Redcar MP backs plans for undersea hydrogen storage

A £1.6bn plan to repurpose Britain’s largest gas storage facility for undersea hydrogen storage has been backed by Redcar MP Jacob Young.

Located 19 miles off the East Yorkshire coast, a proposal to convert the huge Rough reservoir to store hydrogen – just as it did with gas – is being explored.

Bosses at Centrica Storage are asking the government to deliver a funding mechanism for the overhaul to help provide a solution for the intermittent nature of both production and demand, while creating 350 permanent jobs and protecting hundreds more.

Thousands could be supported in construction, with new platform, pipeline and wells required. It is envisaged that construction roles could peak at 1,000 at Easington and offshore, with a further 1,000 in the local area over a three-to-four-year period.

Jacob Young, Conservative MP for Redcar and chair of the APPG on Hydrogen, said: “This is a really exciting proposal – and it would be a world first. It was fantastic to join the Centrica team at the Rough Reservoir and I was very impressed with the potential for offshore hydrogen storage in the future.

“In every scenario, Hydrogen will play an increasingly important role as we move towards our net-zero future and the concept of repurposing this existing facility for storage makes a lot of sense.

“Last week the government launched its comprehensive Hydrogen Strategy to set the UK as a global leader in the Hydrogen economy, and a key theme of the strategy was Hydrogen networks and storage.

“A storage project at Rough, alongside Carbon Capture projects like Net Zero Teesside and Zero Carbon Humber, will demonstrate our ability along the East Coast to lead the world in decarbonisation.

“Utilising these soon to be redundant gas fields in the North Sea for both the storage of Hydrogen, and for Carbon capture will be key to us stepping away from our reliance on fossil fuels with a focus on a safer, cleaner and healthier future.”

Greg McKenna, chief executive of Centrica Storage , said: “We have some grand plans for Rough, subject to government backing. It is a £1.6 billion development, no-one is going to spend £1.6 billion if there isn’t some guaranteed return. We are looking for some government support model – it doesn’t need money to go into it. If we can get a regulated model from government, we are prepared to go ahead and convert.”

Rough’s storage element closed in 2017, with the infrastructure having survived beyond its initial design life. The other 50 per cent of the field is still producing natural gas, though it is anticipated to come to an end in February 2023.

“The plan was to shut it down, which is a real shame to lose jobs, but also, Rough is the jewel in the crown of such reservoirs,” Mr McKenna said.

“The great thing is how it just fits in with the whole strategy on the Humber, with H2H, a big hydrogen reformer there, all the wind farms sitting off the coast potentially producing hydrogen and the Gigastack project across the river in Lincolnshire too. There could be all this excess hydrogen and you have to put it somewhere.

“When you look at the region we are superbly placed for the whole hydrogen economy and decarbonisation. We have got some of the largest polluters in the region, responsible for a lot of the CO2 because we are an industrial hub – we produce steel, oil, all of which is large industrial processing. The fact we can produce hydrogen here, store hydrogen here, that will make a significant difference in reducing CO2 emissions in the UK.”

Flagging up the wider Zero Carbon Humber initiative, with carbon capture, and hydrogen-fuelled power proposed for both Triton at Saltend and SSE in Keadby, he said: “All these projects are ready to go, they just need the reassurance from government on how the market will work. If that reassurance is there we are talking billions and billions of infrastructure ready to go.”

Rough is described as the ‘Goldilocks’ of the sector as it meets requirements on temperature, size and proximity to land. Located 2.5 km below the seabed, the reservoir is 10km long, 3km wide and 100ft thick. Completely sealed by impervious stone, the sponge-like formation is 3,000 times the size of the Wembley pitch.

Of the work involved, Mr McKenna said: “We would re-use about half of the wells and one platform, with a new topside, and lay a new (pipe) line alongside the existing one.