The opening of bp’s new Teesside offices signals the start of an important next phase of their work in the region, as Andy Lane, the company’s VP hydrogen and CCS in the UK, tells Mike Hughes


The proud history of The Wilton Centre has been one of the enduring landmarks of the process sector in the North East.

A village of innovation and collaboration, the centre is now part of the Pioneer Group and is one of Europe’s largest R&D sites for businesses working in the circular economy, life science, sustainable processing and manufacturing technology.

Its instantly-recognised setting in 75 landscaped acres make it something special in this region – the sort of place where the future of our region is researched, invented and driven.

So the new neighbours will fit in very well, as pioneers of technology that the world is waiting for.

So much is happening at bp – and so much of it on Teesside – that it was only a matter of time before permanent space was needed to help co-ordinate activity, provide a base for a growing local workforce, and support the delivery of the company’s remarkable ambitions for Teesside.

It is also in the heart of the region less than three miles from Teesworks, where three of the most groundbreaking projects the UK has ever seen will change this part of the world for generations.

Partnerships have always been fundamental to how bp works, so the new base will also serve as a hub to help drive engagement between many organisations it is collaborating with in the region, from commercial partners and technology providers to local education institutions and skills groups.

The walk to the new home, with main office, boardroom and meeting spaces is lengthy – Wilton is huge, with corridors that have their own ‘vanishing point’ in the distance. But all that space is needed for the ever-expanding cluster of tenants across a wide range of sectors.

For Andy Lane, the company’s VP for hydrogen and CCS in the UK, it was almost a return visit, as he turned down a job with ICI at Wilton some decades ago and instead took his degree in Chemical Engineering to bp.

“It’s a sliding doors moment,” he said at the official launch of the new base.

“Now, finally, I’ve got an office in this building, even though it took the best part of 40 years to get there.

“It’s been quite a long time since bp has had an office in this part of the world, but it is absolutely essential that all of Teesside can be part of what is happening here and that everybody gets access to the benefits that will come to the region.”

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen, who helped bring bp to the region , said: “Our area is leading the way in delivering the clean, green energy solutions of the future and bp is playing a huge role in this by developing game-changing carbon capture and hydrogen projects. It is fantastic to see bp opening new offices on Teesside and another example of the major global companies we are attracting who are bringing high quality jobs and investment.”

Andy is well aware of the potential the bp projects bring.

“We know it is a small step in a long journey towards our blueprints becoming fully operational profit-making projects. It will always be exciting to get to such an important stage anywhere in the world – but to put down our roots here feels very special.

“It's almost like a bit of an incubator at first, which may seem like a strange thing to say for such a big company, but in this region we're still the newbies. But we have so much support from contractors and our supply chain and other players in this sector who have chosen Wilton as their base. It felt like being part of a community from the first day and for us that always made more sense than setting up a building on our own on another site.”

When students at colleges around the region turn up for their first day and start to get to grips with equipment and processes that they will take with them every day of their new careers, this is the feeling they will have too – newbies who know what needs to be done, but want to feel part of a team that will double and triple the potential of what can be achieved alone.

“As we hope those future employees will feel, bp has always been so well supported at every stage as we learn and grow on Teesside,” says Andy.

“Even during the planning process, when you expose your ideas to people that don't yet understand what you are doing in their town, it's been an almost exclusively supportive environment for our kind of business. It's been very encouraging for our teams to see that.

“That includes the political side of things with the Mayor and politicians from all parties , our customers and the landowners that we need to work with to get our pipelines across. I think they are all familiar with what could be happening here, that we're not doing something fundamentally new to the region. It’s been industrialised for generations - people have got parents and grandparents who've worked in process industries.

“They will know that it has been too long since new industries established here. For many of them it will have seemed like more of a story of industries leaving the region, so it's nice to turn that around and be part of something that could mean new ones coming in.

Because of the pace of change here, part of Andy’s role will be to make sure there are enough people and skills to power the bp engine. We had the most experienced and trusted workers in the world based here when our powerhouse was made of steel, and now we need to do it all again - only faster.

The skills gap has always been a challenge here as much as anywhere, because we are eager to be reinvented into the sort of place that world-leading technologies want to invest in, so we open the doors wide. The resulting flood of interest and shared ambition puts a huge strain on the supply of skills that weren’t even taught a few years ago.

Andy says: “There is a fantastic industrial heritage and past here - and lots of skilled people, and we are going to need them all and a lot more. For current and future generations this is the start of something new and exciting, but in the medium term, I think one of the biggest challenges for this area is that the amount of investment that's being committed to the region and the construction activity growing all the time requires a lot of skilled people.

“We have been trying to develop enough of that talent as UK Inc for quite a long time, but I know that the projects bp and a lot of other outstanding companies are proposing to bring here need to not only attract headlines – they need to bring the very best workers and young talent here in great numbers.

“As these projects start to progress, so does the demand for skills. If it was just us it might be less of a priority, but the very act of stimulating activity in a region creates further demand for expertise. If you look across at the opportunity nationally in nuclear, in rewiring the country's grid system, offshore wind, heat pumps, electric vehicles – a lot of demand for those skills will overlap.

“We haven't had simultaneous demand across all of those sectors for years in the UK. So we have to work together across so many industries to make sure we don’t run out of skilled people before we run out of money. That means creating and communicating opportunities for new people to join the workplace and people who have perhaps slipped out of employment. We also want people who are employed in one sector to transfer and share their skills in a different sector.

“We have to invest in our human skillset across the country as a generation-long effort to shift our axis and redesign our whole landscape.

“Of course we can do it - we’re bp and this is Teesside - but to make it all work and for all the plans to become reality it needs a monumental effort that reaches every quarter of the region. But we’ve seen that sort of collaborative strength before and we know it can happen again.”


Net Zero Teesside Power

What is it? Aims to be one of the world’s first commercial-scale gas fired power stations with carbon capture technology.

It could generate up to 860 megawatts of low carbon electricity, enough to power the equivalent of up to 1.3m homes per year, and is a joint venture between bp and Equinor, with bp leading as operator.·

NZT Power’s CCS infrastructure could capture and store up to two million tonnes of CO2, annually.

Where are we? In February, the UK government granted a joint development consent order for Net Zero Teesside and the Northern Endurance Partnership and in March, the projects announced the selection of nine leading specialist contractors for engineering, procurement, and construction contracts.

The awarding of the contracts, which have a combined value of around £4bn, is subject to the receipt of relevant regulatory clearances and positive Final Investment Decisions (FID) by the projects and UK government, planned by September this year.


What is it? Aims to be one of the UK’s largest blue hydrogen production facilities, capturing and sending for storage two million tonnes of CO₂ per year, equivalent to capturing the emissions from the heating of one million UK households. Targeting 1.2GW of hydrogen production by 2030, equating to over 10% of the UK government’s hydrogen target of 10GW by 2030.

Where are we? In February, bp announced a licence agreement for the use of BASF technology to capture carbon dioxide generated during hydrogen production at H2Teesside.

In April, the Development Consent Order for H2Teesside was accepted for examination, in a major milestone for the project. The project will now progress to the pre-examination stage and people can register to have their say.

HyGreen Teesside

What is it? Planned to be one of the biggest ‘green’ hydrogen facilities in the UK, with plans to deliver up to 5% of the UK government’s hydrogen target of 10GW by 2030. It is expected to fuel the development of Teesside into the UK’s first major hydrogen transport hub, leading the way for large-scale decarbonisation of heavy transport, airports, ports and rail in the UK.

Where are we? In April, the planning application for HyGreen Teesside was validated by Redcar & Cleveland Council, and a public consultation on the application concluded at the end of May.