By Ben Kek, Deputy Project Director, Net Zero Teesside
As we entered 2021, closing the door on a challenging year, there exists a sense of renewed hope for the year ahead. For all the hardship brought by the pandemic, it inadvertently cultivated an accelerated drive towards global efforts to address climate change, with the common theme of “building back better” and driving a “green recovery”.
The world is also anticipating the November COP26 climate summit, hosted in Glasgow. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson put down a marker for the UK’s greener future in his ten-point plan for a Green Industrial Revolution, with the view to making the UK a global leader in green technologies.
It was no surprise that carbon capture, utilisation and storage received a telling amount of increased investment and was a key puzzle piece in his path to net-zero. The Climate Change Committee (CCC), the UK’s independent climate advisory body, has repeatedly stressed that carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) is a necessity, not an option, in achieving this target. But though this essential technology is now understood to be one of the keys to creating low-carbon hubs around the world, it remains somewhat of an unknown quantity in public discourse.
At Net Zero Teesside, we are pioneering CCUS technology to capture carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted from a cluster of heavy industries alongside emissions from a new dispatchable gas fired combined cycle power station and neighbouring facilities, including a biomass power station and hydrogen production facility. Once the CO₂ has been captured at source and prevented from entering the atmosphere, it will be transported through a pipeline where it will be safely stored in a deep geological formation under the North Sea.
Through this process, we envision the potential to capture up to 10 million tonnes of CO₂ emissions – the equivalent to the annual energy use of over 3 million UK homes. In addition, with the installation of a high efficiency gas-fired power station with CO₂ emission abatement, we aim to deliver reliable and flexible low-carbon power to back-up renewable energy sources and support the UK power grid through its clean energy transition.
Fundamentally, this will protect the longevity of local industry at Teesside – which predominantly centres on heavy, hard to abate industry – and drive low carbon economic development and job creation.
When assessing what we are trying to achieve holistically, factoring in the ability to enable production of low-carbon hydrogen and attract long-term investment in low-carbon industries across Teesside, including the transport sector and synthetic fuels, we are looking at the prospect for an economic, social and environmental regeneration of the region.
The key now is to ensure these projects become operational as quickly as possible. We are working closely with the UK Government to establish the necessary business models to advance our project, with the view to coming online as soon as 2026. The learnings from which can be used to drive deployment of CCUS at scale across the UK during the 2030s, in line with Boris Johnson’s current pledge, and establish CCUS as a flagship UK industry.