Despite humans accepting that their reliance on fossil fuels has been harming planet Earth, the challenges posed by finding zero carbon fuel alternatives in real time are considerable.
Electrification is recognised as one solution, but not suited to all modes of transport, particularly on and off-highway, aviation and marine.
Hydrogen has been recognised for some time now as a clean alternative for transport systems which rely on diesel power. However, hydrogen production, storage and infrastructure is still in its infancy and needs more investment and acknowledgement to become a key player in the decarbonisation of our transport and energy sectors.
The most recent Hydrogen Industry Leaders (HIL) event based in Glasgow highlighted how Scotland has become one of the most pioneering places for hydrogen production and uptake. Nick Owen – Technical Director of Dolphin N2 – attended the event as a ‘Thought Leader’ and was impressed by the way Scotland has embraced a hydrogen economy as a key player in the decarbonisation of their transport and energy systems.
During the HIL event earlier in 2023, speakers from SGN and SSE spoke about the importance hydrogen has in the energy and heating industries.
Catherine Raw – Managing Director, SSE Thermal spoke about how Scottish and Southern Energy plc (SSE) are world leaders in renewable energy hosting the largest offshore wind farm in the world. The need for renewable energy in an ever more electric reliant world, means there is greater demand. To meet the ever-growing demand for green hydrogen, renewables are needed to be increased above and beyond the current requirements.
With offshore wind and solar supplied by SSE currently capable of producing 16GW of power, SSE are seeking to be able to supply 50GW of offshore wind energy by 2035 with the development of the world’s second largest wind farm.
Catherine Raw highlighted how the current transition of energy requirements and the need to reach net-zero has been developing over the past 100 years. Transitions away from coal and oil have been replaced by gas and electric. We are now in another transition whereby renewable energy, including hydrogen, are now part of the ‘toolbox’ towards net-zero.
The Humber is well known as a central energy hub of the UK and boasts multiple power stations. SSE are planning on building multiple storage caverns for hydrogen, with one of their gas caverns having already been adapted for this purpose and a 35MW electrolyser having already been installed.
Hydrogen production and storage can be challenging. However, an innovative project being adopted in the Orkney Islands has shown how even small capacity hydrogen production can have a profound impact on energy supplies.
Grid capacity constraints in Orkney mean that renewable energy created there is often lost or wasted. New projects involving the production of hydrogen could be the answer to the capacity issue. (1)
Excess electricity can be used to create hydrogen through electrolysis, meaning surplus renewable energy can be stored and used to produce heat, power or fuel for low carbon transport in the future. (1)
The European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) installed a hydrogen production plan at its onshore site in Eday in 2016. This creates hydrogen from excess energy produced by the tidal energy converters testing offshore at its Fall of Warness site and from the island’s community wind turbine. (1)
This ‘green’ hydrogen is stored in special mobile units and transported to the Orkney mainland where it can then be used on-demand in variety of ways, including powering harbour and ferry operations in Kirkwall. (1)
The hydrogen produced can be used for buildings and vessels in Kirkwall harbour, as well as fuel for several hydrogen vehicles in Orkney Islands Council’s fleet. (1)
However, this is not the end of the Orkney’s plans for developing their own Hydrogen economy, with projects looking into hydrogen as a fuel in marine transport, in aviation and even the possibility of supporting gin production, the Orkney Islands ahead of the curve in Hydrogen innovation and adoption.
Hydrogen adoption across Scotland has seen projects be given the green light by several key councils.
Aberdeen for example have been at the forefront of hydrogen innovation for over ten years. Having written their first hydrogen strategy in 2015, Aberdeen acknowledges how bringing hydrogen technology to the city can help them learn how to use it in real time.
One of the projects in active service is a fleet of hydrogen powered double decker buses. The Aberdeen council promotes the investment by letting the local community know that:
Local energy for local communities – Aberdeen’s plans for making its own hydrogen means that our buses will be locally powered.
- When you travel by bus, you are playing your part in reducing Aberdeen’s carbon footprint.
- What was that noise? Our hydrogen vehicles are silent – reducing the noise pollution in Aberdeen.
- Just one Hydrogen Bus will save 84 tonnes of CO2 per year – the equivalent of removing 38 petrol, or 40 diesel cars from the road.
- Fuel-cell electric buses produce no tailpipe emissions – the only by-products is water. (2)
Aberdeen was so keen to ensure the hydrogen produced to fuel the buses was 100% renewable, they enlisted the services of BOC who worked alongside the Aberdeen City Council to develop and install a tailored, hydrogen refuelling station at the Kittybrewster bus depot.
The Kittybrewster bus depot facility has the capacity to produce green hydrogen from electrolysis on site. The hydrogen is then stored as a compressed gas until it is needed and then pumped into vehicles. The benefit of the buses being fuelled by hydrogen is that the refuelling time is much the same as if refuelling a petrol or diesel vehicle.
The station opened in 2015 and was originally designed to refuel single-deck buses. In 2018 it was scaled up to offer public refuelling of cars and vans, and in 2019 it was upgraded again to accommodate double decker buses. (3)
Above and beyond the production of hydrogen and it’s use in bus fleets, the Scottish Government are also forging forward as a Green Hydrogen leader.
In May 2023 First Minister Humza Yousaf announced that 32 projects would receive a share of £7M from the Hydrogen Innovation Scheme to drive innovation in the production, storage and distribution of renewable hydrogen.
The investment will support 32 projects, including:
- a study into treating water from the River Clyde to produce hydrogen cheaply
- the establishment of a green hydrogen production learning, test and research hub in Stornoway
- a scheme to use waste heat generated from wind turbines on the Isle of Lewis to create hydrogen
- a Hydrogen Innovation Hub at Glasgow Airport for storage and distribution
- a study examining the use of tidal energy around Yell in the Shetland Islands to produce hydrogen
Humza Yousaf said:
“We have committed £100 million, over this parliamentary session, to supporting the green hydrogen sector. Part of that funding has been allocated to the Hydrogen Innovation Scheme, which supports feasibility studies, technical demonstrations and testing facilities for new ideas about how to produce, store and distribute hydrogen. (4)
“The projects cover a wide range of different areas – such as how to produce and store hydrogen on floating windfarms, and how to decarbonise agriculture and forestry work in rural areas. Together, they show the range of possible ways in which hydrogen can be produced, used and stored. They highlight the expertise and innovation that is already such an important part of the sector. And, of course, they demonstrate the scale of the opportunities that hydrogen can create.” (4)
This is only a snapshot of the hydrogen research, development and innovation being spearheaded by the Scottish Parliament, by industry and by local councils. The Scottish Action Plan also recognises the importance of hydrogen and how a collaborative approach across industry and policy makers alike is vital for its success.
The forward by Michael Matheson MSP Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport addresses their key targets.
“We are already embracing the development of a hydrogen economy here in Scotland by making available £100m in capital funding for renewable hydrogen projects. The first tranche of our hydrogen investment programme, the £10m Hydrogen Innovation Scheme, opened in June 2022 and is supporting innovation in the production, storage, and integration of renewable hydrogen in our energy system.
In this Hydrogen Action Plan, we confirm our commitment to support the development of the hydrogen sector in Scotland and reconfirm our ambition of at least 5 GW installed renewable and low-carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030 and 25 GW by 2045.
It is clear that hydrogen represents a pivotal opportunity for both decarbonisation and the economy and is a key driver in our just transition. Scotland has the resources, the people, and the ambition to realise the benefits of becoming a leading hydrogen nation. This is our ambition – but government cannot achieve it alone. Joint action will be required by the Scottish Government, UK Government and businesses working together to realise our hydrogen future.” (5)
Written by Katy Mason for and on behalf of Dolphin N2.