First net-zero industrial zone to be created in the UK’s Humber area

Three energy firms have announced a joint project to create the first net-zero industrial zone in the Humber area of North England.

The proposals have been published by the Zero Carbon Humber campaign and led by energy firms Drax, Equinor and National Grid Ventures, with the plans potentially able to make a significant contribution to the UK’s climate goals.

The industrial cluster will see the firms capture and store carbon emissions and produce hydrogen as a clean fuel.

Drax has long been an advocate of carbon capture technology and it became the first power station to use it on carbon produced from burning wood pellets earlier this year. The scheme focuses on developing this technology at Drax’s power plant which will see the carbon emissions permanently stored underground.

Creating the zero-carbon hub could capture 53 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, equating to around 15 per cent of the UK’s current annual emissions, according to analysis by Element Energy which forms part of a new report on the proposals. The plans could also help protect 55,000 jobs.

In addition, the project would help save industrial businesses in the region from having to pay carbon taxes of up to £2.9bn a year by 2040.

Jon Butterworth, Global Transmission CEO at National Grid Ventures, commented: “By working together across industry sectors, we can protect UK jobs, drive further economic growth and help the country achieve critically important climate goals that will significantly benefit current and future generations.”

The Humber region is host to two of the country’s six major oil refineries, several chemical factories and British Steel’s Scunthorpe steelworks.

The emissions of other industry in the region could also be offset by the plan and it could provide an anchor for a system for transporting and storing carbon dioxide under the North Sea, which other firms could plug into to capture their own emissions.

The plans also include a role for producing hydrogen, which can be burned without creating emissions to deliver heat in industrial processes, heat buildings and fuel heavy transport, and can be stored like natural gas.

Creating hydrogen from natural gas generates carbon emissions, but combining it with carbon capture and storage technology will mean it can be produced cleanly, while excess renewable power can also be harnessed to create ‘green hydrogen’ from water, a report setting out the proposals claims.

Lord Haskins, chairman of the Humber Local Enterprise Partnership, which is supporting the Zero Carbon Humber campaign, welcomed the proposals which set out a clear route to protect jobs, tackle climate change and help the Humber compete globally.

“Today, the UK is in the lead, but other countries are closing the gap by helping their industries achieve their net zero carbon goals,” he said.

“The Humber is uniquely well placed to deliver clean growth and I hope the next government will get behind the exciting proposals coming forward from the region.”

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