Slowing down on carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology processes may be delaying the adoption of low CO2 hydrogen in the UK. A senior employee at London-headquartered oil and gas company Shell told Westminster’s Scottish Affairs Committee that the speed of hydrogen deployment is dependent on the UK government’s CCS sequencing process.
The UK Prime Minister committed to deploying carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) at least two industrial clusters by the mid-2020s and four more by 2030. In October 2021, the UK government selected two of those – the East Coast Cluster and HyNet – which represent the Track 1 process, and which should be operational by 2025.
The Scottish Cluster, which includes the Acorn CCS project, was listed as a reserve. It may soon, however, come at the forefront, and partners are now expecting information about the Track 2 competition.
Specific low CO2 projects applied in Phase 2 to connect and use the technology from Track 1. That means schemes such as blue hydrogen projects could safely store away their emissions. However, many are concerned that the more time the process takes, the more chance there is that the UK may be able to take advantage of the UK opportunity.
“Blue hydrogen, from a technology perspective, is ready for deployment at scale now,” said Bethan Vasey, energy transition manager at Shell. “There are several large units operational worldwide, but it is the policy framework and the ‘Tracks’ that are controlling the pace of deployment of blue hydrogen. She also said Shell has the ‘Track 1’ and ‘Track 2’ process and two major blue hydrogen projects in Scotland that they are working on.
“The hydrogen elements of the project have both qualified for ‘Track 1, Phase 2’, but obviously being linked to the Acorn project, we’re waiting for urgent clarity on how it can progress through the Track 2 process,” she said.
More details were promised on the Track 2 timelines but nothing has been published yet, holding back projects in the Scottish Cluster such as the Grangemouth refinery and the Peterhead power plant. This also means many promised green jobs may not in fact happen.
Shell has committed to put its upstream business “in reverse” to deliver the Acorn project, which plans to use the oil giant’s Goldeneye field for CO2 storage.
“There’s a huge opportunity, particularly for the north-east, but there is also risk if we don’t get it right, and that’s where this sense of responsibility and collaboration comes from,” Vasey said. “Leveraging all the skills and experience that we have, but getting the timing and pace right – that’s going to be key. We’re going to need to work with government to create that clarity of strong project funnels, whether it’s hydrogen, CCS or offshore wind.”