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Transition to hydrogen: we need good roads

On 14 December, the Government announced funding for 11 new green hydrogen plants around the UK.

This is great news for the local economies in which they will be located. It is also a positive step along the journey from fossil fuels to green energy.

But the hydrogen produced has to travel around somehow. In the transition period before networks for moving hydrogen can be built – or existing pipelines adapted - hydrogen will need to be transported by roads.

Green hydrogen is produced by electrolysis of water using renewable electricity – as opposed to black, grey or brown hydrogen which is derived from fossil fuels. The Government plans to ramp up green hydrogen production to 10 GW by 2030.

The first round of hydrogen plant projects – called hydrogen allocation round HAR1 – is expected to deliver 125MW of hydrogen. Announcements on a second round of funding, HAR2, which will deliver over three times as much hydrogen, are expected this year.

The 11 new plants announced in December will receive £2bn of revenue support from the Government once they begin operation and have been allocated £90m from the Net Zero Hydrogen Fund towards their construction. The Government release said that the 11 projects will invest around £400m up front over the next three years.

The hydrogen produced in the 11 new plants – and others that follow in subsequent phases – will be used by facilities nearby. For instance, PD Ports in Teesside will switch their vehicle fleet from diesel to hydrogen and a paper mill in Port Talbot plans to replace 50% of their boiler gas consumption with hydrogen.

Some of these nearby hydrogen uses will be fed by pipelines, some via road transport. As demand for hydrogen grows, more will travel by road until it is viable to make the considerable investment needed for new pipelines.

The Government has said that it expects more hydrogen to be travelling by roads from the mid-2020s. Larger networks for clusters could be built towards the end of the 2020s with regional or national networks possibly needed from the mid-2030s.

In short, there will be more lorries traveling on the road networks around hydrogen production plants. So, getting local road networks up to standard and maintaining them will be more important than ever.


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