transition; providing power when renewables are not generating, and grid stability when they are.
“We believe this low-risk conversion project utilising proven technology can be the key enabler to kick-start a world leading UK hydrogen economy, and to decarbonize the hard to abate industrial consumers of our power and steam at the adjacent Chemicals Park.”
Nick Gosling, chief strategy officer of Vital Energi, said: “Vital Energi is an energy generation, distribution and supply company with over 30 years’ experience. Vital has been selected as the energy services provider by Hull Eco Park Limited (the developer of the Yorkshire Energy Park). Yorkshire Energy Park is a new development located in the East Riding of Yorkshire, which has a vision to become one of the first zero carbon business parks in the UK, providing up to 2,090 full time jobs when fully operational. The park’s energy centre will use hydrogen as a fuel to generate the majority of the low carbon electricity, heat and cooling needs of the park tenants.”
Ben Hackett, Managing Director of Vivergo Fuels, said: “Vivergo Fuels will be one of Europe’s largest bioethanol producers when we re-open our plant in early 2022, and we are looking forward to collaborating with Equinor to assess the potential use of hydrogen as a low carbon alternative fuel to natural gas at our plant.”