Zero Carbon Humber (ZCH) project partner PX Group is confident of securing UK government funding to kick-start initial development at the Equinor-led blue hydrogen and carbon capture and storage scheme.

Executives at PX said they have submitted a "strong bid" for the funding, which they hope will eventually put in motion the £75 million ($100 million) first phase of the project to decarbonise a swathe of industry on the Humber Estuary.

PX chief executive Geoff Holmes — known to North Sea oil and gas industry observers as the former head of Talisman Energy in the UK — and chief commercial development manager Patrick Pogue told Upstream that indications of whether or not the consortium’s bid has been successful should come before the end of the first quarter.

If successful, that could lead to a final investment decision by the end of 2023 or early in 2024, with the initial phase up and running in 2026.

Before Christmas, project leader Equinor was participating in interviews with Innovate UK, the body overseeing applications for funding by ZCH and other schemes under the UK’s Industrial Decarbonisation Challenge Fund, the officials said.

'Positive'

“We're positive about the bid. It is a strong bid,” said Holmes.

PX runs the Saltend Chemicals Park near Hull, which provides services and utilities to a host of large-scale chemicals manufacturers and industrial users, including Air Products, BP, Ineos, Nippon Gohsei, Vivergo Fuels, Yara and Tricoya Ventures.

The so-called “anchor” project that will kick-start ZCH will be H2H Saltend involving a new plant to produce blue hydrogen that will be used to fuel the chemical park’s on-site power station, run by Triton.

Currently, the power station burns natural gas.

As well as front-end engineering and design, the group’s bid for matched funding will cover obtaining land rights and development consents for H2H Saltend and the onshore pipeline infrastructure for carbon dioxide and hydrogen.

CO2 captured from the hydrogen production will then be piped offshore for permanent storage in acquifers under the southern North Sea.

The initial phase could reduce emissions by about 900,000 tonnes per annum — about 30% of the power station’s emissions — as the Triton plant blends hydrogen into the station’s fuel supply.

Hopeful: Geoff Holmes, chief executive of PX Group, a partner in the Zero Carbon Humber project Photo: PX GROUP

This is set to increase to 100% in the 2030s.

'Unique'

Pogue explained the scheme could also eventually see the chemicals manufacturers sited on the park to decarbonise their feedstocks.

“That's quite unique,” he said.

Both executives said they have been impressed with the pace of H2H Saltend.

“We started working with Equinor and the others in the Humber region a little over a year ago,” said Pogue.

“It's quite staggering how quickly it's moved on.”

Led by Equinor, the ZCH partnership also includes Associated British Ports, British Steel, Centrica Storage, Drax Group, Mitsubishi Power, National Grid Ventures, SSE Thermal, Saltend Cogeneration Company, Uniper, and the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC).

In later stages, ZCH is expected to expand with a pipeline network, developed by National Grid Ventures, linking H2H Saltend to other energy-intensive industrial sites in the region.

This includes connecting Drax Power Station, at Selby in North Yorkshire, into the CO2 pipeline network, providing a source of bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) – a negative emissions technology Drax is pioneering.