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Net zero carbon industry plans to cut emissions and protect jobs

Technology to capture carbon emissions and facilities to create hydrogen in the Humber region could play a major role in cutting UK pollution.

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Creating the “world’s first net zero carbon industrial cluster” could help protect thousands of jobs and make a major impact to cutting emissions, its backers said.

Firms led by Drax Group, Equinor and National Grid Ventures have set out proposals for developing an industrial cluster in the Humber region which will capture and store carbon emissions and produce hydrogen as a clean fuel.

Creating the zero carbon hub could capture 53 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, around 15% of the UK’s current annual emissions, according to analysis by Element Energy which forms part of a new report on the proposals.

And it would help save industrial businesses in the region from having to pay carbon taxes of up to £2.9 billion a year by 2040, helping safeguard some 55,000 jobs, and improve health by boosting air quality, the report said.

The Humber Bridge (Nigel French/PA)

The scheme focuses on developing technology at Drax’s power plant in North Yorkshire that burns biomass such as woody material and then captures the carbon emissions to be permanently stored underground so that overall it is “carbon negative”.

This could offset the emissions of other industry in the region, and provide an anchor for a system for transporting and storing carbon dioxide under the North Sea, which other firms could plug into to capture their own emissions.

The plans also include a role for producing hydrogen, which can be burned without creating emissions to deliver heat in industrial processes, heat buildings and fuel heavy transport, and can be stored like natural gas.

Creating hydrogen from natural gas generates carbon emissions, but combining it with carbon capture and storage technology will mean it can be produced cleanly, while excess renewable power can also be harnessed to create “green hydrogen” from water, a report setting out the proposals said.

A new hydrogen demonstrator and test facility could kick start a hydrogen economy in the region covering industry, heating for homes and businesses, power generation and transport, the report said.

The scheme would help the Humber, the UK’s biggest industrial economy and the largest emitter of carbon dioxide, drive decarbonisation and attract new investment and employment, its backers claim.

Lord Haskins, chairman of the Humber Local Enterprise Partnership which is supporting the Zero Carbon Humber campaign, said: “I welcome these proposals which set out a clear route to protect jobs, tackle climate change and help the Humber compete globally.

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The Humber Estuary underneath the Humber Bridge (Anna Gowthorpe/PA)

“Today, the UK is in the lead, but other countries are closing the gap by helping their industries achieve their net zero carbon goals.

“The Humber is uniquely well placed to deliver clean growth, and I hope the next government will get behind the exciting proposals coming forward from the region.”

Will Gardiner, chief executive of Drax Group said: “This plan sets out a clear blueprint of how to get the Humber to net zero – the impact of decarbonising the most carbon intensive region in the country will make a major contribution to the UK reaching its world-leading climate goals.”

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