David Parkin, Director at Progressive Energy and HyNet North West Project Director discusses the development of Hynet and the project’s decarbonisation strategy.
It was in late 2016 when, following a knock on my office door, a small team walked in and introduced me to a new project. This was the start of what would later become HyNet North West.
Hynet project - Heat decarbonisation
HyNet was conceived as a potential solution to tackle the thorny issue of decarbonising heat. While natural gas delivers huge flexibility benefits to the UK energy system, carrying twice as much energy every year as the electricity network, holding reserves of energy for the cold, winter days and providing flexibility to generate power when the wind doesn’t blow, it needs to decarbonise.
Hydrogen has many attractions as a replacement, but to make a real difference to our energy system, it needs to be produced at scale, at low cost, and with very low Co2 emissions. And, to meet this challenge, HyNet was conceived.
Back in 2017, HyNet first saw the light of day in the public arena as the not-very-snappily-entitled ‘Liverpool and Manchester Hydrogen Cluster’. The word ‘cluster’ started to gather momentum and has since become a mainstay of the UK Government’s approach to industrial decarbonisation. ‘HyNet North West’ was formally launched in May 2018 with great support from regional supporters.
Developing a decarbonisation strategy
Since then, we have turned a conceptual dream into a real infrastructure project. It was, and still is, a hugely bold and audacious concept – the re-imagining of an entire energy system and the transformation of an industrial landscape built on carbon to reach net zero emissions.
Since its inception, we have invested £40 million on HyNet and its supporting technology projects to develop the engineering definition, demonstrate the technology and design the roadmap to delivery. The consortium has grown to 8 committed partners who are working collaboratively to deliver the HyNet infrastructure – hydrogen production, distribution and storage, and carbon dioxide capture, transport and storage. Our reach is even broader with a further twenty major regional industrials who are all focused on utilising HyNet as the centrepiece of their decarbonisation strategy.
Low carbon energy cluster
HyNet is a low cost, highly deliverable, world-leading low carbon energy cluster. It is a truly democratic project, aimed at removing carbon from all industrial emitters across a regional cluster. We will decarbonise an oil refinery, a cement plant, a fertiliser plant and glass, chemicals and food and drink manufacturing facilities. By doing this, we will support industry to operate sustainably.
Low carbon heating
We will deliver the infrastructure backbone to deliver low carbon hydrogen for flexible power generation and to provide a blend of hydrogen to heat people’s homes. Much of HyNet’s infrastructure will be the repurposing of that used for producing, storing and transporting fossil fuels. As fossil fuels are wound down, we can directly repurpose these assets for use with clean hydrogen and capturing carbon.
Large scale economic growth
HyNet will also bring huge benefits for the regional and UK economy, playing a key role in shaping the region’s future, supporting the ‘levelling up’ agenda in an area hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
We will deliver economic growth through job retention in manufacturing industries and job creation in the low carbon economy, retraining workers and preparing the supply chain to realise the global opportunity – positioning the region as a highly attractive location for inward investment. Throughout all that we do, we continually engage with our stakeholders to listen and share knowledge.
The future clean hydrogen economy
As I look back over the last four years, I marvel at how far we have come. Back in 2016, the UK hadn’t legislated for Net Zero, and hydrogen was but a twinkle in the eye. Business models needed to allow industrials to invest didn’t exist, and scepticism abounded.
Since then, perhaps based in part on the HyNet vision, the Government has embraced the need for low carbon clusters, and funding, and business models, have followed. The Industrial Decarbonisation Challenge was launched and the HyNet delivery consortium was formed to take the project forward.
HyNet continues to meet Government’s strategic ambition. It is a perfect example of ‘building back greener’, delivering key aspects of Government’s Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution; producing 80% of the national target of 5GW of hydrogen, 100% of the national target for CCS capacity by 2030 and a hydrogen town.
Remarkably, if we fast forward another four years, much of HyNet will have been built, and we will be approaching commissioning. In 2021, HyNet changes from conceptual engineering to real project delivery – there are boots on the ground, large teams are mobilising, and we have impressive momentum. And if we’re successful, we’ll all be able to look our children in the eye and say that we had an instrumental role to play in the greatest challenge of our era.
From power and transport to manufacturing and food production - the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund’s clean growth challenges are supporting the development, manufacture and use of low-carbon, renewable energy sources, technologies, systems and services.
Find out more about the clean growth challenges.
You can go to the Innovate UK website
You can go to the Innovate EDGE website
You can go to the UKRI website