UK Hydrogen Economy

Part of Backbench Business – in Westminster Hall at 3:36 pm on 17th December 2020.

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Photo of Chris Matheson Chris Matheson Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) 3:36 pm, 17th December 2020

I entirely agree with my right hon. Friend. Slightly off subject, in Cheshire we also have expertise in pharmaceuticals, and lost that to the south-east. We hear about levelling up, and I am sure that he and I will be pressing the Government to match their slogans with reality. I say that with a willingness to work with the Minister.

By the mid-2030s, HyNet could be capturing more than 25 million tonnes of CO2 per annum, or two and a half times the target that the Government hope to achieve by 2030. Together with our production capability, that makes Cheshire and Warrington, and the wider Mersey region, a prime candidate to be one of the first low-carbon industrial clusters in the UK. There are also wider domestic applications for using the gas network. Hydrogen can be stored as a pressurised gas, ready for use in the pipes. Hon. Members have already referred to that. Cheshire also has the largest UK storage capacity for hydrogen, using the network of salt caverns that I have referred to. They have excellent geological properties and are one of the more cost-effective options, making them a preferred site for development.

My plea to the Minister and hon. Members is not to set up a beauty contest, playing off one region against another, when there is capacity, capability, expertise and desire across the UK. Five clusters are bidding for funding. For them all to get what they want and need, the funding pot, I am informed, would have to be increased by around £20 million to £30 million. The alternative is to exclude one of the clusters from the funding. That is why I mentioned the question of funding at the start.

I welcome what the Government have proposed, but it would not take much of an increase for everyone to get a piece of the action, so that the jigsaw that my friend the hon. Member for Waveney talked about is not missing a piece. We all know how frustrating that can be. This is a great opportunity for all of the UK, and I hope that the Minister will seize it.