Hydrogen is incredibly versatile and presents huge opportunities to decarbonise a variety of areas, from the energy sector to transportation, including hard-to-decarbonise industries such as aviation and chemicals, where it has so far proved difficult to reduce emissions.
Hydrogen technologies will play a key role in meeting the UK government’s 2050 Net Zero target and large scale aims to drive the growth of low carbon hydrogen.
It can be used as a feedstock (raw material to supply or fuel a machine or industrial process), a fuel, energy carrier and/or energy store.
Low carbon hydrogen offers a long-term, scalable, and cost-effective option to not only decarbonise transportation over land, water, and air, (including fuel for trucks, coaches, trans, maritime vessels and aviation) but to do the same for electricity generation, heating, and some industrial processes.
Creating a thriving low carbon hydrogen sector is a core pillar of the UK Government’s strategy and will require large scale investment in R&D, technology, infrastructure and more. Mission Zero, an independent review of the government’s approach towards Net Zero by Chris Skidmore MP, also places cross-sectoral infrastructure to scale-up hydrogen production as a core objective.
Regional strengths and research excellence
GW4 is working to build research excellence across the universities and working with industry to respond to the challenges of using hydrogen as an alternative fuel source.
South West England and South Wales are in prime position to rapidly identify and exploit the most impactful hydrogen technologies by capitalising on abundant offshore and onshore resources, and taking next stage opportunities, for example to couple offshore energy generation and electrolysis facilities.
Our region hosts nationally important R&D facilities supporting the development of hydrogen such as the National Composites Centre (part of the UK’s Catapult Network), Airbus ZEROe Development Centre, GKN Global Technology Centre, the University of Exeter’s Centre for Future Clean Mobility, UK-HyRES, the South Wales Industrial Cluster and the University of Bath’s IAAPS - home to the first green hydrogen manufacturing plant in the South West of England.
In partnership with the Western Gateway (a pan-regional partnership for South Wales and Western England), the GW4 Alliance have launched a vision to be the leading region for low carbon hydrogen ecosystem. In collaboration with the Western Gateway, Hydrogen South West and the South Wales Industrial Cluster we held a national Hydrogen Conference in June 2023 with over 500 attendees to showcase the breath and scale of hydrogen activities and unlock green and inclusive growth opportunities across the region.
The project ‘GW-SHIFT: Great Western Supercluster of Hydrogen Impact for Future Technologies’ co-directed by the University of Bath and University of Exeter has secured £2.5 million from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) as part of their Place Based Impact Acceleration Account awards (PBIAA). Researchers from across the GW4 Alliance universities alongside Swansea, South Wales, and Plymouth will work with 25 civic and industry partners, contributing over £1.5 million in additional funds and in-kind support, to maximise the enormous potential of the South West of England and South Wales hydrogen ecosystem. Supported by a range of partners including the Western Gateway, Great South West, West of England Combined Authority, Hydrogen South West and SETsquared, GW-SHIFT will enable cross-sector partnerships to drive the development of hydrogen skills, infrastructure and technology.
For further details about the GW4 Accelerating to Net Zero programme, including Hydrogen, please contact GW4 Research Development Manager (Net Zero), Dr Katie Lidster or email the GW4 Net Zero mailbox.