While vehicle manufacturers continue to develop battery electric trucks for short and middle distance operators, hydrogen-powered fuel-cell drive is seen by some as the best solution to decarbonising long-haul road transport.
As a result, companies have been making a series of investments in UK hydrogen production and infrastructure, demonstrating their confidence in this particular form of green energy.
Earlier this month, BP and BOC revealed their joint venture in a hydrogen refuelling network for HGVs across the UK, following a nine-month feasibility study. The companies said they are now “exploring opportunities to collaborate to design and deploy an initial network” in the UK.
The feasibility study looked at the various options for hydrogen distribution, dispensing costs and station design and concluded the best way to stimulate operator demand for the fuel, at least in the short term, is to distribute hydrogen as a compressed gas via road trailer.
Over the longer term, the study found that as the market expands, both liquid and gaseous hydrogen have a potential role to play.
In the UK, BP has plans to build a blue hydrogen production facility in Teesside, which could produce 1GW of hydrogen split from natural gas via the use of steam, alongside carbon capture and storage.
Richard Harding, BP Senior Vice President portfolio and integration, said: “Customers in hard-to-abate sectors such as heavy-duty transport are demanding low carbon alternative fuels. They need and want to decarbonise.
“Cutting HGV emissions requires new infrastructure, and by bringing together our technical expertise, understanding of the supply chain, and insights from our customers, I am confident that together we can do more to drive change at pace for our customers.”
Another solution is mobile refuelling, with hydrogen provider NanoSUN developing its own refueller – the Pioneer Mobile Hydrogen Refuelling Station (HRS) – which can be carried by road trailer.
As a fully mobile self-contained and automated solution in a single ISO container, carrying about 350kg of hydrogen on-board, the HRS enables rapid deployment of hydrogen to vehicle fleets without the need to install a fixed refuelling station.
Typical refuel times of about 15 to 20 minutes can be expected for large hydrogen buses and hydrogen trucks.
Dean O’Connor, NanoSUN’s Chief Executive said: “The Pioneer’s capacity to deliver multiple rapid full fills to hydrogen vehicle fleets offers the vital element needed if we’re to get the transport industry to a clean, green future fast.”
Meanwhile, Iveco has signed a memorandum of understanding with gas firm Air Liquide to investigate and study the potential roll-out of heavy-duty, fuel-cell electric long-haul trucks, along with the deployment of a network of refuelling stations across Europe.
The companies are currently working together on a project in the South of France to develop fuel-cell electric 44-tonne trucks that can use hydrogen refuelling stations.
Luca Sra, Designated President at Iveco Group, said: “We are committed to the development of a hydrogen economy and are excited to collaborate with Air Liquide in researching the most effective way to provide operators with this sustainable alternative transport fuel.”
One company looking to accelerate its portfolio of green hydrogen projects is energy company Protium, which recently secured funding of more than £40.5m, including from Swen and Barclays.
This includes its flagship project in Magor, South Wales, with Budweiser and its 40MW green hydrogen project in Teesside.
The project at Magor would build the first large-scale hydrogen generation system at a brewery that will fuel production, HGVs and forklifts.
Protium intends to significantly scale-up its teams regionally throughout the UK and also across Europe.
Chris Jackson, CEO and Founder of Protium, said: “The expertise and resources provided by Swen and Barclays will help to accelerate the deployment of green hydrogen infrastructure and enable our partners to achieve their net zero goals faster.
“It is also a vote of confidence for green hydrogen, which we hope will catalyse other business and investors to push forward with us towards a cleaner, more sustainable future.”
Element 2 is also building a network of hydrogen refuelling stations to enable the rapid transition of heavy road vehicles and municipal fleets to a zero carbon, zero emissions future.
The hydrogen refuelling business has agreed with Riversimple, the hydrogen-powered vehicle manufacturer, to purchase and take over operation of its hydrogen refuelling station in Abergavenny, Wales.
In addition, the partnership will see Element 2 supply hydrogen fuel, storage and pumps at mobile and fixed refuelling stations for Riversimple’s existing and future customers.
The intention is to provide refuelling for all hydrogen vehicles across the UK
Tim Harper, Chief Executive Officer at Element 2, said: “We’re looking forward to working in collaboration with Riversimple to significantly grow the hydrogen vehicle economy.
“It’s an important step in our roadmap to building the national hydrogen refuelling network needed for achieving the UK’s carbon zero targets.”
In August 2021, the government confirmed plans to support hydrogen use in transport with a £23m Hydrogen for Transport Programme that will look to expand cleaner hydrogen options for the UK, and will help the government move towards a net zero future in 2050.
First Hydrogen is among the companies bidding for funds via £240m Net Zero Hydrogen Fund by run the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, with two projects in Manchester and the Thames Estuary which aim to have an initial capacity of 40 MW each.
Nicholas Wrigley, Executive Chairman at First Hydrogen Group, said: “These sites will ultimately supply our automotive customers with a guaranteed supply of green hydrogen, which is critical to the adoption of hydrogen mobility and creating a zero-emission transport sector.”
There are signs that investment in technology from specialist firms and manufacturers, coupled with funding support from government and financial institutions, is building momentum for long-haul hydrogen transport infrastructure that is fit for the future.