Exclusive: Mayor Houchen reveals plans to make region a hydrogen hub

The Tees Valley could become a hydrogen powerhouse – a £40m driving force behind hydrogen-powered cars, buses and trains – says the region’s mayor, Ben Houchen.

It’s a little-known fact that Tees Valley produces more than half of the UK’s hydrogen –  a resource currently stored in caverns before being transported to other areas across the country.

Hydrogen is used by many largescale industries in the production of petrol, chemicals, food and electronics, but is now making headlines for use in other areas.

Combined with renewable electricity, it can be produced, stored and used to generate heat and electricity without producing any greenhouse gases or air pollutants.

Houchen says: “In our ambitions to put the power into the Northern Powerhouse and double down on our energy credentials, we need to examine all of the opportunities that are close to home – and our hydrogen production uniquely places us to capitalise on all this innovative sector offers.

“Make no mistake, with government’s plans to generate 85 per cent of the UK’s energy from low-carbon sources by 2032 and phase out sales of petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040, there is plenty for us to get our teeth in to.

“And hydrogen has the potential to be a completely clean, inexhaustible fuel.”

£220,000 has recently been set aside to kick-start the region’s ambitions to become a UK-leading hydrogen powerhouse, which Houchen says is designed to “steal the march on other areas”.

A bid is being drawn up to be submitted to the government’s Office for Low Emission Vehicles to bring a new refuelling infrastructure to the region that could power a new generation of hydrogen road vehicles.

If successful, the bid could unlock £40m in investment to develop new refuelling stations across the Tees Valley, allowing cars, buses and bin lorries to be powered by the super fuel.

And a partnership with Northern Rail is being developed to pilot the UK’s first hydrogen trains, with the project looking to convert ten to run across Tees Valley using the fuel.

And Houchen and his colleagues at Tees Valley Combined Authority are also looking at a further partnership with Leeds to supply and transport hydrogen to heat and electrify the city.

 

The TVCA has also launched a partnership with Middlesbrough-based engineering firm TWI, whose bosses have pledged £80,000 to help realised a vision to draw in expertise to the region, helping to spot trends before they happen.

“The hydrogen opportunities could be transformative for the region,” continues Houchen. “But we can’t do this alone and we need to call on the skills of our local companies to create a path for the future.”

“The bottom line in this persuasive argument are the cold, hard facts.

“Figures from a draft report commissioned by the combined authority and produced by KPMG suggest that exploiting the opportunities of the hydrogen economy could add up to £7bn to the region’s economy between 2018 and 2050, with the creation of as many as 1,000 jobs.

“But creating the jobs of tomorrow means investing in the right technology and securing the highest quality skillset today.

“By kick-starting our ambitions now, Tees Valley will soon be on the hydrogen map – not just for the UK, but across the entire world.”

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