Norway’s state oil company Equinor will triple its UK hydrogen output, after setting out plans to build the world’s biggest hydrogen production plant with carbon capture and storage technology near Hull.
Equinor plans to produce clean-burning “blue hydrogen” to supply the Keadby gas power plant in Lincolnshire, owned by energy company SSE, making it the world’s first full-scale power plant to burn pure hydrogen to generate electricity.
Anders Opedal, the chief executive of Equinor, said on Monday that the company plans to produce another 1,200MW of blue hydrogen in the Humber area to help supply the Keadby hydrogen power plant.
He said that without hydrogen and carbon capture technology there was “no viable path to net zero and realising the Paris goals”.
Earlier this year Equinor and SSE set out plans to produce enough hydrogen to supply the Saltend Chemicals Park and Saltend Power Station. The 600MW project will extract hydrogen from traditional fossil gas, leaving carbon dioxide which it plans to trap and store using carbon capture technology.
Hydrogen is considered an important part of the UK’s plan to reduce its carbon emissions because it could replace fossil gas used in factories and power plants, and help to reduce the UK’s reliance on fossil fuels for transport and heating.
However, many environmentalists have called for policymakers to invest in enough renewable electricity to create hydrogen from water, or “green hydrogen”, rather than producing hydrogen using carbon capture and storage (CCS), which cannot completely eliminate carbon emissions and remains an expensive technology.
CCS technologies typically trap the carbon dioxide produced by factories or fossil fuel power plants before they are emitted into the atmosphere and contribute to global heating. But the technology is also required to produce blue hydrogen, which involves splitting hydrogen from traditional fossil gas, leaving carbon dioxide.
Once trapped, the greenhouse gas can then be piped into permanent underground storage facilities or sold to buyers who can use the carbon to manufacture plastics, boost their greenhouse crop yields or even make fizzy drinks.
A new report from the Global CCS Institute thinktank has found that the world’s CCS capacity will need to grow by 100 times to meet global climate targets, at a cost of between $655bn (£472bn) and more than $1tn over the next 30 years.
Brad Page, the institute’s chief executive, warned that the “necessary investment far exceeds what governments are willing to provide”, meaning policymakers will need to play a role in enabling “very large-scale private sector capital”.
“Investing around $1tn over almost 30 years is well within the capacity of the private sector which invested almost $2tn in the energy sector in 2018 alone,” he said.
Doug Parr, the chief scientist for Greenpeace UK, said the British government would be better off spending money on clean energy solutions rather than expensive technologies to counter the effects of fossil fuels.
“Using taxpayers’ money to keep propping up harmful, polluting industries is using time and money that we don’t have,” he said. “Pumping out less carbon is the best, most reliable and affordable option.”