(Bloomberg) -- Unilever Plc is starting tests on switching one of its U.K. facilities to using hydrogen, as industries eye moving away from using fossil fuels.
The trial is part of an initiative known as HyNet North West, which aims to deliver hydrogen to some homes and businesses in northern England from 2026, with the carbon emissions moved by pipeline for storage in depleted oil and gas fields.
Unilever, a manufacturer of consumer goods such as cosmetics, will be among the first companies to run tests on the feasibility of using hydrogen at its Port Sunlight plant, in northwest England, according to Rachel Perry, one of the group’s project managers.
“We are working on increasing production and increasing storage,” Perry said at a conference on Thursday, adding that to begin with, buyers would use a blend of hydrogen and natural gas.
Industrial users are looking at hydrogen as a substitute for gas to drive turbines or other processes which can’t run on renewable electricity, as Europe’s energy crunch has sent prices soaring in recent months and forced some fertilizer and chemicals companies to halt or scale back output. Pilkington, a U.K. glassmaker and unit of Nippon Sheet Glass Co., has also been testing hydrogen, Hynet’s Perry told delegates at the conference.
Read more: Why Hydrogen Is the Hottest Thing in Green Energy
Hynet is one of a handful of so-called clusters in the U.K., where the production of hydrogen could start to change the way vehicles are fueled, factories are powered and homes are heated. A final investment decision on the project is expected in 2023, Perry said. The carbon, capture and storage element of the project is already oversubscribed, she added.
Other clusters are located in industrial areas of the U.K., including south Wales and the east coast of Scotland. There are also several initiatives in northeast England, where BP Plc is looking at a new plant and Phillips 66 is assessing cleaner hydrogen at its Humber refinery. In that region, three grid companies in the U.K. have proposed a 863 million-pound ($1.2 billion) plan to convert the gas network to use hydrogen.
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