Green hydrogen is a sustainable form of hydrogen production and could help decarbonize the UK’s transport sector by switching to these less environmentally damaging fuels than hydrogen alone or fossil fuels. ScottishPower has announced plans for a new green hydrogen plant at the Port of Felixstowe in Suffolk, UK to speed up this process and reduce carbon emissions.
Image Credit: SciPhi.tv/Shutterstock.com
Hydrogen is an alternative fuel under the Energy Policy Act of 1992. It shows great potential as an alternative transport fuel, since it can power fuel cells in zero-emission vehicles, offering production value and efficiency at scale.
How is Green Hydrogen Created?
Hydrogen can be derived from natural gas, so it is not always considered green or sustainable unless water is split with electricity with oxygen and hydrogen separated, where hydrogen can be used in vehicles. When solar, wind, or any renewable energy can be used in this process, it is considered sustainable and termed green hydrogen.
Green hydrogen is created by utilizing renewable energy electricity to trigger electrolysis which splits water into hydrogen and oxygen. After the gas is burned to create power, only water vapor and warm air is expelled, instead of harmful greenhouse gases that exacerbate global warming.
Many academics have investigated green hydrogen in research and development and commercial industries for its potential to decrease fuel costs and carbon emissions, allowing a transition to cleaner fuels.
Green Hydrogen Plant Plans
In a £150 million project, ScottishPower is building a green hydrogen plant at the Port of Felixstowe in Suffolk, which is projected to bring in 100 megawatts of power by 2026.
The news comes after an application was submitted to the government’s Net Zero Hydrogen Fund, which provides backing for low-carbon hydrogen projects for the next three years.
ScottishPower estimated the project could cost between £100-150 million. With the future facility around the size of a football pitch, the green hydrogen produced at the plant will be harnessed to power travel infrastructure such as trains, trucks and ships, which traditionally rely on fossil fuels which worsen global warming and drive climate change.
What Could the Impact Be?
The proposals for the new facility are in response to an increased demand for green fuel, which has increased since petrol and diesel prices increased one year ago and as the concerns around the climate crisis grow.
ScottishPower outlines its vision for the facility on its website, explaining that green hydrogen could not only help to decarbonize the busiest port in the UK, but it could also help to speed up the low carbon transition of the UK’s transport industry, particularly its heavy transport.
Transport has been reported by the Department of Transport’s Transport and Environment Statistics 2021 Annual report to be the largest emitting sector of greenhouse gases, contributing 27% of total UK emissions in 2019.
The most significant contributors were cars and taxis, though heavy goods vehicles (HGVS) accounted for 18% of road transport emissions, and vans were responsible for 17% of these emissions, where these emissions from vans showed a stark increase of 65% since 1990.
Prioritizing Green Hydrogen
In April 2022, the UK Green Alliance announced a briefing for the prioritization of hydrogen use for UK transport, stating, “‘Green’ hydrogen, produced through electrolysis using renewable electricity, offers the largest emissions reductions compared to other forms of hydrogen energy. Scaling it up should be prioritised over ‘blue’ hydrogen – made using natural gas and carbon capture and storage (CCS) – which could lock us into reliance on fossil fuels in decades to come.”
ScottishPower will supply hydrogen to the vehicles and machinery used by the Port of Flexistowe, which is partially used by thousands of heavy goods vehicles each year.
ScottishPower is simultaneously creating a smaller-scale hydrogen outlet at Whitelee, near Glasgow, Britain’s largest onshore windfarm, in collaboration with Sheffield’s ITM Power.
A 20MW electrolyzer will create hydrogen by 2023 and is predicted to generate as much as 8 tons of green hydrogen per day, which is enough to power 1300 hydrogen trucks. This would allow the green hydrogen’s impact to go further as green ammonia can also be produced from the green hydrogen, which has many uses in agriculture.
Barry Carruthers, the hydrogen director at ScottishPower, said to the Guardian in article: “The strength of demand from the port itself, logistics and distribution companies and rail freight companies has given use the confidence to press ahead with this facility. This is a big, industrial scale project that we’re doing at pace.
“The cost of hydrogen is now comparable with diesel so this can be cheaper and cleaner for customers. The market has given us a really good glide path.”
These plans are very important for bringing hydrogen to scale in the UK transport sector, helping to transition the sector to a greener future. Many steps lie ahead for the project’s development, and the potential for international exports is also likely to be explored later.
References and Further Reading
Iberdrola. Green hydrogen: an alternative that reduces emissions and cares for our planet. Available at: https://www.iberdrola.com/sustainability/green-hydrogen
ScottishPower build 150m green hydrogen plant. The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/aug/08/scottishpower-build-150m-green-hydrogen-plant-port-felixstowe
ScottishPower vision for green hydrogen fuels hub at port of felixstowe. Available at: https://www.scottishpower.com/news/pages/scottishpower_vision_for_green_hydrogen_fuels_hub_at_port_of_felixstowe.aspx
Department for Transport. Transport and Environment Statistics 2021 Annual report. Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/984685/transport-and-environment-statistics-2021.pdf
Green Alliance. Prioritising hydrogen use for UK transport April 2022. Available at: https://green-alliance.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/Prioritising-hydrogen-use-for-UK-transport.pdf