ScottishPower has unveiled a vision for a £150mn Green Hydrogen Fuels Hub at the Port of Felixstowe.
Outlining its vision on 9 August, it explained that with Hutchison Ports, the duo will explore the opportunity of developing, building and operating a 100MW facility capable of delivering 40 tonnes of green hydrogen per day. The green hydrogen would be used for onshore purposes, notably road, rail and industrial uses, though there would be the potential to create liquid forms too, such as ammonia, opening up opportunities to provide clean fuels for shipping and aviation and to explore export into international markets. Engineering and site development works are planned to align with customer demand from 2025 onwards.
Describing the project as “strategically important”, ScottishPower’s Hydrogen Director, Barry Carruthers explained the clean fuels hub could unlock “nationally significant decarbonisation” for the region, adding that it is “perfectly located not far from our existing and future offshore windfarms in the East Anglia region, and demonstrates how renewable electricity and green hydrogen can now start to help decarbonise road, rail, shipping and industry.”
Locally, the announcement has been welcomed, with New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) stating it shows the potential for Freeport East to be a national leader in green hydrogen. Freeport East, chosen as one of eight freeports by the government, centred around Gateway 14, the Port of Felixstowe and Harwich International – the latter two both being owned by Hutchison Ports – had the development of a hydrogen hub as a central part of its successful bid.
As well as potentially decarbonising industry and transportation in the region, the ramifications of the project could be far more widespread. The water-energy-food-security nexus idea, as per the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, is that water security, energy security and food security are very much linked to one another, meaning actions taken in one area could have impacts on either one or both of the other areas.
The issue of water security in particular is of relevant in the East of England. Increasing agricultural uses, industrial processes, energy production and population growth, as well as low rainfall and a high proportion of conservation sites, have left Anglian Water predicting that come 2045, the East of England will be in a total regional deficit of 144mn litres per day. This makes more innovative thinking and investment into sustainable supply and demand-side water management options increasingly important.
This is an area Hydrogen East is particularly active, with plans to conduct a feasibility study into the viability and commercial value of introducing brine electrolysis alongside desalination as an integrated system in electrolytic production of hydrogen. With high dependency on water here, where it is sourced will determine the energy and chemical processing requirements needed to produce suitably graded water.
Desalination does offer reasonably sustainable access to water, with the likes of Bacton and Sizewell already exploring expanding their water pumping and desalination capacity, though it is both energy intensive and a costly component to the overall architecture of a hydrogen facility – hence why the study could prove insightful.
Hydrogen East is also looking into a feasibility study into the rediversion of drainage water towards key stakeholders or storage locations across the East of England, as well as the use of onsite renewable micro-generation for water pumps. By taking a cross-sector approach, this is set to consider resource constraints, government priorities and current political narratives to assist in solving scarcity issues across the water-energy-food nexus within the region.
There is also research, albeit for arid regions, from the International Renewable Energy Agency which supports a role for desalination in providing water to green hydrogen projects and then being used to supply clean water to local people at minimal cost. Projects of the scale of ScottishPower’s proposed green hydrogen hub, as well as cross-sector research and collaboration are set to only grow increasingly critical when it comes to enabling a more efficient, balanced and secure use of renewable energy, while also increasing the availability of water for public consumption, food, agricultural and industrial processes.