SSE begins work on the hydrogen storage cavern on the Yorkshire coast | SSE

Energy company SSE has started developing an underground cavern in Yorkshire to store hydrogen, with the aim of storing the renewable energy source when the freezing and windless conditions experienced last week occur in the future.

The project will produce hydrogen from renewable energy in a 35 megawatt electrolyser which will be stored in a cave the size of St Paul’s Cathedral located a mile deep at an existing SSE site at Aldbrough on the coast from Yorkshire.

The hydrogen will be used to power a turbine that can export electricity to the grid when demand is high.

SSE hopes the ‘pathfinder’ project, which could cost upwards of £100m, will demonstrate the technology ahead of bigger projects on Humberside which would require larger pipelines and infrastructure. The company hopes to receive government money for the project through a fund set up to support low-carbon hydrogen projects.

Freezing conditions last week led to increased energy demand as Britons increased their heating. Simultaneously, the lack of wind has reduced the power available from wind farms, forcing National Grid to pay high prices to induce operators of “peaking plants” to act.

Hydrogen is an expensive form of electricity generation because its production requires large amounts of electricity. However, it is considered important in efforts to decarbonize heavy industries dependent on fossil fuels.

Catherine Raw, managing director of SSE’s thermal division, told the Guardian: “Even though hydrogen is expensive compared to other fuels, you are able to deliver electricity exactly when you need it during peak periods. demand and when electricity prices are justified. So it would, even as a research and development project, help alleviate that system pressure during peak demand times as we just saw.

It emerged last week that Ofgem was pushing for a cap on how much power stations can charge National Grid for emergency electricity. Ofgem wants to toughen the rules to avoid “excessive” profits and intends to publish proposals early next year.

The network spent more than £27m paying power stations to boost short-term supply as temperatures plummeted on Monday last week. Vitol Group’s Rye House gas-fired power station, just north of London, has brought in up to £6,000 per megawatt hour, reigniting a debate over power generator profits.

Gas-fired power stations have been exempted from the electricity generator tax announced by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt last month, with the government citing their role in the security of energy supply.

SSE owns several gas-fired power stations in the UK and Ireland. Raw declined to comment on the events of the past week, but said, “Rising gas prices mean we’ve had to take risks we wouldn’t normally take, and so how are you rewarded for taking those risks? ? Our responsibility as a generator of energy is to maintain the balance of the system and SSE takes this very seriously.

SSE, which runs gas-fired power plants alongside hydroelectric plants and wind farms, announced last month more than tripling its profits thanks to soaring energy prices.

SSE hopes to start the “pathfinder” project by 2025, before a larger hydrogen storage project planned on the same site in 2028 in partnership with the Norwegian energy company Equinor. The duo is also developing the Keadby Hydrogen Power Station, planned to be the world’s first major power station powered by 100% hydrogen. SSE has signed a contract with Siemens Energy for the design and engineering work of the Pathfinder project.

Centrica, the parent company of British Gas, has invested in an industrial joint venture that will test the use of hydrogen at an existing “spike plant” at Brigg station in Lincolnshire.

The pilot project, which will be launched in the second half of next year, aims to examine the role that hydrogen can play in the production of electricity.

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