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Building the Hydrogen Economy

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By Tam Bardell

Energy Development Manager

Port of Milford Haven.

 

Pembrokeshire will play a critical part in the UK’s net zero carbon future. It is already home to a nationally critical energy hub based around the Milford Haven Waterway. The oil and gas industries are well established with a high-skill supply chain and key energy infrastructure. Paired with world-class wave, tidal and floating wind development opportunities off the Pembrokeshire coastline and with new facilities for innovation and development coming online with the Pembroke Dock Marine project, it’s not hard to see why there’s so much interest around Pembrokeshire’s energy future.

Bringing hydrogen into the mix is an obvious next step. Hydrogen is one of the planet’s most abundant elements and will surely play a critical role in helping reach net zero targets and ensuring our future energy use is as clean as possible.

With the Haven Waterway’s clear strength in hydrocarbon-based energy, there are significant opportunities for blue hydrogen which are being explored by business and industry, particularly through ongoing projects and collaborations. But, green hydrogen is also on the table here.

Demand for green energy is increasing and the Waterway can deliver, especially given its proximity to the Celtic Sea Floating Offshore Wind (FLOW) opportunity. Hydrogen has the potential to unlock the stability and supply issues faced by the industry and realise green energy’s full potential.

One of the region’s key initiatives is looking at these issues in more depth. MH:EK (Milford Haven: Energy Kingdom) is a collaborative project, led by Pembrokeshire County Council partnered with the Port of Milford Haven, Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult, Riversimple and Wales & West Utilities and ably supported by Arup and the Energy Systems Catapult. Input and support are provided by RWE, Simply Blue Energy, Western Power Distribution, Community Energy Pembrokeshire, and the Welsh Government Energy Service. The project is exploring the role zero carbon hydrogen will play alongside renewable electricity to meet future energy needs for heating, industry, power generation and fuelling transport.

MH:EK is considering what a decarbonised smart local energy system could look like and is using some of the Waterway’s principal sites to explore this. The project is hosting practical demonstrations to showcase hydrogen technology.

A pioneering hydrogen electrolyser and refuelling station for fuel cell cars has been installed at one of the Waterway’s most popular destinations, Milford Waterfront. It uses renewable electricity to create, store and dispense hydrogen. Welsh firm Riversimple has two prototype ‘RASA’ cars here on trial, demonstrating hydrogen as a zero-carbon transport solution. To demonstrate hydrogen as a heating solution, a world-first smart hydrogen hybrid heating system has been installed at the Port of Milford Haven’s headquarters. It comprises smart controls, an air source heat pump powered by renewable electricity, and a hydrogen ready boiler. The boiler can kick in when the property needs a boost during cold weather, or if the local electricity network is constrained. These projects are important for proving the ability of hydrogen to play a crucial role in two critical energy challenges; decarbonising heating and transport.

It is becoming increasingly clear that hydrogen has a vital role to play in supporting the renewable energy sector to decarbonise energy supply and is likely to be the cheapest and least disruptive route to net zero carbon both in the UK and around the world.

This simple and abundant element will have a lot to offer us over the next few decades. Bringing down the cost of production and making it a part of our energy mix as soon as possible will allow decarbonisation to be achieved at the lowest possible cost to UK Plc.