A new research study has been officially kicked off to explore the potential for hydrogen production off the coast of East Anglia.
The study, led by Hydrogen East, will research options and scenarios to bring together the region’s offshore gas and offshore wind sectors to produce clean hydrogen at scale for cleaner power, heat and transport fuels supplying the region and beyond.
The ‘Bacton Energy Hub: Exploring the potential for hydrogen from the Southern North Sea’ studywill provide a detailed map of existing offshore and onshore energy-related infrastructure and develop options and scenarios for where wind farms, gas platforms, subsea pipelines and cables could be integrated or repurposed over time to support hydrogen production, with the Bacton terminal on North Norfolk’s coast being used for injection into the national grid.
The project is well timed following recent announcements such as the Prime Minister’s Ten-Point-Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution, together with a wide range of independent research reports across the world, identifying a clear role for hydrogen to support the decarbonisation of heat and transport systems. The UK Government is due to publish a UK Hydrogen Strategy later this year which this regional study will help to inform.
Recent regional announcements are also highlighting a significant role for hydrogen such as plans for a hydrogen hub as part of the Freeports East bid led by the ports of Felixstowe and Harwich, supported by EDF Energy, Sizewell C, Ryse Hydrogen, JCB, New Anglia and South East Local Enterprise Partnerships, and many other partners including Hydrogen East.
Hydrogen and its use in the energy sector has developed rapidly over the past 18 months, internationally and in the UK, as a versatile gas and an essential enabler of meeting the UK’s 2050 Net Zero target.
Hydrogen can be used and stored as a zero-carbon fuel supporting low-carbon heating for homes and business, and almost all forms of transport, from passenger cars to trains, heavy goods and farm vehicles, buses, trains, boats, and planes. There is a growing level of research on how different technologies to produce hydrogen could be developed and scaled-up, such as electrolysers powered by offshore wind, nuclear, or solar; or reforming natural gas to hydrogen whilst capturing and storing carbon dioxide in depleted gas reservoirs under the North Sea.
The study is being co-funded by OGTC, the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult, New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, and North Norfolk District Council, with support from New Anglia Energy, Opergy, and Xodus Group.
Nigel Cornwall, co-founder of Hydrogen East and a Director at New Anglia Energy, said: “Developing the options for a potential Bacton Energy Hub will help to facilitate and accelerate the transition towards net zero emissions. It is a key regional project, which could realise extensive potential benefits both in terms of supporting delivery of the Local Industrial Strategy and the stated aim of enabling Norfolk and Suffolk to become the UK’s Clean Growth Region. It will contribute to Hydrogen East’s driving objective of Norfolk and Suffolk becoming a significant regional hydrogen economy.”
Martyn Tulloch, Head of Energy System Integration at OGTC, said: “This study will help to identify a pathway for enabling the transition from natural gas to clean hydrogen production across the Southern North Sea, with potential for carbon capture and storage. As the UK’s principal gas basin, and with a significant portfolio of offshore wind projects, the region offers a real opportunity to explore a more integrated approach, with prospects to consider repurposing offshore pipeline infrastructure and the role of the Bacton terminal as an energy hub.
Andy Holyland, Regional Innovation Manager at OREC, said: “East Anglia has been leading the UK in the growth of offshore renewable energy and is well placed to expand on this under the UK’s commitment to 40GW of offshore wind by 2030. It is vital that the region considers hydrogen in this expansion as a vital component to meeting regional and national net zero ambitions.”
Cllr Richard Kershaw, Cabinet member for sustainable growth at North Norfolk District Council, said: “The Bacton feasibility study is a great initiative looking at the ways in which we can work together with partners to drive the clean energy agenda forward in North Norfolk. The Bacton terminal is a nationally significant asset and key employer for more than 50 years. New technologies such as hydrogen have the potential to create more jobs in North Norfolk, and to put us at the forefront of this fresh wave of green energy production for the next 50 years.”
This scoping study is the first phase of a potential three-part project, comprising:
- scoping, indicative market assessment, and initial feasibility and options study
- options development, detailed project definition, and concept engineering studies
- establishment of demonstration project(s) with funding and partnering arrangements, supported by a detailed net zero-based engineering pathway for the Bacton Energy Hub.
A virtual event will be held on 8th April 2021 to update stakeholders on project progress, and ongoing work of other Hydrogen East workstreams.
Image: The Bacton Terminal on the North Norfolk Coast. Photographer: Mike Page