Surrey rejects IGas plans for grey hydrogen production

Councillors in Surrey have refused permission for a scheme to produce hydrogen at a gas site near Bletchingley.

Surrey County Council meeting, 26 October 2022. Photo: Livestream

The proposal, by IGas plc, was rejected unanimously by the county council’s planning committee this morning.

The vote followed a recommendation from officials that the scheme was inappropriate development in the greenbelt and there were no special circumstances to justify it.

The scheme proposed to produce what is known as grey hydrogen.

Methane extracted from the IGas site at Kings Farm, Godstone, would be mixed with steam in two units, producing up to 2,000kg a day, seven days a week.

One of the by-products, carbon dioxide, would be released into the atmosphere. There were no plans for carbon capture and storage. The hydrogen would taken off the site by tanker.

IGas told the committee there would be no impact on the openness of the greenbelt.

The company’s development director, Ross Glover, described the scheme as “forward-looking, innovative and sustainable”. He said it would “set the foundation for Surrey to develop a hydrogen economy”.

Mr Glover said Surrey had one of the worst records for air pollution in the UK, mostly from nitrogen dioxide and particulates pm10. The proposal would remove heavy vehicles from the county’s roads by producing fuel cell hydrogen, suitable for buses and refuse vehicles, he said.

Hydrogen tanker. Photo: IGas

The company’s application had claimed there would be no increase in hydrocarbon production or emissions.

But Peter Murphy, who lives nearby and opposed the application, said there had been no gas production at the application site. The proposed wellhead had been capped since exploration, he said.

He also said IGas had failed to mention the prospects for hydrogen leakage or explain what would happen if transport was interrupted and hydrogen could not be removed from the site.

He said carbon emissions from grey hydrogen would put Surrey’s greenhouse gas reduction target “further out of reach”.  

Planning officer, Samantha Murphy, said officers were not satisfied that hydrogen production must take place at the Kings Farm site.

She said the scheme did not comply with two local planning policies. The government’s hydrogen strategy focussed on low carbon hydrogen with carbon capture and storage, she added.

Surrey’s Green Futures Team had previously estimated that the scheme could account for 1.2% of the carbon emissions of the district of Tandridge and 0.11% of the emissions for Surrey.

A member of the committee, Cllr Catherine Powell, endorsed the officer’s recommendation:

“This is not the right option in the right place. It is clearly inappropriate development in the greenbelt.”

Another committee member, Cllr Penny Rivers, said:

“If production of hydrogen increases carbon in the atmosphere, that negates the good.”

IGas has also applied for a similar scheme at its Albury gasfield, also in Surrey. This has not yet come before the planning committee.

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