Drax, Equinor and National Grid have announced plans to explore opportunities for developing a zero carbon energy network in the UK based on hydrogen technology and carbon capture and storage.

The partnership is the first “significant response” from industry following the publishing of a report by the UK’s Committee on Climate Change on achieving a net zero economy. It could lead to the Humber region becoming the world’s first net zero carbon region and home to a new world leading hydrogen economy.

Will Gardiner, Drax Group CEO, said: “The Committee on Climate Change was clear – the UK needs both bioenergy with CCS and hydrogen production at scale by 2030 to achieve a ‘net zero’ carbon economy. This partnership is committed to meeting this challenge putting Great Britain at the heart of the global energy revolution.”

Drax power station in Yorkshire is already capturing carbon dioxide in an innovative carbon capture and storage (CCS) demonstration project at one of its biomass-fired units. If scaled up under the new partnership, it could serve as the anchor for a regional CCS network capturing millions of tonnes of carbon each year from nearby industrial emitters.

The consortium says it has the collective expertise and credibility to deliver on the Committee on Climate Change’s recommendation for large-scale trials of hydrogen, development of CCS transport and storage infrastructure, and the deployment of bioenergy CCS (BECCS) at scale.

It will also explore the potential for the development of a large-scale hydrogen demonstrator within the Drax site by as early as the mid-2020s – in line with the CCC’s recommendation that hydrogen should be produced at scale in at least one industrial cluster by 2030.

Irene Rummelhoff, Equinor’s executive vice president for marketing, midstream and processing, said:

“As a global leader in CCS and a major gas supplier to the UK for many decades, we are committed to helping shape sustainable solutions for a low carbon future.

“We are pleased to be partnering with Drax and National Grid Ventures in looking at how the Humber region can be a launch pad for wider decarbonisation in the UK economy and be an example for others to learn from. Globally we must see substantial decarbonisation of industry and energy in the years ahead, and we believe CCS and hydrogen must play a significant role in this.”