Glasgow to host ‘first of a kind’ hydrogen storage system

A project to store hydrogen made using power from the UK’s largest onshore wind farm will proceed following a £9.4m cash injection from the government.

The ‘green hydrogen’ project, close to ScottishPower’s 539-megawatt, 215-turbine Whitelee Windfarm near Glasgow, will employ the UK’s largest electrolyser to covert water into hydrogen for local transport providers. 

It will contribute to the city’s ambition to be net zero by 2030 - 15 years ahead of the Scottish target  and 20 ahead of the UK as a whole.

The project is being developed by ITM Power and BOC, together with ScottishPower’s hydrogen division, and will be able to produce between 2.5 and four tonnes of the gas each day. At the top end, that would be enough to fuel 225 buses travelling between Glasgow and Edinburgh each day.

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“This first-of-a-kind hydrogen facility will put Scotland at the forefront of plans to make the UK a world-leading hydrogen economy, bringing green jobs to Glasgow, while also helping to decarbonise local transport – all immediately following the historic COP26 talks,” said energy and climate change minister Greg Hands. 

Jim Mercer, business president for BOC UK & Ireland, said the project would "accelerate hydrogen development “across multiple disciplines – from production and storage, to transportation and end use”.

Funding for the hydrogen storage facility comes from the ‘Storage at Scale’ competition, run by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

The department has also announced a further £2.25m for the development of hydrogen skills and standards, under its net zero innovation portfolio. The British Standards Institution will work on technical standards for hydrogen products, while two professional institutions - the Institution of Gas Engineers and Managers, and Energy and Utility Skills - will establish new standards and training specifications.

Meanwhile, engineering firm Johnson Matthey intends to invest £50m in a new hydrogen fuel cell factory at its base in Royston, Hertfordshire, having decided to quit developing battery technologies.

The Sunday Times reports that the factory will be partly funded through a £12m grant from BEIS and would be able to turn out 3GW of capacity each year, creating many jobs in turn.

Though not in position to confirm the funding has been secured, the firm’s chief executive Robert MacLeod said: “As the market for hydrogen grows rapidly, the requirement to produce hydrogen via the electrolysis of water and for fuel cells will increase demand for our key components. As a result, we are planning our future manufacturing requirements. This includes plans for further manufacturing capacity in Royston and we are grateful for all support from the UK government.”

The firm made the shock announcement that returns from its high nickel cathode battery materials business “will not be adequate to justify further investment” earlier this month. While demand is accelerating, “so is competition from alternative technologies and other manufacturers. Consequently this is rapidly turning into a high volume, commoditised market,” a statement added.

It came only two days after Johnson Matthey pledged to invest £1bn in hydrogen technologies by 2030, both for fuel cells and in hydrogen production. It joined the likes of Shell, Siemens and BP in forming the H2Zero initiative on growing the global hydrogen market, formed under the aegis of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and the Sustainable Markets Initiative. The company also signed deals last week to supply high-efficiency catalyst-coated membranes for electrolysers made by other firms.

“Our hope is that these combined pledges spark investments in supply and inspire other users to transition to hydrogen,” said Claire O’Neill, senior advisor at WBCSD and who was once expected to preside over COP26 until Alok Sharma replaced her.

Cold storage

The second winner of the Storage at Scale competition is Highview Enterprises’ ‘CRYOBattery’ liquefied air energy storage system, which will be able to output just under 50MW over five hours. It will “demonstrate that at-scale, cryogenic energy storage can deliver clean, smart and flexible power, utilising local supply chains (where possible) during construction and operation, thereby creating and securing jobs in the North West region,” according to a statement.

It could be a cheaper alternative to battery storage, such as lithium ion, lead acid or molten salt technology, while also avoiding the use of rare metals.