But Teesside can be one among the principal ‘low carbon industrial hubs’ within the UK. The mass marine die-off has due to this fact grow to be a part of the UK’s green transition to net zero.
Teesside and Humber
Nearly half of all of the UK’s industrial cluster emissions from the Humber and Teesside, with Humber being the second most carbon intensive site in Europe.
In 2021 it was chosen, together with six other areas, as a recipient of massive government funding and support to grow to be a low carbon industrial zone. Teesside goals to be the world’s first zero carbon industrial hub by 2040.
Teesside as a project connects with the Zero Carbon Humber project, taking in Drax power station, British Steel, the Keadby power plants operated by SSE, quite a lot of chemical and manufacturing projects, and hydrogen production, including the disgraced Italian oil firms Equinor’s hydrogen plant. Velocys, the ‘green’ jet fuel plant at Stallingborough, can be a partner project.
The entire project will likely be enabled by infrastructure developed through the Northern Endurance Partnership (NEP), a partnership that brings together the fossil fuel firms BP, Equinor, Shell, ENI and Total, with BP because the leading operator.
Teesside is a dubious ‘zero carbon’ industrial cluster, being in-built a freeport where regulations, including tax, labour and environmental laws, barely apply, propped up by government funding and support, and largely profiting fossil fuel firms.
Hydrogen and the greenwashing of net zero
Teesside as a project rests its net zero ambition on two things: carbon capture and storage and green hydrogen.
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) has already been heavily criticised as a false solution. Not only does it not work at scale, most of the prevailing projects leak more or store far lower than claimed.
Despite this, it still draws hundreds of thousands in government funding. Teesside’s net zero scheme plans to capture as much as 10 million tonnes of CO2 emissions annually, a major a part of the emissions related to the zone and akin to the emissions related to the annual energy use of up to a few million UK homes.
Given how poorly CCS ‘works’, we will safely assume far less will actually be captured and stored safely.
Yet it’s on this infrastructure that the fossil fuel giants backing the project are heavily investing, aiming to increase the lifetime of their very own oil and gas projects off shore, each by off-setting their emissions after which using CO2 to extend oil and gas production (by injecting CO2 into the operating wells), before finally using depleted oil and gas wells as carbon storage sites. They’ll proceed to cash in on climate change for a long time to come back.
The second element is hydrogen, with Teesside aiming to be a major UK hydrogen hub with a transportation network, two ‘blue’ hydrogen projects by BP and Kellas, in addition to a green hydrogen project run by Protium.
While funding for hydrogen booms globally, each the UK and EU have subject to intense corporate lobbying in support of hydrogen production and for large amounts of presidency financial support for hydrogen development.
The UK has put aside £240 million for hydrogen related developments, while the EU has put €5.4 billion into one hydrogen project alone.
Yet while many agree hydrogen will play a limited but vital role in the longer term, its green claims have been heavily criticised, as have the claims of the large role it’s going to play in the longer term.
Most hydrogen is currently produced through the use of fossil fuels – in 2021 almost 47 per cent of the worldwide hydrogen production was from natural gas, 27 per cent got here from coal, and 22 per cent from oil. This hydrogen, called ‘blue hydrogen’, relies on CCS to be carbon neutral. Which it’s not.
Blue hydrogen is in truth likely more carbon polluting than simply burning natural gas, making it a type of greenwashing for fossil fuel firms. Just 4 per cent of hydrogen was produced using electricity in 2021, with lower than one per cent using renewable energy. Meaning lower than one per cent of hydrogen is actually ‘green’.
Not only does most hydrogen generate carbon emissions, it is dear to supply, with fossil fuel firms asking for billions in tax payer funds to supply the fuel for a long time to come back.
Beyond this, technical difficulties and infrastructural issues signifies that even the Commons Science and Technology Committee concluded that: “Hydrogen shouldn’t be prone to be practically and economically viable for mass use within the short and medium term for heating homes or fuelling passenger cars”.
Indeed, it might make heating homes more not inexpensive. Much the identical may very well be said for shipping and most road transport. While it has a limited role in some industrial processes, it’s a false solution, being promoted by corporate and fossil fuel lobbyists and supported to the tune of billions by government.
Toxic net zero
Teesside is a tragic example of how reheated neoliberalism combines with false climate solutions to supply environmental disaster. Turning net zero right into a marketing strategy might make a number of money and generate massive profits through government funding and support, nevertheless it won’t tackle climate change.
As more ground is broken around Teesside and other proposed industrial net zero clusters, we will expect the toxic legacy of industrialism, buried within the soil and lodged within the river and sea beds, to be released into surrounding areas.
The development and manufacturing processes will produce more waste, including carbon emissions. This includes the likely leaks for CCS sites and blue hydrogen production.
All told, the tragic mass marine die-off down the Yorkshire cost is just a part of the environmental cost that can should be paid as an element of the UK’s drive to so-called net zero. A drive that goals to alter as little of the UKs industry as possible so business as usual can proceed.
Dr Nicholas Beuret is a lecturer in management and ecological sustainability on the University of Essex. His research has been published in journals including Antipode, Science and Culture and South Atlantic Quarterly. He might be found on Twitter at @_nic_beuret_.