Thames Estuary Kickstarts Hydrogen Revolution

The Thames Estuary has the potential to be the catalyst and driving force behind the UK’s hydrogen revolution. No other region has the right ingredients of the right infrastructure, the right location, the right pipeline of major projects and the right partners to make hydrogen use a reality.

The Thames Estuary Growth Board brought together all of the key partners together to set out the vision and the opportunity at a recent an industry-led Hydrogen Supplier Day. Held in partnership with Lower Thames Crossing and Thames Freeport and supported by our advisors Ikigai, the event showcased the technologies and products that are available to support the Estuary in region’s journey to net zero.

Partners across the region are highly committed to working together to make the vision a reality. This starts with the Lower Thames Crossing which has ambitions to be UK’s greenest ever road starting with the materials and machinery which will be used to build it.

Participants at the event included senior figures from across the whole hydrogen value chain including investors, technology providers, vehicle and equipment manufacturers, operators of supply infrastructure, education and training organisations, regulators and central government. 

In February 2022, the Lower Thames Crossing announced its ambitions to be the first carbon neutral project of its kind in the UK. The Estuary is rising to this challenge and companies are coming together to develop the supply chains and resources to make sure the project achieves these ambitions.

Delegates and industry experts discussed the regulatory environment, skills development, investment into the region’s numerous hydrogen clusters, and financing vehicles and equipment, with a view to accelerating deployment and de-risking investment. 

As the UK’s number one government-backed growth opportunity, the Thames Estuary region boasts many opportunities where hydrogen would be the best clean power alternative to fossil fuels (heavy goods vehicles, port operations, industrial applications, maritime and aviation uses) at scale which will benefit the region and UK. 

Setting out the green, growth ambitions for the region, Chair of the Thames Freeport and Estuary Envoy, Kate Willard OBE shared some of the actions the Growth Board has taken to date to accelerate development and investment in hydrogen, including:

  • In collaboration with Thames Freeport, the Growth Board has in partnership with the Freeport, convened a working group of senior decision makers and local stakeholders to ensure the opportunities presented by the Freeport to drive demand for alternatives to fossil fuels, such as hydrogen, are grasped fully.
  • The Growth Board launched the ‘H2 Living Lab’ programme, with the Manufacturing Technology Centre, to support the development and commercialisation of the next generation of innovative products that will support the transition to net zero.
  • The Growth Board has signed a partnership with gas network operations, Cadent, SGN and National Grid as part of their Capital Hydrogen project with a focus on East London which is the largest hydrogen demand-led cluster identified in the Hydrogen Route Map.
  • The Board’s sponsorship of a hydrogen supplier consortium which aims to maximise the region’s potential to decarbonise, increase the scale of UK manufacturing and demonstrate the scale of the opportunity internationally.
  • Convening a working group comprising the Maritime and Coast Guards Agency, the Port of London Authority and HSE to address regulatory challenges in the handling and use of alternative fuels in the Estuary, through practical development using real-life projects.
  • Further announcements regarding hydrogen, logistics and aviation are expected later this year.

A consortium of suppliers based in the Estuary has been established, to support projects in the region and to maximise the potential to decarbonise, increase the scale of UK manufacturing and demonstrate the scale of the opportunity internationally.

Kate Willard OBE, Chair of the Thames Estuary Growth Board and Estuary Envoy said “The potential for hydrogen is huge. I am delighted that we are bringing investors, businesses, and national partners together to have these important conversations, bringing people together to get market ready and realise our net zero ambitions.”

“The Lower Thames Crossing shares the Board’s green values and has set the target of being a carbon neutral construction pathfinder project, leading the industry by example and aiming to be the first carbon neutral project of its kind. This is one of a series of events we are holding in partnership to ensure that the supply chain can support these net zero ambitions. The Estuary is a brilliant testbed for solving national issues whether that is hydrogen supply and distribution, hydrogen-powered vehicles and equipment, or making better use of our waterways and is a real driving force both nationally and globally.”  

We want to change the paradigm around large construction projects being bad for the environment” explained Matt Palmer, CEO at Lower Thames Crossing. “We are a pathfinder project exploring carbon neutral construction providing a lead to the wider construction industry. The industry has a huge decarbonisation challenge, and a project like Lower Thames Crossing can lead by example.  Hydrogen is a vital part of our emerging approach to energy, and we are really excited by the way the projects supply chain is rising to the challenge.”

Introducing the consortium Paul Turner, Managing Director of CMB Tech said “The hydrogen supplier consortium is a group of UK based industry players within the hydrogen sector who can provide the construction sector with an end-to-end hydrogen solution, covering hydrogen production and logistics, construction equipment, generators, road transport and maritime assets. The supplier consortium will utilise planned hydrogen production and import into the Thames Estuary coupled with the developments of off-highway refuelling to provide a cost-effective low carbon fuel to support a range of mono-fuel and dual-fuel applications, providing low capital cost machines for the high power and demanding operating conditions of a large infrastructure construction site.”

Martin Whiteley, CEO of Thames Freeport said “As well as offering attractive business incentives and significant amount of shovel-ready land for development, the freeport has a mandate support levelling up, innovation and moving to Net zero. Thames Freeport stands ready to play a leading role in developing the region’s hydrogen ecosystem. We are delighted to be working with the Thames Estuary Growth Board to identify the opportunities across our sites for production, supply, refuelling and end use and how this will support the region’s hydrogen ecosystem.”

Helena Anderson, Advisor to the Thames Estuary Growth Board and Co-founder of Ikigai, said “Hydrogen will play a key role in helping us reach our net zero targets. The Thames Estuary is an exciting proposition given the scale of the demand for hydrogen and its applications to decarbonise key sectors fundamental for the economy of the Estuary – heavy vehicles, port equipment, construction, maritime and aviation uses are here in abundance which creates significant opportunities for investors looking to support the deployment of infrastructure for the hydrogen economy.”

The Hydrogen Supplier Day is a key part of realising the potential set out in the Thames Estuary Growth Board’s Hydrogen Route Map which focusses on the Thames Estuary’s unique opportunities to develop hydrogen power to support a range of sectors including construction, transport (road, maritime and air), and industry; and contribute to the UK’s hydrogen economy and net zero ambitions.

Thames Estuary Hydrogen Route Map shows that the region has the capacity to support a hydrogen economy that will create 9,000 jobs, generating £3bn in GVA and driving £2.2bn investment in production capacity, whilst delivering national economic and environmental benefits.


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