H2Teesside is a ‘blue’ hydrogen project, proposed by BP, based on the site of the former Redcar steelworks site in Teesside Freeport. The intention is to re-form North Sea natural gas (methane) into Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and Hydrogen (H2). H2 will be sent to large industrial sites (offtakers) in Teesside via a pipeline network. The CO2 will be sent back to the North Sea via a separate 145km pipeline to the Endurance store, an aquifer 1000m beneath the sea, using Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). Despite the claims from BP, the manufacture of blue H2 is an elaborate four-step process involving breaking the methane with steam over a catalyst bed, reforming into ‘syngas’ using oxygen (O2) and steam via an Auto Thermal Reformer, reacting in water-gas shift reactors, then scrubbing with amine to remove the CO2.
BP has been running a statutory consultation on H2Teesside since 14 September 2023, which will last until 26 October 2023. They’ve held five consultation events. I attended one of these at Inspire2Learn in South Bank on 5tOctober. The last one will take place at TunedIn in Redcar on 12 October. The consultation last until 26 October. Details can be found at www.h2teesside.co.uk and you can make a submission there.
Dubious selling points
But H2Teesside needs to be seen in the wider context of Ben Houchen’s Teesside Freeport Hydrogen hype. For example, the consultation brochure lays out four ways in which blue hydrogen can get us to net zero, as follows:
1 “Blue H2 can play an essential role in decarbonising industries that are difficult to electrify – for example chemicals production or as feedstock for fertiliser production”
2 “Blue H2, integrated with carbon capture and storage can provide the scale and reliability required for industrial processes”.
3 “Blue H2 can also be used as a low-carbon fuel for power generation”.
4 “Blue h2 can also help decarbonise transport, such as heavy duty fleets”
These four points can be addressed as set out below:
Point 1: Blue H2 CAN play a role in decarbonising industries, but it isn’t essential. Instead of using H2 which has been derived from methane using an elaborate process, why not just use natural gas? As for fertiliser production – the last producer has just left town.
Point 2: This simply isn’t true. A supply of natural gas or electricity from the National Grid can provide feedstock in the same way as Blue H2.
Point 3: If Blue H2 can be used for power generation, why isn’t anybody doing this already? One of the co-developers of Blue H2, Air Products, has admitted that their proposed Teesside Freeport projects will increase carbon emissions and increase energy prices. The energy will be even more expensive for end-users if they’ve got to buy it from Ben Houchen’s new energy company.
Point 4: Despite decades of hydrogen hype, H2 has not decarbonised transport. There are still only 15 H2 fuelling points in the UK. Whenever there is a press release about a company switching over to hydrogen vehicles it is always a handful vehicles converted for publicity purposes – it’s never a whole fleet. For example, the new H2 fuelling point at Teesside Airport will service “cars, a truck, forklift, a van and a tug”.
Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS)
The consultation brochure states that two million tonnes per annum (MTA) of CO2 from H2Teesside will be stored each year. Along with other emitters in Teesside, they intend to store 10 MTA in the Endurance aquifer. This amount will now be reduced now that, as mentioned above, CF Fertilisers has closed their Billingham ammonia plant, and the proposed new incinerator at Teesside Freeport, the Tees Valley Energy Recovery Facility, no longer includes CCS in it’s proposal.
But the Endurance store project itself is in trouble. It’s meant to be a joint CCS project between Humber and Teesside Freeports with the intention to send 30MTA of CO2 (half of the UK’s total production) via the Northern Endurance Partnership Pipeline, also known as the East Coast Cluster, to the Endurance store. However, in April 2023 BP signed a deal with Harbour Energy to send all of the CO2 from the Humber region to the Viking field in the southern North Sea, not to the Endurance store. This means that two thirds of the CO2 originally intended for the Endurance store will never go there, and severely reduces the viability of the project. Six months after Harbour Energy’s announcement, neither the UK Government, the Tees Valley Combined Authority nor Ben Houchen have ever acknowledged this setback, and the H2Teesside consultation brochure doesn’t mention it.
How much will it cost to build this?
The consultation brochure contains net zero financial information, but it will be expensive. They’ll need to build the following:
The H2Teesside Production Facility at Teesside Freeport
A pipeline network to send H2 to offtakers in Teesside
A separate pipeline network to send their CO2 to the Onshore Compression Point
An onshore CO2 Compression Plant on the North Sea coast
A 145km pipeline to move the CO2 from the Onshore Compression Plant to an Offshore Collection Point
A separate pipeline network to sink the CO2 1,000 metres below the North Sea and distribute it throughout the Endurance aquifer.
How much will it cost to run this?
The consultation brochure doesn’t mention this, but in addition to the payroll (130 permanent jobs at the H2Teesside Production Facility) there are raw materials (catalysts, amine, electricity, clean water) the energy costs of moving H2 and CO2 through a vast pipeline network, and the maintenance costs of H2Teesside, the pipeline network, the compression plant and an offshore Collection Point in the middle of the North Sea.
How much energy will it take to run this?
The consultation brochure doesn’t mention this, but it will be a lot. The H2Teesside Production Facility itself will be energy-intensive. In addition to this, they’ll have to compress a lot of H2 and CO2 and pump them over great distances. If we are going to continue to extract natural gas from the North Sea (although this is completely insane because the planet is on fire) it would be cheaper and more economical to simply burn it in a Combined Cycle Power Plant because up to 30% of the energy is lost by using the Blue H2 process.
I’m not your stepping stone
The proponents of H2Teesside say that Blue H2 is a stepping stone from a fossil fuel (natural gas) to Green H2, which will be produced from renewables. I strongly recommend that we miss this step out altogether. As for Green H2, we’ll eventually all realize that this is just more hydrogen hype by the fossil fuel industry, we can also miss this step out, and go straight to renewables.
My guess is that H2Teesside is yet another Teesside “Jam Tomorrow” project. According to the consultation brochure, it’s not meant to come on-stream until 2028. But that could prove to be optimistic because, on 5 October 2023, the TVCA disclosed that there would be further delays removing the “sheer amount” of contaminated material from the former Redcar steelworks site. Who knew?