Lord Haskins tells Government how technology could revolutionise the Humber economy

Humber
Stepping down: Lord Haskins, Chairman of the Humber LEP

Humber LEP Chair Lord Haskins has given evidence to a Government inquiry on an energy technology which could revolutionise the Humber’s economy.

Carbon Capture, Usage and Storage is a method of capturing carbon emissions before they are released into the atmosphere, either storing them underground rock or using them in other industrial processes such as drinks manufacturing.

The Humber has huge potential to exploit this technology due to local power stations such as Drax, says Lord Haskins, which is currently piloting the first bioenergy CCUS plant in Europe; the concentration of energy intensive industries which need such projects to help support reach decarbonisation targets; and the proximity to the geological storage capacity under the North Sea.

The Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy Select Committee has been conducting an inquiry into CCUS since May 2018. Lord Haskins gave evidence to a panel of MPs at a meeting in Teesside on behalf of the NP11 group of Northern Powerhouse LEPs, alongside other regional representatives from engineering membership body CATCH and Drax.

In 2015 Yorkshire & the Humber was dealt a major blow when Drax’s significant ‘White Rose’ CCUS project had to be dropped after the Government withdrew funding, despite having already spent £100m on the proposals. However, in its recent Clean Growth Strategy and CCUS Action Plan, the Government identified CCUS as being vital to achieving the UK’s emissions reduction targets.

Last month the Government set out an ambition for the world’s first “net-zero carbon” industrial cluster by 2040 to cut emissions, backed by up to £170m funding.  The Humber is the largest of the six industrial clusters the Government has identified with high emissions, at some 12.6 megatons of CO2 every year.

Research commissioned by the LEP last year identified some of the actions required to reduce these emissions whilst ensuring the competitiveness of the region’s industries.  These are now being incorporated into the industrial strategy the Government has asked the LEP to produce.

The new proposals which are currently being piloted at Drax’s Selby site use bioenergy combined with carbon capture to offset the emissions created in its energy generation – making it carbon-negative. This balance can also be used to assist in the emissions reductions for other heavy industry in the Humber, lowering the environmental impact of the wider region. Carbon which is captured can also be sold for use in soft or alcoholic drinks, or stored in areas of the sea bed vacated by the offshore oil and gas industry.

This week Japanese giant Hitachi announced it was pulling out of a £20bn plan to build a new nuclear power station in North Wales, placing even greater emphasis on the need for renewables and other new technologies for power generation.

Lord Haskins said: “Our region is home to one of the most exciting potential projects in carbon capture. It could offer huge benefits to the Humber, creating carbon-negative energy, promoting clean growth, and supporting other major local employers to adapt and reduce their emissions. With recent news of the abandonment of plans for nuclear power stations elsewhere in the UK, there needs to be an even greater shift towards renewables and low carbon technologies which our region can provide.

“We will be working with industry and other northern LEPs over the coming months to set out why this investment should be made in the North.  It will form part of our industrial strategy in the Humber and I want us to be at the cutting edge of this.”

Andy Koss, CEO of Drax Power, added: “By using the engineering skill we have across the Humber region, we could develop the infrastructure needed for carbon capture to work, revolutionising industrial processes, and protecting jobs and the environment. At Drax Power Station we are already piloting the first bioenergy carbon capture and storage plant of its kind in Europe. If successful we could become the world’s first carbon negative power station and help the Humber become the world’s first ‘net-zero carbon’ cluster by offsetting its emissions.”