UK Government has chosen two Carbon Capture Usage and Storage (CCUS) projects for Track 2 status, setting the stage for the advancement of low-carbon hydrogen projects in northeast Scotland and the Humber region.

The selected projects, Acorn and Viking, join the ranks of HyNet and the East Coast cluster as the third and fourth CCUS clusters in the UK. The move is seen as a vital step towards achieving a Net Zero economy, but calls for clarity and prompt action from the government in selecting sites within the Track 2 clusters echo the urgency to secure investments for decarbonizing industrial regions.

The primary objective of the selected CCUS projects, Acorn and Viking, is to accelerate the production of low-carbon hydrogen in the UK. By capturing and storing carbon emissions from various industries, these projects aim to pave the way for a greener and more sustainable energy landscape. The UK’s hydrogen strategy, adopting a “twin-track” approach, targets the development of 10GW of low-carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030, with half of it being green hydrogen.

The Acorn project plans to reform North Sea natural gas to generate hydrogen, with the associated carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions stored under the sea, ensuring a closed-loop and eco-friendly process. Viking, on the other hand, spearheaded by Harbour Energy with bp’s support, aims to achieve its first storage by 2027. Both projects leverage CCUS technology to capture and store carbon emissions, thereby mitigating the environmental impact and contributing to the UK’s ambitious goal of capturing 30 million tonnes of CO2 annually by 2030.

The successful implementation of Acorn and Viking projects holds immense potential for the UK’s journey towards a Net Zero economy. By integrating low-carbon hydrogen production with carbon capture and storage, these projects can significantly reduce the carbon intensity of energy production, decarbonize industrial regions, and play a pivotal role in meeting the country’s carbon reduction targets.

Amid the strides towards low-carbon hydrogen development, the UK Government has faced criticism for granting “hundreds” of new oil and gas licenses in the country. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak defends the decision, emphasizing the importance of bolstering energy security and ensuring a domestic energy supply even after reaching Net Zero in 2050. The government sees this as a crucial step towards avoiding dependence on more carbon-intensive gas imports from hostile states, and instead, investing in vital industries like CCS to grow the economy and support green technologies.

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