BLOG: HyNet concept is becoming reality – Damien Hawke, Cadent

Damien Hawke, Director of Future Networks Safety & Network Strategy at Cadent talks about how the HyNet concept is becoming a reality 

As I write we’re celebrating a great time for hydrogen and for progress towards a net zero future by 2050 which is good news for the whole of the UK. The HyNet project – a concept originated and promoted by Cadent and Progressive Energy Ltd back in 2017 – recently received £13m of government funding.

Our HyNet concept proposed that hydrogen be produced on an industrial scale, using Carbon Capture Utility and Storage (CCUS) to make the gas zero carbon and cost effective; the captured carbon would be stored in offshore caverns left empty after oil and gas extraction.   The locally produced hydrogen would be shipped through a newly installed hydrogen pipeline to energy-hungry industries such as glass production and this would in turn make hydrogen available to provide decarbonised heating for 2 million homes and hydrogen fuel cells for HGVs and other heavy freight transport.

When we launched HyNet in 2017, we did so with the knowledge that is has considerable support, political and industrial, local and national.  So to see this North West project lead the way with a new form of energy that helps solve some of the UK’s biggest decarbonisation challenges is really gratifying and we should congratulate the new government for its forward thinking attitude.

With the funding announcement, most of the key elements of HyNet are set to become a reality: industrial scale hydrogen production takes the form of the UK’s first low carbon hydrogen plant at Essar Oil UK’s Stanlow refinery in Ellesmere Port.  The £7.5m project will produce 3TWh of low carbon and low-cost hydrogen and capture over 95% of the carbon used in the process.  In an operational year, the facility will capture 600,000 tonnes of CO2 per annum – the equivalent of taking over 250,000 cars off the road. That’s a huge benefit to the environment.

HyNet has also received £5.2m to fund live trials of hydrogen fuelling at Unilever’s Port Sunlight manufacturing site, and at Pilkington’s Greengate Works glass-making plant in St Helens which will be a world first.  The projects will demonstrate that hydrogen can be used as a substitute fuel for natural gas in manufacturing processes, helping industry transition to a low-carbon future and leading the way for others to follow.

One of the partners in the project – Pilkington UK Ltd – made the very important point that “not only will this lead to significant carbon savings, but it will help to safeguard and grow jobs in the manufacturing sector.”  There is real potential to develop a national hydrogen economy, creating and maintaining jobs and make the UK a world leader in this technology – a great thing to be in a post Brexit world.

The Government investment enables the North West to become a trailblazer in the UK for the transition to a low carbon economy.  The next step, clearly, will be to scale up these operations once the recently funded demonstrations are proven and, in time, to maximise these environmental benefits across the UK by distributing hydrogen using a new national pipeline network.

I am delighted to celebrate this significant step forward in making our hydrogen future a reality and I congratulate all those who made it happen.  We at Cadent look forward to continuing to support the drive for net zero by continuing to be innovative, collaborative and practically orientated.  We’ve long believed that the UK gas network has a role to play in delivering green gas and it’s great to see this belief becoming a reality.  One day soon I hope to be celebrating the creation of a hydrogen economy for the world to see and be inspired by.  

The HyNet Consortium consists of Progressive Energy, Pilkington, University of Chester, CF Industries, ENI, Unilever, Essar, SNC Lavalin, Peel Environmental and Cadent.