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BP announces plans for ‘blue hydrogen’ plant in Teesside

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Energy group BP has announced plans to build Britain’s largest hydrogen plant by 2030. The facility would treat natural gas to extract hydrogen, and capture the carbon dioxide produced in the process.

BP announced its plans to boost use of hydrogen as a fuel by building a large hydrogen plant in Teesside, in the north of England. The 'H2Teesside' plant will have capacity of up to 1GW of 'blue hydrogen': a fifth of the UK’s 2030 target of 5GW hydrogen capacity.

'Green' hydrogen is produced by splitting water by electrolysis to produce hydrogen and oxygen, requiring a large energy input. Blue hydrogen, however, is produced by splitting natural gas into hydrogen and carbon dioxide through steam methane reforming or autothermal reforming; the carbon is then captured to leave almost pure hydrogen. This does not require additional energy input, although it will require considerable work to develop and implement carbon capture technology effectively.

Although carbon capture and storage technologies are frequently characterised as something of a saviour in the context of decarbonisation strategies, there are only around 20 commercial carbon capture facilities in the world.

BP has kicked off with a feasibility study on the project for exploring technologies that could capture up to 98 per cent of carbon emissions from the production process. The facility is expected to capture up to two million tonnes of carbon every year and pipe it into storage beneath the North Sea. This will be connected to the proposed 'Net Zero Teesside' industrial zone, which aims to deliver the country’s first zero-carbon industrial cluster through carbon capture and storage. The hydrogen can also be used for heating residential homes in the region or as a fuel for transportation.

BP said that the area’s proximity to North Sea storage sites, pipe corridors, and existing hydrogen storage and distribution facilities made it uniquely placed to play a part in the fuel transition.

“Clean hydrogen is an essential complement to electrification on the path to net-zero carbon emissions,” said Dev Sanyal, head of gas and low-carbon energy at BP. “Blue hydrogen, integrated with carbon capture and storage, can provide the scale and reliability needed by industrial processes. It can also play an essential role in decarbonising hard-to-electrify industries and driving down the cost of the energy transition.”

The energy minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan commented: “Driving the growth of low-carbon hydrogen is a key part of the Prime Minister’s 10-point plan and our energy white paper and can play an important part in helping us end our contribution to climate change by 2050. Clean hydrogen has huge potential to help us fully decarbonise across the UK and it is great to see BP exploring its full potential in Teesside.”

The company will make its final investment decision on the project in 2024, with a view to beginning production of 500MW of blue hydrogen by 2027 at the latest and additional capacity deployed in the following years.

This week, the government published its Industrial Decarbonisation Strategy, which aims to cut carbon emissions from industry by two-thirds in 15 years. The strategy emphasises carbon capture and storage and the transition from fossil fuels to hydrogen. Although these approaches could play an important role in lowering carbon emissions, their future uses and costs remain uncertain.

Teesside will receive funding to become home to the UK’s first “hydrogen transport hub” with an initial £3m in funding to kickstart the project. The hub aims to bring together government, industry and academia to focus research, testing and trials across all transport modes, with a view to having the hub fully operational by 2025.

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