According to a recent analysis from the North Sea Transition Authority, a massive offshore hydrogen project may help power 20 million homes and companies with low-carbon energy (NSTA).
It makes the case that the Norfolk-based Bacton Energy Hub may dramatically lower greenhouse gas emissions while also assisting in ensuring the UK’s energy security.
The facility is an electrolytic hydrogen and carbon capture and storage (CCS) project that will continue to grow over the next ten years.
If a final investment decision is reached by the third quarter of 2025, the main project—which refers to the hydrogen and offshore gas facilities—is predicted to cost £500 million and can be completed by 2030.
A group of businesses, including the Energy Transition Authority, Petrofac, Progressive Energy Limited, Sumitomo Corporation, Turner and Townsend, and Xodus, have backed the idea since it was introduced by the NSTA.
Future hydrogen produced at Bacton may be included in the UK’s gas pipeline network, according to NSTA.
Currently, 100% methane is used in the National Transmission System (NTS) that supplies gas to buildings in London and the South East of England.
By replacing the same amount of methane with 20% hydrogen blended into the NTS, 1.5 million tonnes of CO2 may be displaced annually by the end of the decade, rising to 17 million tonnes by 2050.
The first supply would be made up of CCS-enabled (blue), natural gas-produced hydrogen until the beginning of 2040.
After that, electrolysis, a method of separating water into hydrogen and oxygen, would begin to produce electrolytic (green) hydrogen.
Blue hydrogen produces CO2 as a byproduct, however, to satisfy those needs, Bacton would offer a large number of possible carbon storage fields, sponsored by the NSTA’s carbon storage licensing round.
According to the NSTA, Bacton has untapped gas reserves of up to 2 trillion cubic feet that might be used as a feedstock to create blue hydrogen.
The hub will also have 15GW of offshore wind, which will contribute 30% of the UK’s 50GW ambition for energy generation.
“We are relentlessly focused on the twin goals of guaranteeing energy security and reaching net zero,” said Alastair MacFarlane, NSTA Southern North Sea Area Manager. This endeavor has the potential to change both.
He urged a group of investors to get together to provide additional funds to support the development.
Experts express concern about the use of blue hydrogen
The 33rd licensing cycle of the NSTA, which includes four priority clusters in the Southern North Sea, was announced in October of this year.
These are locations where known hydrocarbons exist and have the potential to be quickly produced, making the required gas resource easily accessible.
Additionally, according to the NSTA analysis, the UK’s interconnectors to Europe may enable Bacton to become a center for CO2 imports, storing gas brought in from western Europe and bringing in fuel for the creation of hydrogen.
In order to ensure energy security, the government plans to generate 10GW of blue and green hydrogen by the end of the decade.
The nation’s first hydrogen fund with a London listing, Hydrogen One, applauded the most recent advancements.
The Bacton Energy Hub has been dubbed a “wonderful example” of the UK reusing fossil fuel infrastructure for the switch to zero-carbon energy sources by managing partner Richard Hulf.
“We look forward to more project updates,” he told City A.M., “and this is exactly the kind of initiative that will attract financing from funds like our own.”
Energy specialists, including Adam Bell, head of policy at Stonehaven and former head of energy at BEIS, expressed skepticism about the ideas, nevertheless.
He pointed out that the report attempts to draw a connection between data showing that using hydrogen in boilers can reduce emissions by up to 85% when compared to using natural gas in boilers and the Climate Change Committee’s suggestion that carbon storage can play a significant role in expanding the hydrogen industry.
Even though its research does recognize a role for hydrogen in residential hybrid devices, the CCC has not suggested that hydrogen should play a substantial part in hydrogen-only domestic heating systems, which Bell said was fair “on grid upgrade grounds.”
Bell was also unsure whether the use of blue hydrogen in the coming decade as a route to cleaner energy made sense given historically high wholesale costs.
Given the present gas costs, the ongoing decline in the price of electrolyzers, and the increasing use of renewable energy sources, he said that it was difficult to envision a role for blue hydrogen in the medium term. At the end of the 2020s, its usefulness as a transition fuel might be restricted to a short period of time.
Green Alliance’s research director, Roz Bulleid, was more skeptical of the initiative because she was worried that it would be used to favor the continued use of fossil fuels over the move toward a low-carbon future.
“This is a clear illustration of the utilization of CCUS and hydrogen production to support future fossil fuel growth,” she said. While CCUS and hydrogen can play a part in a sustainable transition, we must stop using fossil fuels for energy production. The North Sea is a more costly and ineffective place to harvest resources.