Councillors in Surrey have unanimously rejected plans by IGas to manufacture hydrogen from methane at its site at Albury near Guildford.
In a vote this morning, the county council’s planning committee refused planning permission.
The proposal was for grey hydrogen, without carbon capture and storage.
Last week, a report by county council planners recommended refusal.
In October 2022, Surrey County Council unanimously refused a similar IGas proposal for its Bletchingley site at Kings Farm, Godstone.
The Albury gas production site is surrounded by ancient woodland, in the green belt and Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). It is also in a grade 1 registered park and a designated site of nature conservation importance, particularly for lichen.
IGas sought to add a 16.5m long steam methane reformation (SMR) unit, compressor and transport unit to its existing gas production site.
The unit would mix methane with steam to produce hydrogen, which would then be compressed and sent to a transport unit for export by road tanker. The operation would produce up to 1,000kg of hydrogen a day, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The committee heard that carbon emissions would be released into the atmosphere. A 10.9m exhaust stack would be the tallest structure on the site.
Planning officer, Jessica Darvill, said there had been 162 comments on the scheme. Of these, all but one had been objections, raising concerns about carbon emissions, air quality, biodiversity, noise and impacts on the green belt and AONB.
The committee was told there had been no technical objections on noise or traffic. But the county ecologist had requested a survey on the impact of the scheme on lichen. IGas’s failure to include a survey meant the proposal did not comply with planning policy, the officer said.
The planners have acknowledged that government energy security and hydrogen strategies aimed to scale up hydrogen production, mainly using the SMR process with carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS).
But they said the absence of CCUS at Albury meant the scheme was not compatible with the hydrogen strategy or government targets.
The committee also heard that planners considered the proposal to be inappropriate development in the green belt. It would have an adverse impact on both the green belt and AONB, would not be in the public interest and would not comply with local and national planning policy, they said.
The planners added that hydrogen production could take place outside the green belt or the AONB, or IGas could pipe its methane to a specialist plant with CCUS, they said.
A member of the committee, Cllr Catherine Powell, said the export of hydrogen by road, instead of the current use of a pipeline for methane, would increase carbon emissions. She said:
“The potential for CCUS at such a small-scale site in this location is virtually zero”.
The local county councillor, Robert Hughes, said the scheme “flies in the face of government policy and the Guildford local plan”.
He also raised concerns about the accuracy of IGas figures on carbon emissions from the proposal.
The company had said Albury hydrogen could be used in vehicles, as a substitute for diesel. The company estimated this could save 2,769 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-eq) a year.
Surrey’s greener futures team said the proposal would generate significant greenhouse gas emissions. The team said the IGas figure did not include production emissions. If they were included, the team said, the proposal would emit 57,554 tonnes of CO2-eq over its lifetime.
The meeting was told it could not use the issue of carbon emissions as a reason for refusal because there was currently no policy in the local plans.
The formal reasons for objection were:
- The industrial nature and scale of the development would not preserve or enhance the openness of the green belt and the application has failed to demonstrate factors that amount to very special circumstances which clearly outweigh the harm to the green belt
- Insufficient ecological survey information has been provided to demonstrate that the development would not result in an unacceptable risk to protected species of lichen
- IGas had failed to demonstrate the proposal met the public interest test and exceptional circumstances for major development in the AONB
No one from IGas addressed the meeting. The IGas share price fell nearly 3% this morning.
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Just more proof of how ignorant local politicians are. How arrogant are humans who think we can impact on mother nature. One volcano eruption creates more CO2 than all humans can in 20 years. Theyed accept so called renewables such as wind turbines, which are not renewable, as long as they are placed up north, or in Wales. In California they kill albatros and bat’s due to pressure drop, and when they end their use are simply buried in the earth. Let’s produce hydrogen from natural gas, and nuclear power stations, for gods sake! I Clark, ex ECITB Assessor, V1 Verifier and Competency Consultant.