Essar Group targets key role in building market for hydrogen

London: North-west England’s Stanlow oil refinery has stood near the banks of the river Mersey for almost 100 years. But, today, its managers want to ensure it has a low-carbon future over the next century. It produces about 17 per cent of road fuels in the UK and some heavy investment is going into decarbonising the facility — funding plans to capture emissions and store them underground, Financial Times reported.

Essar Group, the India-based conglomerate, owns Stanlow and believes that, by deploying carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) technology, the plant will be able to prolong its life. It intends the business to play a key role in the UK’s plans to build out a market for hydrogen, as a low-carbon fuel for heavy industry and transportation.

“Our company view is that carbon capture will be an important part of manufacturing for our industry and that’s why we’re committing to it now,” says Jon Barden, chief operating officer of Essar Oil. “We are firmly of the belief that delivering net zero (emissions) is a good thing for us as a business, as the transition for hydrocarbons will be a long one,” he adds, Financial Times reported.

Much hinges on making CCUS a success. The UK government last year backed two CCUS clusters for fast-track development, including the HyNet north-west project that the Stanlow refinery is part of.

CCUS has a chequered history, with the UK government pulling funding in the last decade and doubts over the effectiveness of some international projects in operation. But the UK government has recommitted to the technology and wants to have at least five industrial clusters around the country to enable the capture of emissions from heavy industry.

Essar says the chemistry and engineering is widely utilised and understood in the oil industry – though generally for maximising output by reinjecting CO2 into oilfields to squeeze out extra supply, rather than cutting emissions.

As part of the HyNet cluster in the north-west of England, the plant will be used to produce so-called blue hydrogen. Blue hydrogen is created from gas but with the emissions sequestered to create a low or zero carbon fuel. This can replace the gas used to provide power to run the facility and kick-start a wider hydrogen economy, by providing a low carbon fuel for other industries, Financial Times reported. “We want to demonstrate that this is a viable technological solution and that we can implement and run it sustainably, as part of the company’s own transition to lower carbon,” Barden says. “The target is to get to net zero by 2040, but getting to 70-80 per cent of net zero is possible within 10 years.”


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