2021: The hydrogen story starts

Hydrogen Sector 22.12.21
Written by: HYCAP

2021 has been a year like no other for hydrogen. After a number of false starts for the industry, everything has come together for the fuel of the future in terms of technology, investment in hydrogen, and policy.

Some dire warnings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in August and the gathering of world leaders at COP26 in Glasgow to discuss how to tackle them helped focus global policy makers on the urgency of decarbonising everything from transport to heating, and to heavy industry, a task that hydrogen is uniquely suited to.

A young girl protests about inaction being taken by government against the climate crisis

In the UK, the government released the UK Hydrogen Strategy in August followed by its Net Zero Strategy in October, including several hundred million pounds of support for clean hydrogen and backing for carbon capture hubs that will enable the production of blue hydrogen.

Large-scale hydrogen-production hubs were announced around the country, including the south and east coasts of England, and Scotland. The projects to create green and blue hydrogen are backed by major energy companies from BP to Equinor and draw on the UKs considerable resources in both renewable energy and natural gas.

Technological developments led to a number of firsts in automotive, aviation and marine transport, including the launch of England’s first-ever hydrogen double-decker buses in London in June, the world’s first successful flight using only synthetic fuel made from hydrogen by the RAF in November, and the launch of the world’s first passenger ferry powered by liquid hydrogen in October.

A fleet of the world’s first zero-emission hydrogen powered double deck buses hit the streets of London, Aberdeen, Birmingham, Dublin and Belfast with manufacturer Wrightbus announcing that 2022 will see them double production thanks to massive demand for their Zero-emission transport technology.

To make our roundup of this year’s hydrogen highlights as easy to navigate as possible, we have created the following categories: policy, projects, and transport.

Enjoy, and here’s to another year of hydrogen innovation and progress in 2022.


Two big policy papers were published by the UK government in 2021. The Hydrogen Strategy, released in August, pledged about £900 million for both producers and consumers of hydrogen and pledged subsidies to reach its goal of 5 GW of low-carbon hydrogen production, including both blue (made from natural gas with carbon capture) and green (made from splitting water with renewable energy).

The publication of the UK’s Net Zero Strategy in October put more flesh on the bones with £140 million for the Industrial and Hydrogen Revenue Support scheme with the aim of bridging the gap between industrial energy costs from gas and hydrogen and helping green hydrogen projects to get off the ground.

Two big policy papers were published by the UK government in 2021. The Hydrogen Strategy, released in August, pledged about £900 million for both producers and consumers of hydrogen and pledged subsidies to reach its goal of 5 GW of low-carbon hydrogen production

The Net Zero Strategy also included two carbon capture and storage schemes in the northeast and northwest of England that will be fast-tracked with the aim of getting the technology ready for commercial deployment at scale by the middle of the decade. The East Coast Cluster near Hull and Middlesbrough is backed by companies including BP, Drax, Equinor and SSE, and claims it will be able to capture 50% of the UK’s industrial carbon emissions and store them in disused oil and gas fields in the North Sea. The HyNet project in Liverpool Bay, set up by Eni and Progressive Energy, also received government backing.

It also set a goal of mixing 20 percent hydrogen into the natural gas supply and a prediction that a UK-wide hydrogen economy could be worth £900 billion by 2030 and create 9,000 jobs, rising to £13 billion and 100,000 jobs by 2050.

The HyNet project in Liverpool Bay, set up by Eni and Progressive Energy, also received government backing. It also set a goal of mixing 20 percent hydrogen into the natural gas supply and a prediction that a UK-wide hydrogen economy could be worth £900 billion by 2030 and create 9,000 jobs, rising to £13 billion and 100,000 jobs by 2050.

In November, the Scottish Government published its Draft Hydrogen Action Plan, setting out Scotland’s strategic approach for committing £100 million to hydrogen projects over the next five years to fund studies for large-scale and pilot renewable hydrogen production projects. The aim is for Scotland to produce 5GW of hydrogen by 2030, and 25GW by 2045.

Scotland will produce a Hydrogen Export Plan by 2026 with the aim of developing terminals and infrastructure that will eventually export hydrogen to Northern European nations such as Germany, Denmark and France.


Two of the biggest hydrogen projects announced this both came from BP. In March, the energy supermajor revealed H2Teesside, a 1 GW blue hydrogen plant with the capacity to capture and store 2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year by 2030. Towards the end of November, it announced HyGreen Teesside, with the aim of producing 60 MW of green hydrogen by 2025 and 500 MW by 2030.

Teesside is also the site of a 40 MW green hydrogen project announced by Protium in October that is slated for completion by 2026. In March, the Tees Valley was named as the UK’s first hydrogen transport hub backed by £3 billion of government funding.

Further down the east coast, another hydrogen hub is developing around the Humber Estuary. In November, Norwegian energy giant Equinor awarded contracts to begin front end engineering and design for H2H Saltend, a 600 MW blue hydrogen production facility that will provide fuel for the nearby Keadby Hydrogen power station, the world’s first large-scale plant of its kind.

Humber is rapidly developing plans to become a major hub for producing UK hydrogen

Just this month (December) Equinor said the Humber region is the likely location for the UK’s first hydrogen town.  The first stage of the project with gas network operator Cadent involves carrying out technical assessments for hydrogen production, storage, demand and distribution, including of the viability of the existing natural gas network to carry 100% hydrogen.

In mid-November, the Port of Shoreham in West Sussex granted H2 Green permission to produce hydrogen through electrolysis to power the Port’s fleet of heavy goods vehicles and forklifts before ramping up production to serve the 800 HGVs that use Port of Shoreham daily for other organisations with a goal of producing 10-15 tonnes of hydrogen daily.

Also in November, the UK government awarded the Whitelee Windfarm in East Renfrewshire near Glasgow £9.4 million to build an electrolyser to produce green hydrogen to power local transport.

December saw Freeport East moved significant step closer to fulfilling its vision when its outline business case was formally approved by government. Felixstowe, Harwich and Gateway 14 near Stowmarket will stamp duty land tax relief, enhanced capital allowances, enhanced structures and buildings allowance, national insurance contributions rate relief and business rates relief. The area will become a global trade and hydrogen energy hub and has the involvement of major companies including Sizewell C, EDF, Ryze Hydrogen, Wrightbus, Port of Felixstowe and JCB.

Machinery manufacturing giant JCB have successfully made the world’s first zero-emission hydrogen digger, and also the world’s first hydrogen combustion engine which is being heralded as one of the most influential inventions of the 21st Century with its ability to decarbonise transport

INEOS, the world’s largest multinational chemical producer, in October committed to invest €2 billion (£1.7 billion) in green hydrogen production across Europe as it seeks to decarbonise its operations and enter new markets. The first electrolysers will be built in Norway and Germany over the next 10 years, followed by plants in Belgium, France and the UK, said the company, founded by British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe.

From a major survey undertaken this Winter and now released it’s been revealed that over 80% of energy companies are either investing in a shift towards hydrogen or have already launched new hydrogen projects based on significant hydrogen investment.

Transport (ground)

In June, Mayor of London welcomed England’s first fleet of hydrogen double-decker buses. The 20 vehicles, built by Northern Ireland-based Wrightbus, were introduced on route 7 between East Acton and Oxford Circus and join Transport for London’s fleet of 500 electric buses helping the capital cut emissions.

In October, JCB, the UK’s largest manufacturer of construction equipment, announced a £100 million investment to develop hydrogen engines to power its vehicles. The firm has already produced prototypes for the JCB backhoe loader and the Loadall telescopic handler and is adding to the 100 engineers it has working on the project to deliver products to customers by the end of 2022.

JCB also also signed a deal to take 10% of the green hydrogen produced by Australian firm Fortescue Future Industries and then distribute it, along with Ryze Hydrogen, around the UK. BP was again in the hydrogen headlines in October when it announced with Daimler plans to develop 25 hydrogen refuelling sites in the UK to service heavy goods vehicles by 2025.

In July, a study by the International Council on Clean Transportation said only battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles have the potential to achieve the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions reductions needed to meet the Paris climate goals. It also pointed to challenges arising from relying solely on battery-electric passenger vehicles, such as limitations on grid capacity, and said hydrogen fuel cells will need to take up the slack.

Riversimple, the Wales-based hydrogen vehicle company, announced a deal with Siemens in February that will see it begin manufacturing its Rasa passenger vehicle from 2023 and a light goods vehicle from 2024 with the aim of making 25,000 vehicles per year.

Transport (marine)

Norwegian ferry operator Norled in July took delivery of the world’s first liquid hydrogen-powered ferry, MF Hydra. The vessel, which is 82.4 metres long and has a capacity of up to 80 cars and 300 passengers, can reach a speed of 9 knots.

Back in the UK, a new research and testing facility was created in Cornwall in June to explore the use of hydrogen in the marine and boating sector. The Cornwall Marine Hydrogen Centre, a European Union-funded project at the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus, hosts equipment for testing hydrogen propulsion systems in a simulated real-world environment.

The UK is pioneering the future of offshore operations with the release in December of designs for the world’s first autonomous hydrogen-powered vessels. Designed by renowned British marine operator Attollo, the three ships boast zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell propulsion, onboard renewable power generation and next-generation technology, including ergonomic environments that minimise noise and vibration for crew. The vessels will be used by teams of engineers and other professionals working in offshore sectors, including wind energy, oil and gas, and environmental management.

In June, AqualisBraemar LOC Group was awarded funding by the UK government for a project to build a barge that produces and stores green hydrogen for bunkering. Poole Harbour will be used as a case study for demonstrating the environmental and commercial viability of the concept.

Transport (aviation)

2021 is the year aviation’s major players started to get publicly serious about hydrogen. In September, Airbus  CEO Guillaume Faury said he expects it will have a hydrogen plane in service by 2035. “Hydrogen has an energy density three times that of kerosene – [technically it] is made for aviation,” he told reporters at a sustainability event in Toulouse.

However, powering flights with pure hydrogen fuel is likely to be limited to the short-haul sector for some time to come, according to Rolls-Royce, which produces jet engines for the likes of Airbus and rival Boeing. “For long-distance international travel the industry doesn’t see a technology solution that’s appropriate – other than synthetic aviation fuel,” Rolls-Royce CEO Warren East was quoted as saying in August.

In September, the UK’s Royal Air Force (RAF) demonstrated how that might be possible when it teamed up with Zero Petroleum to set a Guinness World Record for the first successful flight using only synthetic fuel made from hydrogen. The plane, an Ikarus C42 two-seater, was powered by Zero Petroleum’s UL91 fuel, which is made by extracting hydrogen from water and carbon from atmospheric carbon dioxide. The creation of a synthetic fuel meant it could be used without any modification to the engine or the aircraft.

In November, budget airline easyJet announced it is joining the Race to Zero global campaign, setting an ambitious goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Its director of flight operations said hydrogen is expected to play a crucial role in the airline meeting this target, citing energy density as a key factor in determining which technologies will decarbonise its flights.

Transport (rail)

November saw a flurry of activity around COP26 in Glasgow, including Hydroflex, Britain’s first hydrogen-powered train, the culmination of an £8 million collaboration between Birmingham University and Porterbrook.

All in all hydrogen has moved rapidly throughout numerous sectors of the economy and taken its position centre stage at COP where it was widely recognised as the solution for decarbonisation of transport, homes and industry.

For more about HYCAP click here