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Birmingham Post
Birmingham Post
David Laister

SSE expands Humber hydrogen storage plans to production and power generation 'pathfinder'

A first-of-a-kind project is being developed on the Humber to unite hydrogen production, storage and power generation in one location.

SSE Thermal is leading on the Aldbrough Hydrogen Pathfinder project, adding further layers to previously revealed plans to convert the huge caverns for storage with partner Equinor. It is described as an investment that could support the evidence base for wider deployment of flexible hydrogen power in the UK’s net zero journey, while being a “major enabler of SSE Thermal’s wider Humber ambitions”.

A contract has been signed with Siemens Energy to deliver first phase front-end engineering and design, with the team keen to demonstrate the benefits of having electrolysis, storage and 100 per cent hydrogen dispatchable power on one site, seven miles north east of Hull. Siemens has worked on the Keadby cluster with SSE and is involved with hydrogen-based plans for decarbonisation at Port of Immingham.

Read more: Uniper and Shell's Humber hydrogen plan moves forward with contract awards

Catherine Raw, managing director of SSE Thermal, said: “We know that hydrogen has enormous potential as an enabler of net zero – and this project aims to prove that. Through the Aldbrough Hydrogen Pathfinder, we intend to bring together production, storage and power generation in one location and showcase how electrolytic hydrogen can provide home-grown security of supply while powering the UK to net zero.

“This ambitious project, which could be operational by the middle of the decade, represents an important part of SSE Thermal’s wider plans to decarbonise the UK’s most carbon-intensive industrial cluster and we firmly believe it can chart a path to a hydrogen future.”

The concept would see green power sourced from the grid through renewable power purchase agreements, in compliance with the Low Carbon Hydrogen Standard, covering it being fed in elsewhere. Hydrogen would then be produced via a 35MW electrolyser before being stored in the converted salt cavern. It could then be used in a hydrogen-fired turbine, exporting flexible green power back to the grid at times of system need. Other offtakers could also be brought on board, including industry and transport users, with heating also considered.

The Aldbrough Hydrogen Pathfinder aims to produce hydrogen and start filling the cavern by 2025, subject to planning consents and reaching a financial investment decision next year.

The Aldbrough Gas Storage site in East Yorkshire. (SSE Thermal)

Support is being sought from the UK Government’s Net Zero Hydrogen Fund, which aims to kickstart commercial deployment of new low-carbon hydrogen production projects during the 2020s.

Steve Scrimshaw, vice president at Siemens Energy UK & Ireland, said: “Aldbrough can be a world-leading hydrogen production, storage and power facility. That’s why we’re delighted to be building on our existing partnership with SSE Thermal and developing plans to kickstart the low-carbon hydrogen economy, not only in the Humber but for the whole of the UK. Storage and re-electrification of low-carbon hydrogen is going to play a key role in supporting the further deployment of renewable electricity generation, including wind and solar, required to achieve net zero. There is no alternative to the energy transition. We need to act now and by working together we have the technologies and know how to succeed.”

SSE Thermal and Equinor announced the collaboration on a world-leading hydrogen storage facility at Aldbrough last year. It could be in operation by early 2028, following the proposed start of commercial operations for the Pathfinder project in 2025, with an initial expected capacity of at least 320 gigawatt hours, supporting the growth of hydrogen in the Humber.

The two energy majors are also developing Keadby Hydrogen Power Station, 30 miles away in North Lincolnshire, which could be the world’s first at-scale 100 per cent hydrogen-fired power station, with a peak demand for 1,800MW. The two companies are also exploring hydrogen blending opportunities at the jointly-owned Saltend Power Station, eight miles from the proposed site, while SSE is also looking into that for its Keadby Two Power Station.

Centrica is also looking at repurposing Rough, off the East Yorkshire coast for hydrogen storage, with several plans being brought forward for production across green and blue forms on both Humber banks.

All form part of the £15 billion pipeline identified in the autumn launch of the Humber 2030 Vision, with the latest step an addition from SSE.

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