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Thames Estuary revolutionizes hydrogen

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Thames Estuary
Thames Estuary

The Thames Estuary has the potential to be the driving force behind the hydrogen revolution in the United Kingdom.

No other region has the necessary infrastructure, location, large project pipeline, and partners to make hydrogen use a reality.

At a recent industry-led Hydrogen Supplier Day, the Thames Estuary Growth Board convened all of the major partners to outline the vision and opportunities. The event, held in collaboration with Lower Thames Crossing and Thames Freeport and with the support of their advisers Ikigai, highlighted the technology and solutions available to assist the Estuary in its journey to net zero.

Partners in the region are extremely dedicated to collaborating to realize the vision. This begins with the Lower Thames Crossing, which aims to be the greenest road ever constructed in the United Kingdom, beginning with the materials and equipment needed to construct it.

Senior representatives from the entire hydrogen value chain, including investors, technology suppliers, car and equipment manufacturers, operators of supply infrastructure, education and training organizations, regulators, and the central government, attended the event.

Lower Thames Crossing declared in February 2022 its intention to be the first carbon neutral project of its sort in the United Kingdom. The Estuary is rising to this challenge, and businesses are collaborating to establish the necessary supply chains and resources to ensure the project’s success.
Delegates and industry experts examined the legislative framework, talent development, investment into the region’s various hydrogen clusters, and financing of vehicles and equipment in an effort to accelerate deployment and reduce investment risk.

As the most important government-supported growth opportunity in the United Kingdom, the Thames Estuary region has many opportunities where hydrogen would be the best clean power alternative to fossil fuels (heavy goods vehicles, port operations, industrial applications, maritime and aviation uses), which will benefit the region and the United Kingdom as a whole.

Chair of the Thames Freeport and Estuary Envoy, Kate Willard OBE, outlined the region’s green growth objectives and outlined some of the measures the Growth Board has taken to expedite the development and investment in hydrogen, including:

  • In partnership with Thames Freeport, the Growth Board has assembled a working group of top decision makers and local stakeholders to ensure that the opportunities Thames Freeport presents to stimulate demand for alternatives to fossil fuels, such as hydrogen, are adequately exploited.
  • With the Manufacturing Technology Centre, the Growth Board created the ‘H2 Living Lab’ program to encourage the development and marketing of the next generation of innovative goods that will help the transition to net zero.
  • The Growth Board has struck a cooperation with gas network operations, Cadent, SGN, and National Grid as part of its Capital Hydrogen project, with a focus on East London, which the Hydrogen Route Map identifies as the greatest hydrogen demand-driven cluster.
  • The Board’s support of a hydrogen supply consortia intends to maximize the region’s decarbonization potential, expand UK manufacturing, and demonstrate the scope of the possibility internationally.
  • Forming a working group comprised of the Maritime and Coast Guards Agency, the Port of London Authority, and the Health and Safety Executive to solve regulatory problems in the management and use of alternative fuels in the Estuary through the practical creation of real-world projects.
  • Later this year, other developments relating hydrogen, logistics, and aviation are anticipated.

A consortium of Estuary-based suppliers has been formed to assist projects in the region, maximize the ability to decarbonize, enhance the scale of UK manufacturing, and illustrate the scope of the opportunity internationally.

Kate Willard OBE, Chair of the Thames Estuary Growth Board and Estuary Envoy said “The potential for hydrogen is huge. I am delighted that we are bringing investors, businesses, and national partners together to have these important conversations, bringing people together to get market ready and realize our net zero ambitions.”

“The Lower Thames Crossing shares the Board’s green values and has set the target of being a carbon neutral construction pathfinder project, leading the industry by example and aiming to be the first carbon neutral project of its kind. This is one of a series of events we are holding in partnership to ensure that the supply chain can support these net zero ambitions. The Estuary is a brilliant testbed for solving national issues whether that is hydrogen supply and distribution, hydrogen-powered vehicles and equipment, or making better use of our waterways and is a real driving force both nationally and globally.”

“We want to change the paradigm around large construction projects being bad for the environment” explained Matt Palmer, CEO at Lower Thames Crossing. “We are a pathfinder project exploring carbon neutral construction providing a lead to the wider construction industry. The industry has a huge decarbonization challenge, and a project like Lower Thames Crossing can lead by example. Hydrogen is a vital part of our emerging approach to energy, and we are really excited by the way the projects supply chain is rising to the challenge.”

Introducing the consortium Paul Turner, Managing Director of CMB Tech said “The hydrogen supplier consortium is a group of UK based industry players within the hydrogen sector who can provide the construction sector with an end-to-end hydrogen solution, covering hydrogen production and logistics, construction equipment, generators, road transport and maritime assets. The supplier consortium will utilize planned hydrogen production and import into the Thames Estuary coupled with the developments of off-highway refueling to provide a cost-effective low carbon fuel to support a range of mono-fuel and dual-fuel applications, providing low capital cost machines for the high power and demanding operating conditions of a large infrastructure construction site.”

Martin Whiteley, CEO of Thames Freeport said “As well as offering attractive business incentives and significant amount of shovel-ready land for development, the freeport has a mandate support levelling up, innovation and moving to Net zero. Thames Freeport stands ready to play a leading role in developing the region’s hydrogen ecosystem. We are delighted to be working with the Thames Estuary Growth Board to identify the opportunities across our sites for production, supply, refueling and end use and how this will support the region’s hydrogen ecosystem.”

Helena Anderson, Advisor to the Thames Estuary Growth Board and Co-founder of Ikigai, said “Hydrogen will play a key role in helping us reach our net zero targets. The Thames Estuary is an exciting proposition given the scale of the demand for hydrogen and its applications to decarbonize key sectors fundamental for the economy of the Estuary – heavy vehicles, port equipment, construction, maritime and aviation uses are here in abundance which creates significant opportunities for investors looking to support the deployment of infrastructure for the hydrogen economy.”

The Hydrogen Supplier Day is an integral part of realising the potential outlined in the Thames Estuary Growth Board’s Hydrogen Route Map, which focuses on the Thames Estuary’s unique opportunities to develop hydrogen power to support a variety of sectors, such as construction, transport (road, maritime, and air), and industry; and contribute to the UK’s hydrogen economy and net zero ambitions.

Thames Estuary Hydrogen Route Map demonstrates that the region has the capacity to support a hydrogen economy that will generate 9,000 employment, £3 billion in GVA, and £2.2 billion in industrial capacity investment, while bringing national economic and environmental advantages.

Nedim Husomanovic

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