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The UK Hydrogen economy gains traction as a key player in decarbonising transport, industry and boosting energy systems.

By June 21, 2023 No Comments

Hydrogen being the most abundant element in universe is certainly becoming recognised as a key player in decarbonising transport, industry and boosting energy systems.

The UK’s hydrogen economy has gained recognition as part of the UK Governments Energy Bill, which was introduced in the House of Lords on 6 July 2022 (full report published 4th May 2023) The Bill focuses on three key areas:

  • Leveraging investment in clean technologies
  • Reforming the UK’s energy system and protecting consumers
  • Maintaining the safety, security, and resilience of the energy systems across the UK

Parts 1 to 3 of the Bill focus on carbon dioxide (CO2) transport and storage, hydrogen production and new technology and include:

  • Establishing an economic regulation and licensing regime for CO₂ transport and storage with the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem) as the economic regulator.
  • Enabling the Government to implement and administer hydrogen and carbon capture business models including introducing a new hydrogen levy.
  • Enabling the establishment of a market-based mechanism for low-carbon heat.
  • Enabling the effective and safe delivery of a village scale hydrogen heating trial.
  • Excluding fusion energy facilities from nuclear site licensing requirements under the Nuclear Installations Act 1965 (NIA 1965). (1)

In addition to the ambition of Parts 1-3 of the Energy Bill, the ‘Energy Security Bill – Hydrogen and industrial carbon capture (ICC) business models’ further supports the Government’s ambition for up to 10GW of low carbon hydrogen production capacity (subject to affordability and value for money) and to capture and store 20-30MtCO₂, which includes 6MtCO₂ of industrial emissions, per year, by 2030. (2)

As part of the UK Governments drive towards reducing carbon emissions during the production of hydrogen, they have spearheaded the following ambitious investment programmes.

£240 million has been allocated to the Net Zero Hydrogen Fund (NZHF) which kickstarted the hydrogen economy in the early 2020s by supporting hydrogen production projects with upfront costs, stimulating private sector investment, and developing the pipeline of projects needed to deliver hydrogen production at scale by 2030. (2)

Furthermore, a further £26m is being provided through the Industrial Hydrogen Accelerator, £55m through the NZIP Industrial Fuel Switching Competition and up to £60m via the Industrial Energy Transformation Fund. (2)

The UK has already made great progress in its incentives for hydrogen production and a collaborative approach has been adopted by some industry leaders with Government backing.

The HyNet project in Northwest England aims to create the UK’s first low-carbon hydrogen production hub, supplying fuel for transport, industry, and heating.

Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor of Liverpool City Region has said “Hydrogen from HyNet will enable decarbonisation of hard-to-reach sectors, including heating of homes, fuelling of industry and flexible power generation” (3)

The HyNet project is one of the leading collaborative CO2 removal projects with 5 major industry names capable of removing up to 3 million tonnes of C02 whilst supporting the UK’s net-zero targets.

Hanson Cement, Viridor, Encyclis, Buxton Lime Zero (Tarmac) and Vertex Hydrogen, committed to removing carbon dioxide emissions through the HyNet project, have been announced by Government to move forward in decarbonising their operations creating an entirely new Carbon Capture sector in the Northwest of England and North Wales. (3)

The UK Government have also pledged a £20bn investment into the decarbonisation of industry through CCS and the HyNet project is taking the lead on this project.

The United Kingdom and Germany are both playing pivotal roles in creating significant milestones in hydrogen production for the UK and European renewable energy market.

Both countries have over 400MW of projects in place for 2023, potentially bringing the total installed hydrogen capacity across Europe from around 236MW in 2022 to over 2GW in 2023. The report also indicates that increases in hydrogen capacity could reach over 22GW by the end of 2027.

As part of the United Kingdom’s role in ramping up the hydrogen economy, Ireland is being pitched as a contender for being able to produce the cheapest green hydrogen in Europe by 2030.

Ireland’s competitive advantage stems from its high wind speeds, particularly in the west, compared to other European countries, and rising congestion within the electricity transmission system. (4)

Production under optimal conditions could result in a levelized cost of €3.50/kgH2 (real 2021) in 2030, 8% lower than optimal production costs in Spain and 35% lower than in Germany. (4)

Considering this, the Irish government aims to install 2GW of offshore wind generation connected to electrolysers by 2030, which could produce up to 138kt of green hydrogen annually. (4)

One additional area hydrogen is set to become a key player in, is the decarbonisation of transport and in particular the heavy-duty and off-highway sectors.

The UK governments commitment to supporting this transition is highlighted in the Road to Zero Strategy and the Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution.

To accelerate the growth of a hydrogen economy, the UK government has allocated significant funding and resources. The Hydrogen for Transport Program, launched in 2020, has invested £23 million to support the development of hydrogen refuelling stations. This funding enables the expansion of the network, making hydrogen a sustainable and accessible option for a range of vehicles, from cars, buses and commercial fleets to heavy-duty trucks, off-highway and agriculture.

Despite some scepticism of what a hydrogen economy may look like in the UK, we cannot ignore the extensive body of work already being undertaken to highlight the benefits of hydrogen in heavy duty and off-highway.

JCB, Tevva, DAF and HVS are all leading lights in heavy-duty and off-highway hydrogen developments and must be recognised for their innovation in this sector.

JCB – hydrogen combustion technology.

JCB do not shy away from innovation and have been extolling the virtues of hydrogen combustion in their prototype construction and agricultural machines.

However, they have now taken this one step further and recently announced that they have installed one of their highly efficient hydrogen engines into a 7.5 tonne Mercedes truck.

The installation was completed in just a few days and one of the truck’s first test drivers was JCB Chairman Anthony Bamford, who has been spearheading JCB’s £100 million hydrogen project. (5)

The former diesel truck at the centre of JCB’s latest project is a breakthrough in hydrogen combustion technology, underlining that this sort of power could represent a much quicker way to reach global CO2 emissions targets.

“This is a giant leap forward for JCB and the rest of the world because we all have one goal: to reduce emissions. The hydrogen engine we have installed in the truck is the same as those already powering prototype JCB machines, so there is no reason we should not see hydrogen combustion engines in vehicles used on the roads in the future, including cars.” Lord Bamford – JCB Chairman (5)

DAF – hydrogen combustion engines and fuel cell technology.

DAF NV have been designing and developing trucks for over 90 years and UK DAF for over 50 years. DAF have long been innovators in the truck development sector and are now part of hydrogen innovation in the heavy-duty sector.

While PACCAR (global technology leader in the design, manufacture and customer support of high-quality light-, medium- and heavy-duty trucks) explores fuel cell technology, DAF UK is developing an ICE to run on hydrogen.

Compared to the fuel cell hydrogen solution, the combustion engine option has transient capabilities (eliminating the need of a large energy storage system). Other advantages include the lower cooling capabilities needed and lower sensitivity to hydrogen purity. (6)

DAF believe that by harnessing the power of hydrogen combustion, they can continue to use existing distribution networks and established infrastructures.

The European truck industry has expressed the aim to refrain from using fossil fuels for their commercial vehicles as from 2040. However, the internal combustion engine still offers huge potential for the future, especially in the heavy-duty long-haul transport sector. (6)

Tevva – hydrogen fuel cell truck technology.

In September 2022 UK truck manufacturer Tevva unveiled their pioneering 19 tonne hydrogen-electric truck.

Tevva’s largest truck to date, the 19-tonne hydrogen-electric model signifies a considerable milestone and highlights the scalability of its technology.

By adding a hydrogen fuel cell system to its battery-electric HGV design, Tevva delivers zero-emission solutions that will work for most fleet operators across various industries and sectors. The fuel cell system tops up the battery, extending the vehicle’s range and allowing the truck to carry heavier loads over longer distances.  With a range of up to 310 miles (500 kilometres) the Tevva hydrogen tanks can be refilled in 10 minutes. (7)

One advantage of using the fuel cell as a range extender rather than the primary power source is that it allows Tevva to provide smaller, cheaper and lighter fuel cells and operate these at the highest possible efficiency. (7)

Hydrogen Vehicle Systems Ltd (HVS) – hydrogen fuel cell technology.

HVS is a new UK-based hydrogen truck manufacturer and innovator in the heavy-duty sector. HVS having initially had a £5M investment from EG Group and subsequently a further £25m; have also benefitted from £15M grant from the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) as part of a wider funding package to support zero emission transport.

In April 2023 HVS unveiled its 40-tonne HGV technology demonstrator, featuring a unique powertrain and radical cab design, making it the first indigenous UK Hydrogen HGV, designed, and built from the ground up. (8)

A reinvention of the commercial vehicle design, the HVS 40 tonne hydrogen fuel cell truck is aimed at optimising range, payload, weight distribution, direct vision, aerodynamics and sports an ergonomically practical cab design. With a range of 370-mile (600 kilometre) range, the HVS truck can also be refuelled in just 20 minutes.

Ilyas Munshi, group commercial director of EG Group, said: “We are committed to driving sustainability across our extensive UK and global fuel forecourt network by investing in HVS trucks, influencing the demand for hydrogen and vehicles in parallel from our large selection of partnerships.” (8)

Despite there still being some resistance to how the United Kingdom can forge ahead with its hydrogen economy, it must be recognised that there are plenty of UK innovators who are embracing the benefits it can bring.

Written by Katy Mason for and on behalf of Dolphin N2.

  1. https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/cbp-9739/
  2. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/energy-security-bill-factsheets/energy-security-bill-factsheet-hydrogen-and-industrial-carbon-capture-business-models
  3. https://hynet.co.uk/
  4. https://auroraer.com/media/ireland-could-produce-cheapest-green-hydrogen-in-europe-by-2030/
  5. https://www.jcb.com/en-gb/campaigns/hydrogen/hydrogen-truck
  6. https://www.daf.co.uk/en-gb/trucks/alternative-fuels-and-drivelines/hydrogen
  7. https://www.tevva.com/en/articles/uk-gets-first-hydrogen-electric-truck-with-landmark-tevva-launch
  8. https://www.hvs.co.uk/about