Muckleburgh Hill and Weybourne in Norfolk - Bacton

As clean energy hub, Bacton could remain crucial to UK’s energy mix for decades – study

A study has concluded that Bacton in England is ideally positioned to become a significant hub for clean, green energy as the UK is working to decarbonise the industry and reach its net-zero target by 2050 through the use of blue and green hydrogen as well as offshore wind and carbon storage.

Muckleburgh Hill and Weybourne in Norfolk; Source: OGA
Bacton gas terminal
Bacton gas terminal; Source: OGA

Earlier this year, the UK’s oil and gas regulator, the OGA, revised its strategy to place an obligation on the oil and gas industry to support the UK’s net-zero target alongside the existing obligation to maximise economic recovery from the North Sea.

The strategy requires the industry to step up its efforts to reduce production emissions, support carbon capture and storage projects, and unlock clean hydrogen production.

Furthermore, as the as the landmark North Sea Transition Deal was agreed with the industry in March 2021, the UK government pledged that high-skilled oil and gas workers and the supply chain would not be left behind in the transition to a low carbon future.

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In line with this strategy and the UK’s net-zero target, the OGA commissioned the study, which has concluded that an Energy Hub in Bacton could provide low carbon energy for London and the South East for decades to come and help in the drive to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.

The gas fields of the Southern North Sea and the Bacton Gas terminal, in Norfolk, have been part of the UK’s energy backbone for more than 50 years; with offshore wind being part of the mix since 2004.

The study, published on Wednesday, suggests that a combination of natural gas to make blue hydrogen; wind to produce green hydrogen; ample space offshore for carbon storage, and easy access to markets in London and the South East mean that Bacton could remain crucial to the UK’s energy mix for decades.

The report, produced by Progressive Energy on behalf of the OGA, estimates that hydrogen from Bacton could help to decarbonise up to 20 per cent of the GB population with further potential to contribute to the decarbonisation of London and the South East of England. This hydrogen would have a mixture of domestic, commercial, and industrial use, as well as for transportation.

Benefits of Bacton energy hub

According to OGA, Bacton wind farms could produce nearly 40 per cent of the Government’s 40GW by 2030 target. There is potential for very significant hydrogen demand in the Bacton Catchment Area. By 2030, this could be the equivalent of almost 20 per cent of the Government’s UK wide target of 5GW of low-carbon production by 2030 and rising tenfold by 2050.

Bacton Catchment Area development concept.
Bacton Catchment Area development concept. Source: OGA

The report states that undeveloped hydrocarbons in the Bacton Catchment Area are believed to be sufficient to meet the feedstock requirements for hydrogen production into the late 2030s/early 2040s.

Decarbonising energy in the Bacton Catchment Area by using blue hydrogen with carbon capture and storage could result in an emissions reduction equivalent to nearly 15 per cent of the 10-point plan’s target to remove 10MT of carbon dioxide by 2030 and up to a 70 per cent reduction of the regional emissions by 2050.

Decarbonising the Bacton Catchment Area could capture carbon dioxide equivalent of 700,000 cars’ worth of annual emission by 2030 and equivalent of 8.7 million cars emissions by 2050.

Blue hydrogen is produced using natural gas and currently it is estimated that if this natural gas was used for hydrogen production there could be sufficient reserves in the area to last until the 2040s; with the produced carbon captured and stored offshore from Bacton.

Green hydrogen is produced using renewable energy and electrolysis to split water. There are plans for about 15GW of wind capacity in the area which, if totally committed to green hydrogen production, could meet around half of the total estimated demand in the area by 2050.

Green hydrogen is currently more expensive to produce than blue, but it is expected that as technology matures it will become cost-competitive during the course of 2040.

The area could also see benefits through job creation and there could even be the possibility of working with the regional nuclear plant for the future production of pink hydrogen, which is electricity sourced from the nuclear plant and generated by steam-based electrolysis.

Scott Robertson, OGA Director of Operations, said: “A source of safe, secure and clean power for millions of people and businesses for decades to come, as well as being a boost for jobs and the local economy, all makes this a very exciting prospect”.