The UK government has outlined ambitious plans and funding to reduce carbon emissions which include investing more than £1bn to unlock the potential of hydrogen and support the establishment of carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) in the industrial clusters.
As one of the largest industrial hubs in the country marked as a major cluster in the UK, Humberside could turn to greener gasses before other parts of the country.
Whilst we reduce carbon emissions from our factories and manufacturing sites, we need to think about what else we could do to accelerate progress across the region.
That’s why National Grid is looking at how we can convert existing pipelines to hydrogen from Humberside to other industrial heartlands across the country to create a hydrogen backbone.
Consisting of around 2,000km of repurposed gas pipelines, the backbone would connect with clusters in Teesside, Grangemouth, Southampton, South Wales and the North West, and could speed up the rollout of hydrogen across the country.
There is also the potential to link the backbone up with interconnectors at Bacton in Norfolk – if we can import and export hydrogen with European neighbours Humber and Yorkshire can enhance the reliability, security and flexibility of energy supply in the region and more widely in the UK, in response to peaks in demand.
The backbone could carry at least a quarter of the current gas demand in Great Britain today, and provide vital resilience and storage needed for the transition to hydrogen.
This would have huge implications for decarbonisation, helping to drive down carbon emissions in the region which currently emits 12.4 million tonnes a year, and support government plans of producing five gigawatts of low carbon hydrogen by 2030.
As the road map for the green economic recovery develops, it’s clear that the Humber region offers unmatched potential to protect and grow jobs and decarbonise the UK’s largest industrial heartland.
With plans under way to transform the region into the world’s first net zero industrial cluster, the area is one of six clusters that can shape a UK hydrogen backbone.
Developing the backbone will require huge levels of modelling, engineering and assessment to determine different route options to transport hydrogen from one cluster to another.
As hydrogen production develops, being able to transport hydrogen between clusters around the country could help decarbonise industry, commercial and even residential areas that sit between Humberside and the other cluster locations.
Instead of limiting hydrogen to individual cluster regions, we can form a hydrogen network which could eventually power other industries and towns along the route.
Creating a hydrogen backbone which leverages industrial centres like Humberside has significant implications for the green economic recovery. According to the Hydrogen Taskforce, hydrogen production could generate £18bn for the UK economy and support more than 75,000 jobs over the next 15 years.
Decarbonising the region will reap huge benefits, injecting confidence and a commitment into the local and wider Yorkshire area and outlining a clear role for Humber in delivering government climate objectives.
With sights set on 2030 hydrogen targets and how we can accelerate towards 2050 net zero goals, momentum around hydrogen will only increase.
With government backing paving the way for infrastructure to tackle emissions in the Humberside cluster, there is huge potential for the region to establish itself at the heart of industrial decarbonisation, forming a crucial part of the UK’s hydrogen backbone and ultimately helping to unlock the full potential of hydrogen to achieve a clean energy future.
Antony Green is Project Director for Hydrogen at National Grid.
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