Scotland offers one of the best opportunities for industrial scale clean hydrogen production in Europe.
There are many reasons that Scotland is the right choice for companies looking to develop hydrogen energy solutions. None more so than the fact that we have the raw energy potential, infrastructure and supply chain to support the move towards the production and management of green and blue hydrogen at scale. With large quantities of hydrogen produced, it provides the potential to export the excess hydrogen to other markets.
The obvious is that hydrogen brings is an environmental one – to decarbonise polluting industries. It’s projected that up to 20% of a European Union member states’ carbon reduction targets could be achieved by 2030, using hydrogen.
In Scotland, alongside transport, hydrogen is also being researched to support the drive towards decarbonising the heat sector (heating of homes and businesses) and industry, which is a major cause of carbon usage.
Another, perhaps less obvious opportunity is the vast potential market that will be open to companies able to develop hydrogen at scale using green technology. Transport and heat sectors would provide lucrative opportunities, but other high energy industries such as steel making, petroleum refining or ammonia production for fertilisers could be massive consumers of the energy produced.
In Scotland, there are significant renewable energy assets (wind, wave and tidal) which are increasingly being harnessed. If used as green energy sources, to help generate the hydrogen needed for tomorrow’s world, the economic opportunity is there for not only the companies involved but also the country too.
And with a history of oil and gas production and refinement, there's plentiful pieces of the infrastructure puzzle already in place that could be adapted for hydrogen production.
- Green hydrogen – produced using electrolysis from electricity generated from a renewable source, such as wind, solar, wave or tidal technologies
- Blue hydrogen – produced through the pressurised heating of natural gas, which releases the hydrogen. Carbon dioxide (a climate change gas) is also released in the production of blue hydrogen, but it’s then captured and stored using carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies
- Grey hydrogen – this is effectively the same as blue hydrogen production but without the use of carbon capture above. This makes up 90% of the hydrogen in production today.
Hydrogen can then be used to produce energy in two main ways. Either through a fuel cell which converts energy to electricity and heat and is seen as the primary means of decarbonising heavy transport, or it can be combusted to produce heat, much like natural gas is used to heat our homes and businesses today. In both cases the only waste product is water when the hydrogen used is green hydrogen.
Hydrogen energy offers enormous potential benefits, however there are challenges in achieving these benefits. In the case of green hydrogen, it’s estimated that it could take at least 10 years to develop production at scale to be fully commercial.
For blue hydrogen, the capture and storage of carbon dioxide will be needed to make it environmentally suitable when carried out at scale. This requires carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology which is still in its infancy. Grey hydrogen, on the other hand, is harmful to the environment, so if anything, it should be phased out in the future.
These challenges are significant, but work has already begun in shifting the dial to move Scotland towards a low carbon future, with hydrogen set to play a vital role.
With climate change at a tipping point globally,
we have limited time to act.
But there’s new hope on the horizon.
Think green hydrogen, then think Scotland.
Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, but on Earth it’s bound up to form water and other molecules. Hydrogen, when “extracted” from these molecules in a clean and green way, can be an excellent zero-carbon energy carrier that can be stored in large quantities for use when needed, very much as natural gas is today.
Scotland is rethinking the future, shaping a net-zero economy that works for all. With abundant renewable energy resources, Scotland is pioneering low carbon technologies, exploring what’s possible to mitigate and adapt to climate change.
While we’re already making some headway to decarbonise our power supply, this is only part of the story. Heat, transport and industry contribute over two thirds of our carbon emissions and cannot be tackled by electrical power alone.
Climate change is a global issue. There’s a clear need to speed the pace of change away from fossil fuels and tackle head-on the hard to decarbonise sectors.
Scotland for example aims to achieve net zero by 2045, while the UK is aiming to do so by 2050. Net zero is where the amount of greenhouse gas produced is no more than is taken away through natural processes, such as via trees absorbing them, or by capturing and removing or storing the gases safely. Hydrogen offers not just the ability to achieve net zero and the environmental benefits that this offers, but also significant potential economic benefits too, alongside a greater degree of energy security.