H2 in Orkney – The Hydrogen Islands

Hydrogen is the most abundant chemical element in the universe but little is freely available as it is usually tied up to make compounds with other chemical elements. Hydrogen can be produced by electrolysis of water (H2O) by using an electric current to split water into it component parts of Hydrogen (H2) and Oxygen (O2).

Hydrogen - Oxygen

Hydrogen is currently used for various applications such as chemical production, fertilisers for agriculture, rocket fuel and food production. As can be seen below the production of this hydrogen is rarely green. The hydrogen produced As demonstrated in the following project pages there are major inroads in developing green hydrogen in order to reach our carbon reduction targets and support the further development of renewable energy technologies.

Hydrogen energy

Orkney has an over-abundance of renewable electricity, which at present is wasted or lost when the electricity grid reaches capacity. One way in which we can negate this waste of electricity is to use it to produce Hydrogen through electrolysis. This allows the surplus renewable energy, which would otherwise be lost, to be stored and used at a later date. The Hydrogen produced acts as an energy storage medium which can be used at a later date to produce heat, power, fuel for use as low carbon transport or for any other purpose. Hydrogen has the additional benefit that it may be used close to where it is generated potentially reducing the need to import fossil fuels.

Generating Hydrogen in Orkney has the potential to turn challenge into opportunity by:

  • Working around the curtailed local renewable energy productions to maximise renewable energy resources.
  • Alleviating the loss of investment for local energy producers.
  • Reducing negative impacts to marine energy innovation.
  • Participation in hydrogen projects her in Orkney (BIGHIT, S’N’T, Dual Ports, HySeas 3, ITEG, HyFlyer and HySpirits).
  • Supporting Orkney communities and support for Orkney companies.
  • Working with a wide variety of partners from the rest of Scotland, UK and Europe.
  • Developing training opportunities provided locally by Orkney College defining the standard excellence in Hydrogen related operational and safety standards.
  • Attracting wider investment to the local area and providing good job opportunities.
  • Has led the way for a number of other communities to develop their own hydrogen economy.

The energy community in Orkney has contributed to developing the ‘Orkney Hydrogen Strategy’. The Orkney Hydrogen Strategy sets the ambition to achieve milestones in relation to supply and demand of green hydrogen across multiple end uses.

As well as estimating what future scenarios of hydrogen may be possible the Orkney Hydrogen Strategy sets a number of key themes that bridge the development of hydrogen in relation to sustainable development goals.

Hydrogen in the wider context

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) identified hydrogen as their ‘4th pillar’ of their Roadmap to 2050 in their 2020 Global Renewable Outlook report with particular reference to the fact that green hydrogen can be utilised to decarbonise energy streams that are difficulty to electrify. IRENA estimates that 15% of all renewable energy output could be used to generate green hydrogen.

In 2018 the International Energy Agency (IEA) was requested by the Japanese government, under its G20 presidency, to produce a ‘landmark’ report on hydrogen worldwide. Dr Faith Birol states that ‘Hydrogen is today enjoying unprecedented momentum. The world should not miss this unique chance to make hydrogen and important part of our clean and secure energy future’. The number of policies and projects around the world expanding rapidly and the report concludes that now is the time to scale up technologies and bring down costs to allow hydrogen to become widely used. The pragmatic and actionable recommendations to governments and industry that are provided will make it possible to take full advantage of this increasing momentum.

The report importantly identifies that current methods of hydrogen production equate to 830 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. We need to address green production methods now.

A report by Aurora Energy Research released in June 2020 suggests that hydrogen produced from renewable sources as well as methane can meet 48% of the UK’s final energy demand by 2050.

McKinsey published and article in May of 2020 ‘How airlines can chart a path to zero-carbon flying’ indicating that there is both consumer demand for zero carbon aviation and an opportunity in resolving net-zero carbon as relates to flying post the COVID-19 pandemic. The aviation routes in Orkney are well suited to demonstrate the capabilities of hydrogen (and hydrogen derived synth-fuels) as an aviation fuel.

H2FC Supergen publish a suite of white papers that have helped shape much of the hydrogen policy in the UK and further afield since publication in 2014 The 2020 white paper ‘Opportunities for hydrogen and fuel cell technologies to contribute to clean growth in the UK’ sets recommendations for policy makers to develop the UKs early hydrogen market using responses from over 200 stakeholders, including the recommendation for a ‘strategic vision for hydrogen and fuel cells’. As with the other resources mentioned the importance of hydrogen in achieving our carbon reduction targets by 2050.

Hydrogen projects you may find interesting

Documents/Resources you may find interesting

Orkney Hydrogen Strategy

IRENA – Global Renewables Review
Global Renewable Outlook Available here: https://www.irena.org/publications/2020/Apr/Global-Renewables-Outlook-2020

International Energy Agency – The Future of Hydrogen
The Future of Hydrogen: seizing today’s opportunity Available here: https://www.iea.org/reports/the-future-of-hydrogen

Aurora Energy Research
Hydrogen for a Net Zero GB: An integrated energy market perspective is available here: https://www.auroraer.com/insight/hydrogen-for-a-net-zero-gb/

Opportunities for hydrogen and fuel cell technologies to contribute to clean growth in the UK Available here: http://www.h2fcsupergen.com/opportunities-for-hydrogen-fuel-cell-clean-growth-uk/
2014 papers are available here: http://www.h2fcsupergen.com/our-work/whitepapers/

How airlines can chart a path to zero-carbon flying.