Essar to build £360m carbon capture plant

£360m carbon capture plant to be built close to the River Mersey as part of £47bn North West hydrogen production project. Tony McDonough reports

Essar Oil UK’s Stanlow refinery on the banks of the River Mersey


Essar Oil UK (EOUK) has unveiled plans to build a £360m carbon capture facility at its Stanlow refinery in Ellesmere Port, close to the River Mersey.

Part of the £47bn HyNet hydrogen project, the plant will capture CO2 generated by another facility that will produce hydrogen by burning natural gas. Once captured the CO2 will then be stored in depleted gas fields underneath Liverpool Bay.

Hydrogen produced at the site will then be piped to factories in Liverpool city region and across the North West. Manufacturers keen to join the hydrogen transformation included St Helens glassmaker Pilkington and Jaguar Land Rover in Halewood.

HyNet aims to be supplying hydrogen by the end of 2025. This production hub is being developed by another HyNet partner, Vertex. It will initially produce 1GW of hydrogen (the equivalent energy use of a city such as Liverpool).

It will aim to capture around 1.8m tonnes of carbon a year. By 2030, Vertex expects to deliver nearly 4GW of hydrogen. This is equivalent to around 40% of the UK Government’s national target.

Hydrogen produced by burning natural gas is known as ‘blue hydrogen’ and the method is seen as controversial by some experts. Carbon capture and storage on this scale has so far not been deployed successfully anywhere in the world.

Critics say the Government’s priority should be ‘green hydrogen’. This is hydrogen produced by running electricity generated by wind or solar through what is called an electrolyser. It is a carbon-free process.

However, in an interview with LBN in September, HyNet project director David Parkin said he was confident the carbon capture and storage process would deliver results. He insisted the UK was “leading the world” in terms of putting in place a regulatory framework that ensures targets are met.

He explained: “The Government is putting in really stringent capture requirements. If you don’t capture a certain percentage of the carbon then you don’t get your financial support. It has to be 90%.

“No investor will invest in a project where they are not confident that threshold will be met.”

Mr Parkin added that green hydrogen at scale was not yet viable, unlike blue hydrogen. He said the infrastructure being built by HyNet was also geared towards green hydrogen. Earlier this week LBN reported how HyNet was also launching a number of smaller green hydrogen projects using power from Frodsham Wind Farm.

Energy construction specialist Kent has been awarded a pre-FEED engineering contract to develop a carbon capture facility at Stanlow. It is known as a full-residue fluidised catalytic cracking unit.

Once complete in 2027, it is claimed the plant will eliminate an estimated 0.81m tons of CO2 per year. This is the equivalent of taking 400,000 cars off the road, eliminating nearly 40% of all Stanlow emissions.

Deepak Maheshwari, chief executive of Essar Oil UK, said: “This new carbon capture plant is the single biggest initiative to decarbonise our processes and a core element to our hugely ambitious decarbonisation strategy.

“Our ambition is to become a leading low carbon refinery. This is a massive undertaking, but it is a journey we are fully committed to.

“Not only is it the right environmental thing to do, it will future proof the critical Stanlow refinery for the long term, protecting jobs and industry, while also placing Stanlow at the very centre of the UK’s energy transition.”

The project has been selected by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy as a phase-2 winner in the CCUS cluster sequencing process earlier this summer.

Essar is also looking to decarbonise its own operations. Earlier this year it took delivery of a new £45m furnace that is equipped to run on 100% hydrogen.

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