The Humber region of northeast England is being explored as the location for the UK’s first hydrogen town.
Norwegian energy major Equinor and gas network operator Cadent are aiming to switch a town in the area from natural gas to 100% clean hydrogen by the end of the decade, cutting emissions linked to heating and cooking and bringing down overall emissions by about a quarter.
The first stage of the project involves carrying out technical assessments for hydrogen production, storage, demand and distribution, including the viability of the existing natural gas network to carry 100% hydrogen.
The venture would be the final stage in the government’s hydrogen trials as laid out in its Hydrogen Strategy, published in August. They start with a neighbourhood trial of about 300 homes in Levenmouth, Fife, in 2023, followed by a larger hydrogen village in 2025 and a hydrogen town by the end of the decade.
Heating accounts for as much as 23% of all UK emissions and 74% of emissions from buildings. Switching to hydrogen would allow for the continued use of thousands of miles of existing natural gas pipelines and home heating systems. Yet, the future is not yet clear. The government is expected to allow hydrogen blending of up to 20% in the coming years but will not decide on whether to convert the entire natural gas network to 100% hydrogen until 2026.
The area in Lincolnshire is a natural location for the ground-breaking project as it is already emerging as a major hydrogen-production hub. Equinor’s own 600 MW H2H Saltend hydrogen plant is expected to start producing blue hydrogen from natural gas with carbon capture from 2026.
The project is one of many that will make up Zero Carbon Humber, a plan to use hydrogen to decarbonise one of the UK’s largest industrial clusters, including Hull, Grimsby, Scunthorpe and Selby.
Zero Carbon Humber is also working with Net Zero Teesside, another emerging hydrogen hub, and Northern Endurance Partnership to form the East Coast Cluster, which currently produce about half of the UK’s industrial emissions. The East Coast Cluster was selected by the government in October as one of the UK’s first two carbon capture, usage and storage clusters.
If successful, hydrogen switching is likely to spread from The Humber out across the North of England, the East Midlands and South Yorkshire.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for the Humber to target yet another ‘world first’ in the low carbon energy agenda, making it a beacon for global investment, innovation and economic growth,” said Dan Sadler, vice president of UK Low Carbon Solutions at Equinor. “Hydrogen offers one of the few options to reduce domestic heating emissions and we see great value in these UK trials happening here. We can continue to build on the multiple exciting hydrogen proposals in the Humber.”
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