Forget about Michael Gove’s enquiry into corruption at Teesside Freeport (I suspect Michael Gove has). The sun will come out tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar, with a daily stream of Ben Houchen editorials published in some of our local papers. Jam tomorrow.
Net Zero Teesside
But how are these Jam Tomorrow projects faring in the real world? Let’s start with Net Zero Teesside. This was first announced four years ago, so you’d think we’d have been able to sample some fruit preserve by now. The first press release in 2019 spoke of an East Coast Cluster of companies who would capture carbon and send it under the North Sea. One of the companies featured in this press release was CF Fertilisers, but unfortunately for this company, the long-promised tangy compôte proved elusive.
What’s the latest on the hydrogen hype and the carbon capture caper? At some stage we’re going to have to admit that both Hydrogen and Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) are expensive fantasies. The financial press have woken up to this, even if everyone else hasn’t yet. Here’s Bloomberg quoting Argonaut Capital saying that “Hydrogen is a complete waste of time”, while their Opinion Editor Mark Gongloff makes a valid point that CCS is costing trillions of dollars and is running out of time to prove itself. Meanwhile, the world’s largest CCS project, Chevron’s Gorgon Project in Western Australia, is failing on every metric.
So, the next time there’s another TVCA press release promising imminent Jell-O at, for example H2Teesside, HyGreen Teesside, H2NorthEast or the Tees Valley Energy Recovery Facility we need to ask (a) how long have you been promising this? and (b) If you’ve been promising this Tomorrow Jam for four years or more, how come we haven’t had even a spoonful of that delicious confiture yet?
Nirvana is always just over the horizon, but unfortunately, Ben Houchen’s partner in hydrogen hype/carbon capture caper, BP’s Bernard Looney, will no longer be accompanying him on the journey.
Solar Power at Teesside Airport
We’re getting a new solar farm at Teesside Airport, courtesy of energy firm SSE Energy Solutions, SSE has contracted to build 3MW of capacity, which COULD be expanded to 50MW in the future.
More Wind at Teesside Freeport
I recently gave an update on the SEAH Wind Farm project at Teesside Freeport. Houchen has given us an extra dollop of jam since then, confirming that British steel will be used in it’s construction. This would be the minimum that we would expect, although the company that supplies it, Jingye, is actually Chinese. Houchen hints that the steel is made on Teesside, but the Tories shut Teesside’s steel industry down eight years ago, and the steel for Lackenby’s Universal Beam Mill is shipped in from Scunthorpe, 150 kilometres away. Houchen also suggests that the steel is recycled from old steel plants in Teesside, but we all know that’s not true. That has long since been stripped away and sent, ironically, not to Scunthorpe but to China. Houchen finishes with a nostalgic nod back to when Teesside built the Sydney Harbour Bridge. That was 90 years ago though, a different time when we used locally-sourced iron and coal to make steel in a factory in Middlesbrough.
The Electric Arc Lark
Will Teesside ever get a new Electric Arc Furnace (EAF) to manufacture “green” steel? Well, back in February 2020 Houchen promised that we’d have one up and running by February 2023. That particular batch of jam is well past its sell-by date now, but here he is again on September 11 2023 with another punnet of strawberries and a bag of sugar, speculating that Jingye could transfer half of its steel-making from Scunthorpe to Teesside by setting up a new EAF at Redcar. The steelworkers of Lincolnshire may have something to say about this, particularly as they’ll have just lost 2,000 jobs due to the closure of their blast furnaces and coke ovens, as is happening in South Wales right now, only for some bright spark to come up with an idea of exporting half of the remaining jobs out of the area. Also, proponents of EAFs are always coy about the eye-watering amount of electricity that it takes to heat scrap metal to 1,520°c. For example, a typical EAF will need to arc electricity for 40 minutes to melt 300 tonnes of scrap metal, consuming 132MWh of electricity in the process. By comparison, the new solar farm at Teesside Airport will produce a maximum of 3MWh on a sunny day. So we’ll need 45 of these solar farms running simultaneously to power our new EAF. As long as we operate it when the sun shines, and 250,000 households in the area are willing to manage without their TV, lights, dishwashers and air-conditioning for 40 minutes several times a day, we should be good to go. The logical solution would be to convert the entire Teesside Airport site into a huge solar farm, and send the would-be air passengers up to Newcastle Airport in a taxi a couple of times a day.
Small Modular Reactors
On 12 September, Houchen produced another batch of artisan hand-crafted chutney with his tenth go at his vintage classic – the Rolls Royce Small Modular Reactor (SMR). Apparently Teesside is on a shortlist for this, just as it was for the future Great British Railways headquarters. We’re supposed to set aside small details about SMRs, such as the fact that they are uncertain and unproven technology, they’re extravagantly expensive, they’ll exacerbate the challenges of highly radioactive nuclear waste, and they’re a distraction from the migration to renewable energy that we urgently need if we are to save the planet.
Sustainable Aviation Fuel (Biomass)
We’ve been promised four of these jam factories at the last count. Greenergy is supposed to be building a SAF plant at Seal Sands, while Alfanar are planning another two nearby. The location of the fourth SAF plant, to be built by Willis Sustainable Fuels (UK) Limited is a bit vague, but the TVCA press release is worth a read because it contains every ingredient needed for a prospective Ben Houchen wild plum conserve.
On 15 September 2023, the National Audit Office belatedly announced a study of the UK Biomass industry, noting that Biomass has faced heavy scrutiny over its sustainability. Imagine their surprise when they discover that Biomass is 0% sustainable, and is a complete scam by the Fossil Fuel lobby.