The UK plans to develop a hydrogen economy as part of its commitment to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Energy analysts have explained that hydrogen can support the transportation industry and is used similarly to natural gas for heating, cooking and power generation.
The UK’s hydrogen strategy announced last year included plans for the government and industry to collaborate and develop at least 5GW of low-carbon hydrogen production capacity before 2030. Industry analysts have said production would be similar to replacing natural gas to power approximately 3 million properties annually, as well as supporting the transportation sector and industry. Energy experts said the UK could create a hydrogen economy valued at £900 million by 2030, rising to £13 billion by 2050.
Hydrogen has been considered a vital resource for decarbonising certain industries. Government analysis has suggested that around a third of the nation’s energy consumption by 2050 could include hydrogen. The UK Independent Climate Change Committee agreed with other officials that hydrogen could support nearly an 80% reduction in nationwide carbon emissions by 2035.
Shubhendra Anand, head of Chemicals, Materials and Energy at Market Research Future, recently stated that the UK hydrogen strategy has a vision of utilising hydrogen in all transport types and includes clear plans for delivery over the coming years. The role of green hydrogen is critical to the strategy, with defined steps taken toward producing, distributing and storing energy to ensure a supply network of refuelling stations nationwide.
The Tees Valley Hydrogen Transport Hub is one of the examples that will provide a central platform for government, education and industry. Tees Valley recently announced a new competition to find bids from businesses interested in exploring how hydrogen could support the UK with a clean and efficient transport industry. The first stage of the project has begun at Teesside Airport in Darlington. Reducing emissions is one of the main objectives of having a hydrogen strategy for the transport industry. Developing green hydrogen facilities will be critical to implementing and progressing with the net-zero targets by 2050 and reducing emissions by 78% by 2035.
Brian Higgins, director of Advanced Technology at Babcock and Wilcox, explains that green hydrogen and other low-carbon alternatives offer a great way to reduce emissions for heat and power. It can be combined with natural gas to reduce the immediate carbon intensity and provide a direct replacement for fossil fuels over time. Higgins states that the best approach doesn't have to be an all-or-none strategy as we pursue the clean energy transition. Higgins points to the carbon intensity of the hydrogen, using carbon capture and sequestration as an example of delivering a clean and green alternative.
Producing green hydrogen from renewables is a significant part of the UK’s strategy. SSE recently proposed a plan to produce green hydrogen at the Gordonbush wind farm in the northeast highlands. According to plans, the electrolyser system at the site could generate 1,600 tonnes of hydrogen every year. The project would be one of the first renewable energy sites used to commercially produce hydrogen.
Other UK projects include using hydrogen at a natural gas-powered grid-connected power station. In a recent statement, Centria Business Solutions said the 49MW plan will meet demand during peak times or when renewable generation is low and will mix hydrogen with natural gas to reduce the overall carbon intensity. Centrica highlighted that the long-term vision is to shift toward 100% hydrogen and introduce similar technology at all gas-powered peaking plants.
Cam Hosie, CEO of net-zero solutions provider 8 Rivers, explains that hydrogen is central to the UK’s plan to decarbonise challenging industries. The development of scalable low-carbon hydrogen infrastructure is critical to the UK Government’s ten-point plan. Hosie states that hydrogen can decarbonise heavy industry, future energy supplies and the transport industry. The UK’s approach may offer lessons on the potential development of green hydrogen in other regions. Hosie highlights that hydrogen use in the energy transition must be at a scale and happen quickly, highlighting that we must invest in scalable and readily available technologies, such as hydrogen and carbon capture. This will create the necessary infrastructure for green hydrogen to expand. 8 Rivers has introduced a new hydrogen production process called 8RH2, creating clean hydrogen and simultaneously capturing all emissions.
Aside from the UK, the EU has implemented its hydrogen strategy with over $5 billion in public funding for hydrogen projects. The EU is seeking the installation of 40GW of renewable hydrogen electrolysers within Europe by 2030. EC President Ursula Von Der Leyen recently explained that hydrogen could be a game changer for Europe and that we need to move our hydrogen economy from niche to scale. The president noted a target to generate 10 million tonnes of renewable hydrogen in Europe every year by the end of the decade.