A consortium including Equinor, SSE, Uniper, Centrica, National Grid, Mitsubishi and British Steel has applied for a UK government grant of up to £20m ($25.8m) to progress work on a major carbon capture and storage (CCS) project that would include Europe’s first commercial-scale blue-hydrogen plant.

The Zero Carbon Humber (ZCH) project in the northeast of England aims to capture the CO2 from several large-scale fossil-fuel power plants, as well as the blue-hydrogen facility and possibly a steel mill — and pump the emissions via a pipeline to an aquifer under the North Sea.

At the heart of the project is Equinor’s 600MW H2H Saltend blue-hydrogen plant, which would produce the low-carbon fuel needed to help decarbonize the region’s heavy industry — currently responsible for about 15% of the UK’s annual emissions. A hydrogen pipeline network would be built across the region by National Grid Ventures to distribute the low-carbon H2, which will be derived from steam methane reforming with CCS.

To enable the industrial cluster to reach net-zero emissions, CO2 would be removed from the atmosphere by generating electricity with bioenergy and carbon capture and storage (BECCS) at partner Drax Group’s nearby 3.9GW thermal power plant. The Drax power station is currently co-fired with coal and biomass, but is switching from coal to natural gas next year, with plans to fully switch to biomass — which absorbed CO2 from the air as it grows — by 2035.

Emissions would also be captured at Uniper’s 900MW Killingholme gas-fired power plant, Triton Power’s 1.2GW Saltend gas power station and at SSE Thermal’s Keadby site, where it owns and operates the 735MW Keadby 1 gas-fired power station and is building a second 840MW facility (Keadby 2), and is planning for a third gas plant (Keadby 3), which could be purpose-built for CCS.

British Steel could use blue hydrogen to generate the high-temperature steam required at its nearby Scunthorpe steel mill, while Centrica would compress the captured carbon dioxide at its Easington facility before pumping out to sea for long-term storage.

The 11 companies and one university that make up the Zero Carbon Humber Partnership say their bid for matched funding from the UK government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund “covers obtaining land rights, development consents and front-end engineering design for H2H Saltend and the onshore pipeline infrastructure for CO2 and hydrogen, enabling the scheme to move towards a final investment decision on construction during 2023, with H2H Saltend and associated infrastructure expected to come online around 2026.”

The partnership has not specified how much money it has applied for, but says this development phase of its project would cost £75m. The government is offering grants of £10m-20m.

Aside from the aforementioned companies, project partners also include Associated British Ports, industrial facility manager PX Group, and the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre.