Proposed port of Immingham green hydrogen facility would be largest of its kind in the UK, capable of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 580,000 tonnes a year
The UK's pipeline of green hydrogen projects continues to go from strength to strength. Earlier this week, gas and liquids giant Air Products and UK port operator Associated British Ports (ABP) announced plans to develop the first large-scale green hydrogen production facility in the UK at the Port of Immingham on the east coast of England.
Announcing the ambitious plans yesterday, the new partners detailed how the facility would import green ammonia from production locations operated by Air Products and its global partners which would then be used to produce green hydrogen. The companies said the project would provide a major boost to the the government's plans for 10GW of low-carbon hydrogen to be in production or in construction by 2030 in the UK, highlighting that there is currently no "significant" domestic production of such hydrogen in the UK. The race is now on to make the Port Immingham project the first large scale green hydrogen production hub in the UK.
The companies said the green hydrogen produced at the site could eliminate up to 580,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) each year, equivalent to taking 20,000 diesel HGVs off UK roads, while also reducing nitrous oxide and particulate emissions. In addition, the companies estimated that the project could bring up to $4.6bn in economic growth and financial benefits to the region and provide 1,400 direct jobs and approximately 1,600 indirect jobs for supply chains and local businesses.
ABP and Air Products said they hoped the plans would stimulate demand and support the development of a local and national green hydrogen market. They added that it will be an "important contributor" to the government's plans to make the UK a "global leader in low-carbon hydrogen".
Henrik L. Pedersen, ABP's chief executive officer, said that the project will help deliver the UK's legal obligation to be net zero by 2050 and said that this project positions ABP and Air Products "at the epicentre of the decarbonisation agenda."
Air Products and ABP said that they chose the Port of Immingham for the location of the new hydrogen facility as it offers the required maritime infrastructure as well as offering close proximity to markets and required utilities. In addition, Immingham sits within the UK's largest industrial cluster and is in close proximity to proposed offshore transport and storage networks for captured CO2 that are being pursued through the high profile Net Zero Humber initiative, the companies said.
ABP said it plans to invest in new infrastructure at the site, with a new jetty to service the import and export handling of liquid bulk products. In addition to handling green ammonia, the jetty is being designed so that it can accommodate other cargoes connected to the energy transition, including the import of liquified CO2 from carbon, capture and storage (CCS) projects for sequestration in the North Sea.
The scheme follows on from an existing Air Products' plan to develop the UK's largest blue hydrogen facility in Immingham and represents a further boost to the country's nascent hydrogen economy. It is the latest in a string of such announcements from developers across the UK. Earlier this summer, 20 carbon capture and storage and low carbon hydrogen projects made the cut for the next phase of the government's industrial decarbonisation funding programme, while earlier this month ScottishPower unveiled its own plans for a major green hydrogen hub at the Port of Felixstowe in East Anglia.
And this week Carlton Power announced that it has made progress with its plans for Cumbria's first low carbon hydrogen hub with the announcement that Andrex and Kleenex manufacturer Kimberley-Clark has signed an agreement to procure green hydrogen to power its nearby manufacturing facility in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria.
Carlton Power said that the new partnership will support the development of its proposed Barrow Green Hydrogen scheme, which will initially feature a 35MW electrolyser, capable of producing approximately 3,500 tonnes of hydrogen each year and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25,000 tonnes. The proposed £40m development is subject to planning and financing but is targeted to enter commercial operation in 2025.
The various projects are part of a global wave that has seen the hydrogen economy play an increasingly central role in governments' response to the energy supply crunch battering global markets. According to a study released last week by analyst firm Transparency Market Research, the global market for green hydrogen is expected to grow by 50 per cent each year over the next decade and will increase from €2.1bn to €133.5bn by 2031. The researchers described green hydrogen as an "indispensable link in a sustainable energy system" that can "contribute to storing surpluses of solar and wind energy, replacing natural gas, serving as a sustainable raw material in industry and as fuel in heavy transport".
The big question now for the burgeoning UK hydrogen sector is whether the government can deliver the policy framework that ensure the expanding pipeline of projects is delivered.
This week the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy continued to advance its plans to develop a policy framework that can help drive investment in new hydrogen capacity, launching a consultation on potential new "business models" for hydrogen transportation and storage infrastructure, which it aims to introduce by 2025.
It is seeking views on how such business models could provide firms with cost-effective incentives to ensure new hydrogen transport and storage capacity is built, the need for a strategic planning function to guide the rollout of hydrogen transport and storage infrastructure, and potential implementation options, and whether the existing market framework and industry commercial arrangements are optimal for supporting the deployment of hydrogen transport and storage infrastructure. It will also explore the extent to which blending hydrogen with fossil gas might help provide "market-building benefits for the hydrogen economy", including by bringing forward investment in hydrogen production while larger-scale hydrogen transport and storage infrastructure is being developed.
The proposals are being considered alongside similar proposed business models for hydrogen production, which could be modelled on the system of competitive contract auctions that have helped to drive down renewable energy costs over the past decade.
However, neither of the two candidates to replace Boris Johnson as Prime Minister have provided much of an indication about their plans for either the carbon capture and storage or the hydrogen sectors, fuelling fears that projects that could be characterised as requiring government support at a time when spending is under intense pressure could fall prey to the anti-net zero sentiment in parts of the government.
In the meantime, a large and growing pipeline of projects that could play a critical role in securing the economic future of the UK's industrial heartlands and delivering on the country's climate goals are waiting on clarification from government as to the policy landscape they can expect to sell their low carbon fuel into.
As Ivo Bols, Air Products' president for Europe and Africa, stressed, the projects are there and are ready to advance. "Globally Air Products supports the energy transition by developing real, first-mover projects," he said. "We are forging sustainable hydrogen supply chains with our partners and using our hydrogen knowledge and expertise to accelerate the energy transition. We are in positive talks with government ministers and officials about our plans to invest in UK green hydrogen. To enable our investment decision, we are seeking some policy assurances that a viable market will exist for our product."
The next Prime Minister has the opportunity to unleash a green hydrogen boom in the UK that would drive investment, cut emissions, enhance energy security, and likely help curb energy bills in the long term. But will they seize it?