Daimler and BP partner on UK hydrogen refuelling network

Image: Daimler Truck

Under the memorandum of understanding partnership, which was announced this morning (28 October), BP will design, construct, operate and supply the refuelling stations.

BP has stated that it intends to use only green hydrogen, which is generated by splitting water using processes powered by renewable electricity. This is despite the fact that it is yet to secure planning permission for a green hydrogen facility in the UK. It is exploring the potential of sites in North East England for green hydrogen, after confirming that it is intending to build a 1GW blue hydrogen plant in Teesside. Blue hydrogen is produced from natural gas in facilities that have carbon capture technologies, but there are uncertainties about how low-carbon these processes really are across the lifecycle.  

Daimler Truck, meanwhile, will deliver hydrogen-powered fuel-cell trucks to UK-based business customers from 2025, and encourage them to use the refuelling network. The brand is aiming to switch its entire vehicle portfolio in Europe, Japan and North America to battery-electric and hydrogen-fuelled by 2039. Its first hydrogen truck model, the GenH2 Truck, is being trialled in Germany at present and will be delivered to customers from 2027.

“Especially for CO2-neutral long-haul road transportation, the hydrogen-powered fuel-cell drive will become indispensable in the future,” said Mercedes-Benz Trucks’ chief executive officer Karin Rådström, who also sits on the board at Daimler Truck.

“Together with BP, we want to jointly develop and scale the required hydrogen infrastructure by putting our hydrogen-powered fuel-cell trucks into our customers’ hands and thus supporting the decarbonization of the UK freight network. At the same time, political support plays an important role in promoting the creation of an infrastructure for green hydrogen and making an economically viable use of fuel-cell trucks possible for our customers.”

The UK Government’s Hydrogen Strategy was published in August and targets £4bn of investment in blue and green hydrogen generation, storage and use this decade. It builds on an existing ambition for the UK to host 5GW of low-carbon hydrogen generation capacity by 2030. More weight was given, in the Strategy, for hydrogen blends in heating and industrial applications, including shipping and steelmaking, than for hydrogen in transport. This is despite the fact that the sale of new petrol and diesel HGVs will be banned in the UK from 2040.

CNG Fuels

In related news, supplier CNG fuels, which is best known for its work to provide corporate customers with biogas for HGVs, has announced a major foray into hydrogen, launching a new subdivision called ‘HyFuels’

The business is planning to start UK-wide hydrogen trials by 2022. By 2025, CNG fuels is planning to allocate 100 acres of its land to hydrogen HGV fuelling infrastructure.

At present, the business is “discussions with international partners and undertaking feasibility studies across its upcoming development sites”, according to a press statement. Partners include hydrogen generators and suppliers and infrastructure specialists, as well as end-user brands operating HGV fleets. Major brands already working with CNG Fuels include John Lewis Partnership, Hermes, Warburtons and Royal Mail.

CNG Fuels’ chief executive Philip Field said: “Renewable biomethane is and will continue to be the most effective decarbonisation solution for heavy transport for many years. However, we have launched HyFuels to ensure we are ready to support our customers’ journey to a multi-fuel future as new technologies become commercially viable and the fuel readily available.”

Thames hydrogen routemap

Also this week, the Thames Estuary Growth Board has launched its hydrogen routemap, outlining plans to create 9,000 jobs in the sector in the region within 15 years, as well as an additional 5,300 roles in downstream manufacturing.

According to the Growth Board, the roadmap’s delivery could unlock £2.2bn of investment and help hard-to-abate sectors reduce their annual CO2e emissions by 5.9 million tonnes. To this latter point, the Growth Board has stated that the Thames Estuary currently produces more annual emissions than any of the UK’s industrial clusters.

As with the UK Government, the Growth Board is opting for a “twin-track” approach, whereby both green hydrogen and blue hydrogen will play a role. In its most ambitious scenario, whereby almost 800,000 tonnes of hydrogen is supplied annually, green hydrogen accounts for around 15% of total supply and blue hydrogen, around 85%. But this is the only scenario in which blue hydrogen plays more than a 15% role.

The routemap details plans to deliver multiple generation projects and refuelling hubs for vehicles, aviation and shipping, as well as the means to deliver hydrogen to heavy industrials. In its most ambitious scenario, transport accounts for around a third of demand, with domestic and commercial heating accounting for around half, and heavy industry making up the rest.

Nine potential locations for hydrogen clusters, which would co-locate generation and demand, are identified in the routemap, across London, Kent and Essex. An investment pipeline is expected to be published next May.

“Over the past six months, we have looked across the Estuary to understand the needs and opportunities and articulate the scope for a hydrogen ecosystem which is compelling and capable of attracting multi-billion-pound investment,” said the Growth Board’s chair Kate Willard. “A hydrogen ecosystem in the Estuary will have far-reaching, positive implications not only for the region, but for the UK as a whole.” 

Sarah George

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