In a breathtakingly ambitious scheme that reads like a blend of science fiction and the fever dreams of a mad architect, multi-million pound plans are now steaming ahead to utterly transform the former naval base at Portland Port into a gigantic gas storage facility. This audacious vision involves hollowing out colossal salt caverns beneath Portland to store hydrogen, a key player in the country’s desperate dash towards cutting carbon emissions and achieving net zero.

Ever since the fateful proposal was tabled by Portland Gas in 2008, the port has been frantically collaborating with prospective developers to bring this harebrained idea to life. Now, UK Energy Storage (UKEn), a subsidiary of UK Oil & Gas plc (UKOG), is taking the helm, ready to steer this ship straight into the iceberg of reality.

The scheme has recently received a notable thumbs-up from energy behemoth SGN, the masterminds behind a planned hydrogen pipeline in southern England. Graham Cox, SGN’s Regional Development Manager, gushed with excitement: “We believe hydrogen has a key role in decarbonising the national energy system and support UKEn’s proposed hydrogen storage facility in Dorset. This project has the potential to store 3TWh of hydrogen in subsurface constructed salt caverns, essential for decarbonising the Solent Cluster and Southern England.”

Translation: Portland is about to get its insides scooped out to make room for a futuristic hydrogen storehouse, purportedly to help everyone sleep better at night, believing their energy is greener.

UKEn is eagerly counting this as a “further key step” in their quest for government funding. Their grand plan includes the creation of 19 new salt caverns at a depth of 2,400 metres, each cavern boasting the volume of St Paul’s Cathedral. That’s right, Portland is set to house not one, but a whole series of underground basilicas of hydrogen.

The rock salt deposits of Portland, it turns out, are just perfect for this endeavour. They’ll be using seawater to dissolve these caverns, which somehow sounds both environmentally friendly and slightly insane.

The initial phase of this grand subterranean expansion will ramp up the UK’s onshore underground storage capacity by a whopping 70%, contributing to 20% of the UK’s hydrogen needs by 2035. And if you thought that was all, brace yourself for phase two, which promises to add yet another billion cubic meters of storage.

In a statement overflowing with corporate optimism, a Portland Port spokesperson proclaimed: “There are plans for an underground hydrogen storage facility at the port, to support the UK’s transition to net zero emissions, from UK Energy Storage, a wholly owned subsidiary of UK Oil & Gas Plc. The port would play an enabling role in what would be a new UK-wide hydrogen grid, helping with energy security and decarbonisation in the UK.”

One can’t help but marvel at the sheer scale of this endeavour, as well as the local job creation it promises. Yes, Portland is on the brink of being reshaped, quite literally from the inside out, all in the name of hydrogen and a greener tomorrow.

So, let’s all raise a glass to the future: to Portland, the soon-to-be Swiss cheese of the south coast, making way for Britain’s bold hydrogen revolution. Because what’s a little obliteration in the grand scheme of saving the planet? Cheers!

And if anything goes wrong? Do not concern yourself unless you live on Portland.

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