Region’s zero carbon hub mounts case for more investment

A plan to establish the UK’s first low carbon industrial hub in the North West has the potential to attract £200bn and save 38 mega-tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2040 according to its proponents.

Industry-led body Net Zero North West, which is leading the strategy, set out opportunities for investment in green projects across the region in a report backed by business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng this week.

The group’s Economic Investment Prospectus, authored by analysts at Siemens UK, sets out three main objectives: to establish a fully integrated net zero industrial cluster by 2040, deliver a region-wide clean energy system, and build a hydrogen economy that will become the first UK network of hydrogen generation, storage and distribution.

It sets out a total of 18 investment cases for a pipeline of long-term and shovel-ready projects.

The North West – specifically, the Ellesmere Port area of Cheshire – is becoming known for its sizeable industrial cluster focussing on the production of clean energy and related activities.

Among the green infrastructure projects underway is the £165m Plastic Park proposed at developer Peel NRE’s 133-acre Protos energy park, where specialist recycling company Enviroo won planning consent in April to build what it calls the UK’s first plastics recycling facility for PET (polyethylene terephthalate) materials.

The scheme is designed to take PET – the main material used for food and beverage packaging, such as plastic bottles – and turn it into polymers that can be used to make new food packaging products.

Peel NRE, part of landowner the Peel Group, has since set out a masterplan including five recycling and clean fuel projects to be built at Protos, including what it claims would be the UK’s first waste-plastic-to-hydrogen plant.

Other projects that feed into the Net Zero North West vision include:

  • the HyNet hydrogen and carbon capture storage project that is tipped to become operational by 2025 and provide three-quarters of the government’s 2030 hydrogen production target
  • the North West Nuclear Arc which aims to provide clean and sustainable energy across the region using its land and coastal assets
  • the multibillion-pound Mersey Tidal Power project
  • a blueprint for a smart energy system that could deliver cheaper and cleaner energy for power, heating and transport

In addition, Essar Oil, which operates the Stanlow oil refinery at Ellesmere Port, plans to install a 100% hydrogen-powered furnace at the refinery to help decarbonise its operations.

Net Zero North West is chaired by Siemens’ UK chief executive Carl Ennis, who said the strategy puts the region on course to spearhead the Prime Minister’s Ten Point Plan for a green industrial revolution.

“The North West is the only UK region that has everything required to deliver the UK’s first net zero region by 2040,” Ennis said. “There is no question that we have the vision, geography, expertise and infrastructure to deliver. Our strength lies in the unrivalled number of projects already happening on the ground, across hydrogen, renewables, carbon capture, nuclear and more.

“Working with government, we are committed to real change that will not only level up the country but is critical to reaching the UK’s net zero targets. Now is the time for action and this prospectus sets out how we will deliver.”

In total, the prospectus makes the case for £207bn of green-related investment for the North West and says this will create more than 660,000 jobs and a gross value-add for the UK of £285bn. The roadmap would also save 38.5 mega-tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions by 2040.

Kwasi Kwarteng Portraits

Kwasi Kwarteng. Credit: Pippa Fowles/No 10 Downing Street

Business secretary Kwarteng said yesterday: “The North West led the first industrial revolution and today it’s leading the new green industrial revolution, bringing jobs and investment to communities across the region as we fight climate change and build back greener.

“We’re already seeing this investment flowing, with government funding of £33m for hydrogen and carbon capture in the region and just this week, Vauxhall announced a £100m investment to build electric vehicles at Ellesmere Port.

“It’s clear that if you think Net Zero, you think North West.”

The Net Zero North West consortium includes businesses such as Peel NRE, Siemens, Storengy, Encirc, Tata Chemicals Europe, CF Fertilisers, and Inovyn. The consortium is backed by the Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region and Cheshire & Warrington local enterprise partnerships, North West Hydrogen Alliance and Cheshire Energy Hub.

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