Wales can lay claim to a special place in the hydrogen economy, with the hydrogen fuel cell being invented in 1842 by none other than William Grove of Swansea.
If he were alive today, Sir William (as he became) might be slightly bemused by our current references to green hydrogen, blue hydrogen, grey hydrogen, yellow hydrogen, brown hydrogen and even turquoise hydrogen – but delighted that the time has finally come for this clean low-carbon gas to take what many predict to be a leading role in the way we power our industry, fuel our transport and heat our homes.
Pan-Wales Pilots, Projects & Programmes
Given this pioneering pan-Wales activity – involving stand-alone and collaborative projects by industry, academia and government – it’s no surprise that hydrogen is already being mooted as a key pillar in the Welsh Government’s Low Carbon Delivery Plan (LCDP), due to be unveiled in November 2021.
Laying the foundations right now for scale-up and commercial deployment
Hydrogen is increasingly recognised around the world as a key fuel in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and across Wales, hydrogen development is already driving and informing many of our key renewable energy initiatives. From HyNet’s advanced plans in the north east, Menter Môn’s hydrogen hub ambitions in Anglesey, the Port of Mostyn tidal lagoon and Snowdonia Aerospace Centre projects in the north – to the Milford Haven Energy Kingdom and University of South Wales’ projects in Pembrokeshire, hydrogen development is on the move. In Mid Wales, clean energy car manufacturer Riversimple is leading from the front with its hydrogen-fuelled cars. In South east Wales a plethora of projects are underway with hydrogen at their heart, including Cardiff University’s Gas Turbine Research Centre in Port Talbot, Tarmac’s project at Aberthaw Cement Works, and Welsh Water’s programme at its Cardiff Waste Treatment Works, to name just a few. The Hydrogen Pathway
The eagerly-awaited LCDP will build on the direction of the Welsh Government report published in January 2021 and updated in April, which effectively set out a pathway for developing the hydrogen energy sector as a vital component in our transformation towards net zero – playing a central role in activities to 2025, focusing on short-term actions whilst starting to plan for large-scale projects in the mid-to-long-term.
The proposed hydrogen pathway for Wales is built around ten key objectives, each aimed at generating momentum in the Welsh hydrogen sector – and laying the foundations for scale-up and commercial deployment from the end of the 2020s. This pathway covers both hydrogen supply and end use, focusing on short-term opportunities where the commercial case is more developed, concentrating on ten areas of activity.
Deployment of 200 fuel cell buses in a town, city or region in Wales.
Fuel cell buses have already been trialled across the UK, with the technology already proven and ready for deployment in larger fleets – creating a consistent demand for low-carbon hydrogen and helping Wales meet its target for all buses to be zero-emission by 2028.
Establishing Wales as an early market for commercial fuel cell vehicles.
Hydrogen fuel cell vans and trucks are at an earlier stage of development than buses, but initiatives to coordinate demand for them are already underway at a UK level. These include plans to develop standard specifications for vehicles, enabling them to be purchased at a scale that will attract manufacturers to bring fuel cell vans and trucks to our market, preparing Wales for large-scale deployments.
Supporting hydrogen-fuelled vehicle manufacturers.
Wales is already home to the revolutionary Riversimple company – designer and and manufacturer of fuel-cell electric vehicles – giving us the know-how and technology to scale a sector that is sure to mature significantly from 2030 onwards.
Attracting vehicle integrators to Wales.
There’s currently a lack of fuel cell vehicle options offered by vehicle manufacturers – providing an opportunity for vehicle integrators who can convert existing diesel or battery electric vehicles into hydrogen dual fuel or fuel cell range-extender vehicles.
A renewable hydrogen production site of 10+MW by 2023/24
Wales has the opportunity to establish at least one hydrogen production site within the next two years – if we can make the business case that there's sufficient demand for low-carbon hydrogen from the transport sector
Deploying fuel cell trains.
Replacing diesel trains with hydrogen fuel cell trains has huge potential to provide a decarbonised solution for Wales, harmonising future rolling stock orders with the UK Government’s target for no diesel-only trains by 2040 and the broader Net Zero 2050 target. A renewable hydrogen production site of 10+MW by 2023/24. Wales has the opportunity to establish at least one hydrogen production site within the next two years – if we can make the business case that there’s sufficient demand for low-carbon hydrogen from the transport sector.
Scoping large-scale hydrogen production sites.
Hydrogen provides a route to decarbonisation for many difficult-to-decarbonise sectors. Given the time to develop hydrogen production at scale, we have the opportunity to begin planning low carbon/renewable hydrogen production and delivery facilities in parallel with deployment of the initial smaller scale plants.
Supporting industrial decarbonisation through skills development and R&D.
There’s a need for further research and development into how our industrial clusters can best decarbonise – and a skills gap to bridge for industrial fuel switching and the wider scale use of hydrogen as a fuel for industry. This presents Wales with an opportunity to develop world-class industrial decarbonisation expertise – exporting those skills and associated training to wherever needed.
Supporting local projects and place-based approaches.
Developing hydrogen projects creates opportunities to engage with communities and opportunities in all parts of Wales.
Ongoing engagement with other hydrogen initiatives.
There is a range of existing hydrogen initiatives that will further develop the hydrogen sector in our region – bringing opportunities to attract investment in manufacturing/ assembly plants for hydrogen-fuelled appliances, taking advantage of the existing skills base and supporting the growth of indigenous SMEs as they diversify into hydrogen activities throughout the value chain. Realising the vision for Hydrogen across Wales
It is accepted that the overall level of real-world trials and deployment of hydrogen in energy applications across Wales as a whole remains relatively low. The hydrogen energy sector is not yet fully commercialised, with most projects typically relying on public funding.
The race to net zero is the catalyst that is about to change all that, with the pipeline of potential opportunities expanding significantly quarter by quarter. Collaborations between SMEs, academia and the industrial clusters can be built-in confidence, given the proven depth of existing hydrogen experience providing a solid foundation for further development of energy applications. The recent establishment of the South Wales Industrial Cluster and HyCymru (the trade association for the Welsh hydrogen economy) will only further increase the collaborations, knowledge-share and innovation.
Wales holds competitive advantages in the safe generation, storage, transport and use of hydrogen (mainly as an industrial gas) – with a strong infrastructure, well-placed ports and a significant oil and gas presence providing a core skills base that can be deployed towards the emerging hydrogen activities, at scale.
We have the ingredients for an all-Wales approach that connects rural and marine resources with urban populations and industrial areas.
The time for Hydrogen in Wales is now