The most abundant element on earth, hydrogen can have very strong clean energy credentials.

Hydrogen has the highest energy content of any* fuel we use today and yet, after combustion, it has zero emissions or pollutants, offering the potential to decarbonise several sectors. An International Energy Agency report highlights that recent developments have resulted in unprecedented momentum behind hydrogen solutions to help achieve a clean, secure and affordable energy future. Some believe hydrogen has the potential to help meet the Paris Agreement’s commitment of reducing CO2 emissions by 60% by 2050.

Hydrogen can help wind, solar and other sources in the energy mix work together to ensure low emissions and smooth out the supply / demand gaps that many clean energy sources suffer from. Some countries and industries have already embraced the potential; next year in Japan, the 2020 Olympic Games are being called ‘the hydrogen games’ due to hydrogen providing the entire energy supply.Australia is developing a national hydrogen strategy to become a major player by 2030. The US Space Program, NASA, has used liquid hydrogen to propel the space shuttle and other rockets into orbit while using hydrogen fuel cells to power the shuttle’s electrical systems which in turn produces pure water that hydrates the astronaut crew.

Wood is pioneering the use of hydrogen to decarbonise transport. Ferries serving the Western Isles and West Coast of Scotland could soon be powered by hydrogen generated from onshore island wind power. The Scottish Western Isles Ferry Transport Using Hydrogen (SWIFTH2) project, was led by the Point and Sandwick Trust in collaboration with seven industry partners including Wood, and part-funded by the Scottish Government’s Low Carbon Infrastructure Transition Programme.

The study assessed the feasibility of deploying hydrogen-powered passenger ferries on nine ferry routes serving the Western Isles. Various aspects including local available renewable energy resource, planning constraints, challenges associated with the production of hydrogen, and the refuelling requirements of each ferry route were studied.

They found that a single 4.3MW wind turbine generator could supply the required hydrogen for the Barra to Eriskay route, while 15 turbines would be required on the Isle of Lewis for the crossing to the mainland. The potential emissions savings from the replacement of the Barra to Eriskay and Stornoway to Ullapool routes with hydrogen vessels is estimated to be around 676 and 21,815 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per annum respectively, a combined equivalent of taking nearly 5,000 cars off the road each year.

Wood’s clean energy team played a key role in the project by coordinating the SWIFTH2 consortium, undertaking the feasibility assessments, and compiling the feasibility study report. Since the report’s release, the study has featured in the UK Government Department for Transport Clean Maritime Plan 2019. The next phase of the project is to undertake detailed feasibility on two ferry routes and associated islands.

There has been a real step change in thinking around hydrogen technology recently and Wood is dedicated to providing innovative solutions as we look at energy transition to meet industry and societal needs while protecting the environment.

* U.S. Energy Information Administration