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Glasgow hydrogen fuel storage project gets cash injection

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A ‘first-of-a-kind’ hydrogen storage project near Glasgow has been backed by nearly £10 million in UK government funding, which it says will help create high-skilled jobs and drive progress towards decarbonising the UK transport sector.

The £9.4 million cash boost will see the Whitelee green hydrogen project develop the UK’s largest electrolyser, a system which converts water into hydrogen gas as a way to store energy. It will be located alongside ScottishPower’s Whitelee Windfarm, the largest of its kind in the UK, and will produce and store hydrogen to supply local transport providers with zero-carbon fuel.

Developed by ITM Power and BOC, in conjunction with ScottishPower’s Hydrogen division, the state-of-the-art facility will be able to produce enough green hydrogen per day – 2.5 to 4 tonnes – that, once stored, could provide the equivalent of enough zero-carbon fuel for 225 buses travelling to and from Glasgow and Edinburgh each day.

The announcement follows COP26, the global climate change summit held in Glasgow earlier this month, and supports the city’s ambition to become net zero by 2030. The Whitelee project will be the UK’s largest power-to hydrogen energy storage project, using an electrolyser powered by the renewable energy from the Whitelee Windfarm. This will create green hydrogen, a zero-carbon gas that is produced via electrolysis (splitting) of water, using renewable power.

Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Hands said: “This first-of-a-kind hydrogen facility will put Scotland at the forefront of plans to make the UK a world-leading hydrogen economy, bringing green jobs to Glasgow, while also helping to decarbonise local transport – all immediately following the historic COP26 talks. Projects like these will be vital as we shift to a green electricity grid, helping us get the full benefit from our world-class renewables, supporting the UK as we work to eliminate the UK’s contribution to climate change.”

Secretary of State for Scotland Alister Jack said: “This tremendous investment at Whitelee Windfarm illustrates how serious the UK government is about supporting projects that will see us achieve net zero by 2050. In the weeks following COP26 in Glasgow, it has never been more important to champion projects like this one, which embraces new hydrogen technology while creating highly-skilled jobs. We can, and will, achieve a greener, cleaner future.”

Graham Cooley, CEO of ITM Power Ltd, said: ‘We are very pleased to be a partner in Green Hydrogen for Scotland and this first project, Green Hydrogen for Glasgow, will see the deployment of the largest electrolyser to date in the UK.”

Jim Mercer, Business President, BOC UK & Ireland said: “The Green Hydrogen for Glasgow project is both innovative and exciting. It will help to shape the future of energy storage and demonstrate the value of hydrogen to Scotland’s growing low-carbon economy. This project will accelerate development across multiple disciplines – from production and storage, to transportation and end use.”

Barry Carruthers, ScottishPower Hydrogen Director, said: “This blend of renewable electricity generation and green hydrogen production promises to highlight the multiple ways in which society can decarbonise by using these technologies here and now. Building on the government’s plans to make the UK a world-leading hydrogen economy and ensure the sector has the skilled workforce it needs, an additional £2.25 million in new government funding will support the development of hydrogen skills and standards in the UK.

“This funding, under the Net Zero Innovation Portfolio, will see the British Standards Institution (BSI) develop technical standards for hydrogen products, and a consortium comprising Energy and Utility Skills and the Institution of Gas Engineers and Managers, will establish new standards and training specifications to facilitate the training of hydrogen gas installers.”

Infrastructure crucial to future of hydrogen-powered panel van fleets

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The rate of growth of the hydrogen refuelling infrastructure is likely to dictate which power option many fleets choose for panel vans over the next few years, says FleetCheck.

The fleet software specialist points out that, for some fleets, the EV panel vans now on sale require considerable operational compromise, which hydrogen could potentially solve.

Peter Golding, managing director at FleetCheck, said: “For fleets that carry low-medium weights in urban environments over short-medium distances, an electric panel van is a good solution, and there are a wide range of options becoming available on the market.

“However, if you currently move more than a tonne payload 200-300 miles in a day, up and down motorways, they are much less practical. In winter, completing that kind of working day could require not just an overnight charge but a couple of additional charges.

“That is why hydrogen is being talked about more and more by operators, and was a major source of conversation at the recent CV Show, with the hydrogen Vivaro on the Vauxhall stand due for arrival in 2023 a particular source of speculation. Because it can be refuelled with the speed and ease of a diesel vehicle, while providing similar range, it potentially solves those specific operational problems to which EVs are arguably not well suited.”

Golding added that there were two barriers to hydrogen adoption for panel van operators – cost and the current absence of hydrogen fuelling stations across most areas of the country.

“Something like the Vivaro will have to be manufactured in quite large numbers to make its purchase price and running costs viable. That could happen but will only occur if there is a usefully large refuelling infrastructure in place and there just isn’t at present.

“Of course, we will need widespread growth of hydrogen stations within a number of years because hydrogen will almost certainly be the motive power for bus and truck decarbonisation by 2040, but shorter-term provision is much more uncertain. Even the hydrogen buses now in operation are being depot-fuelled, I understand.

“In a very real sense, whether fleets ultimately end up using hydrogen or battery electric power for medium panels vans will very much be dictated by the speed of growth of the hydrogen infrastructure. There is little question that hydrogen itself is a better operational solution but only if you can actually get hold of fuel with relative ease.”

A further question, Golding added, would be whether van manufacturers would be able to call on sufficient resources to develop electric and hydrogen drive trains side-by-side.

“The switch to electrification is already creating a demand for massive investment in new technology for manufacturers. Whether they have an appetite to do the same for hydrogen in parallel must be very much open to question, despite its potential advantages.”