Hydrogen presents the Forth Valley with a net-zero opportunity. It will play a pivotal role in moving to a low carbon future. Due to its high energy content and good storage properties, hydrogen can be used to decarbonise sectors that can’t be powered by electricity alone. This includes large transport vehicles like trucks, trains or buses and heavy industry or high temperature industrial processes.
Hydrogen is a clean alternative to natural gas. However, while hydrogen is found pretty much everywhere on our planet, it’s rarely found naturally in gas form. This means that it must be manufactured to be used as fuel. There are three main ways hydrogen can be produced as a gas. These different processes produce what is known as ‘green’, ‘blue’ and ‘grey’ hydrogen.
Grey hydrogen uses natural gas to react with steam to form hydrogen. Most hydrogen currently produced globally is made this way. However, it produces carbon dioxide as a by-product. One way to reduce carbon emissions is to combine the process with carbon capture, usage, and storage (CCUS). The resulting hydrogen is low carbon and called blue hydrogen. Green hydrogen is made when a renewable electricity source, like an onshore wind farm, is used to generate the electricity to power an electrolyser which splits water into its two elements – hydrogen and oxygen. Green hydrogen is a low carbon fuel that offers a long term, sustainable alternative to fossil fuels.
To meet our net zero targets, all future hydrogen production will need to be low carbon.
Developing a hydrogen economy in Scotland
Scotland has vast natural resources which can be utilised to develop a thriving hydrogen economy. With the abundance of renewable energy generation, Scotland has the potential to produce sufficient green hydrogen for its domestic market but also for exporting internationally. Onshore and offshore wind, hydro, wave, and tidal energy can all be drawn upon to produce hydrogen for a range of purposes, including rail, shipping, and industries such as distilleries.
Hydrogen and the Forth Valley
Hydrogen isn’t just a net zero opportunity for Scotland. It provides an opportunity to build on, and transition, the expertise in our existing industries – including the oil and gas industry and manufacturing – to create and retain high value jobs and skills in the Forth Valley area.
Local employer INEOS is investing in hydrogen and the use of carbon capture and storage (CCS) using existing oil and gas infrastructure in Scotland. Meanwhile, the transport sector offers the potential for significant adoption of low carbon hydrogen. Local bus manufacturer, Alexander Dennis, is developing a new generation of energy efficient hydrogen buses. Arcola Energy is working with the Hydrogen Accelerator based at the University of St Andrews, to develop a production-ready and safety certified hydrogen powered train. This project is taking place here in the Forth Valley at the Bo’ness and Kinneil Railway, where an existing passenger train, made available by ScotRail, is being converted to hydrogen power.
Contributing to a ‘Just Transition’
The benefits of building a hydrogen economy in Scotland could be significant, aiding the development of Scottish supply chains and the creation of high value jobs and skills across many sectors. It also aligns with the Scottish Government’s climate change target – to be net zero by 2045 – and its commitment to develop an inclusive, net-zero, green economy. Building on Scotland’s existing infrastructure, skills and expertise, the development of domestic hydrogen production offers an opportunity to achieve the Scottish Governments aim of a ‘just transition’ away from reliance on fossil fuels and towards the goal of net zero in a way that benefits all of Scotland’s citizens.
Find out more about the different ‘colours’ of hydrogen and the role it will play in our transition to net-zero here.
To find out more about the Scottish Schools’ Hydrogen Challenge to create the most efficient green hydrogen-powered mini vehicle, take a look here.