For many, the blue versus green hydrogen debate is null and void today, it’s a fait accompli that we need both to co-exist in the short-medium-term at the very least.
Three of the things we’re going to need most in the immediate term, therefore, if we’re to realise the hydrogen society and our wider decarbonisation aims are speed and scale of the green hydrogen roll-out, the buy-in and investment of some of the biggest energy companies in the world, and the rapid adoption of blue hydrogen technologies across industry.
That invariably means a significant scope of experience and implementation of CCUS too.
Bringing together at least three of those four fundamentals is bp, and bringing her own extensive expertise and leadership to that table is Louise Jacobsen Plutt, Senior Vice-President of Hydrogen & CCUS at the company.
In a bp career which spans two decades and three continents, Jacobsen Plutt has been at the forefront of some of the world’s leading energy projects. That journey continued over the last year as she took an exciting step to become the Senior Vice-President of bp’s new Hydrogen and Carbon Capture Utilisation and Storage (CCUS) business – an area that will be crucial in supporting bp’s ambition to be a net zero company by 2050, or sooner.
Jacobsen Plutt now leads bp on a range of high-profile projects, including Net Zero Teesside and GET H2 in Germany, and sat down with gasworld for an interview to share her thoughts on the role of hydrogen and CCUS, as well as her wide variety of roles across a range of locations during her time with bp, including in the Gulf of Mexico and Azerbaijan.
Thanks for taking time out with gasworld. What are we interrupting in your schedule today?
It’s my pleasure. As the leader of bp’s hydrogen and CCUS business, my team and I are involved in a number of exciting projects. These include clean hydrogen developments in Germany and Australia, and in supporting the decarbonisation of the Port of Rotterdam.
We are also the lead operator of Net Zero Teesside – a major CCUS project in the north-east of England – and the Northern Endurance Partnership, which will develop the offshore infrastructure needed to transport and store carbon dioxide emissions safely in the UK North Sea.
At the same time, we’re working to develop new opportunities, and to enable bp to create a real market for both clean hydrogen and CCUS around the world. For example, we recently announced that we are developing plans for the UK’s largest hydrogen project, H2Teesside (pictured), with a goal of producing up to 1 GW of blue hydrogen by 2030 – 20% of the UK’s hydrogen target.
These projects could transform the area into one of the first carbon neutral clusters in the UK.
We understand you have a wealth of experience at BP both in terms of duration, and various roles and geographies. How will that benefit this new role?
Thank you! You are right – in February it had been 20 years since I joined bp as a graduate drilling engineer. Since then my career has taken me across the world to Houston, Azerbaijan and the UK.
Joining bp as a drilling engineer excited me because I loved going into the field to support well operations. I had the opportunity to work on the Thunder Horse and Atlantis fields in the Gulf of Mexico, along with onshore wells in Wyoming. I really liked that you could design and engineer the well on paper, and then go out and see it being constructed.
Having progressed through my career to lead drilling and wells teams, in 2014 I had the opportunity to move to a different kind of role in London, as business advisor to our now CEO, Bernard Looney. As I’d previously focused on the technical side of bp’s work, spending three years alongside Bernard and other executives gave me an appreciation for another side of bp. I built my understanding of how a complex energy company makes decisions, how it makes money and creates value, all – crucially – while managing risk.
The core values and skills a career in engineering has given me, combined with an appreciation for business imperatives and the bigger picture that my time in London gave me, stand me in good stead for my current role.
Absolutely, there are clearly some great experiences there. How do you feel your experiences of working in say Azerbaijan or the Gulf of Mexico will benefit this particular new challenge?
What I always relished about being an engineer in those places was the problem-solving nature of the work – looking at complex challenges with your team and working together to find solutions. The fundamentals are unchanged in my current role.
Whilst I won’t be operating wells, I will still be looking to find innovative solutions to complex problems in the way that an engineer does.
In fact, some of the most interesting opportunities I’ve had throughout my career have involved work in some of the most challenging places we operate. Working in those environments has really driven home the value of placing safety at the core of everything you do. That is essential, whatever part of the world and whatever area of work you are operating.
But most of all, wherever I’ve been based, I have always loved working in teams and bringing people together to tackle significant challenges. And having fun while doing it! I’m passionate about helping people be the best they can be. It’s one of the key things that I really want to carry into my current role – every individual wants to have an impact and I want to be there to support in their successes.
”What I always relished about being an engineer in those places was the problem-solving nature of the work – looking at complex challenges with your team and working together to find solutions. The fundamentals are unchanged in my current role”
So tell us a bit about BP’s aim to become a Net Zero company by 2050 – how has the company set out to achieve this, and can it shorten that timeline?
In February last year, Bernard announced our industry-leading ambition to become a net zero company by 2050, or sooner. It will no doubt be challenging, but I think it’s something we can be very proud of.
A key component to achieving that ambition will be a significant scale-up of our low-carbon energy business, through a 10-fold increase in low carbon investment by 2030. Crucially, it will be our people that will drive this transformation. We will have to be innovative, curious and work at pace.
And how important will hydrogen and CCUS be to this ambition?
I believe hydrogen and CCUS have a huge role to play not only in our ambition, but also in the global energy transition. They offer a decarbonisation solution for traditionally hard-to-abate sectors, such as the industrial sector and transportation.
They also complement our existing businesses and growing capabilities. For example, the extensive growth we’re seeing in our renewables business can support green hydrogen, whilst blue hydrogen is enabled by the scale-up of CCUS.
We believe, therefore, that both hydrogen and CCUS offer myriad advantages not only for us as a business but equally for the potential partners with whom we’ll be collaborating, and for the energy transition.
What challenges do you see ahead for both hydrogen and CCUS, and how can these be overcome and the opportunities realised?
The main challenge is developing business models which enable the market for hydrogen and CCUS. To do so we are thinking differently about partnerships and engaging with governments to shape policy and incentives to kickstart the market.
Ultimately, the growth of this market will depend upon a blend of supportive policies, technological growth and customer choices. I think the future looks bright though, with the growing external excitement around hydrogen and the opportunities we are seeing.
Let’s talk about that future. In a BP career which spans two decades and three continents, you’ve been at the forefront of some of the world’s leading energy projects. Could you tell us about some of the high-profile projects you’re involved with now, in this new role?
In November we signed a Letter of Intent (LOI) with Ørsted to develop green hydrogen, with an industrial scale 50-megawatt (MW) electrolyser at bp’s Lingen refinery in North-West Germany.
Using wind power from the North Sea, the project will initially replace 20% of the natural gas-based hydrogen at the refinery. As bp’s first full-scale green hydrogen project, it’s a significant step for us strategically.
In the UK, we are thrilled to be the lead operator of Net Zero Teesside. Using CCUS, the project offers the potential to establish the UK’s first decarbonised industrial cluster. Once completed, the project will be able to capture up to six million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions each year – equivalent to the annual energy use of up to two million homes in the UK.
And in closing, what are your aims for the year ahead?
My aim for the year is to be one step closer to our North Star goal of capturing 10% of the clean hydrogen market by 2030 in our core markets. To do so, we will continue building momentum by harnessing our existing technological capabilities, developing new and existing partnerships and accessing exciting new markets across the world.