From Steel River to Hydrogen Highway – Teesside is the new Hydrogen Capital of the UK

By William Neale, Executive

Chris Rea immortalised Teesside’s proud history of steel in vinyl with his not quite chart topping local anthem ‘Steel River’. Teesside steel is a global export, from Lambeth to Sydney, Teesside steel has built some of the most globally recognised structures.

However, far from those heady heights, Teesside is now littered with mothballed steelworks stretching from Redcar to Darlington. As we approach COP 26 and tackle the net zero target there’s no denying the Steel industry isn’t compatible with a lean green modern Britain.

However, all is not lost. There’s a new kid on the block. Hydrogen.

Hydrogen has incredible potential and is key to having a realistic, feasible way of decarbonising the UK whilst safeguarding and even boosting our economic output. A huge portion of the UKs carbon output comes from a few carbon intensive industries like chemicals, Oil refineries, power and heavy transport. By 2050 20-35% of the UKs energy consumption could be hydrogen-based delivering savings equivalent to the carbon captured by 700 million trees.

Yesterday BEIS published its first ‘Hydrogen Strategy’, a road map for developing a world leading hydrogen economy. According to the plan, hydrogen could be worth up to £900 million, and create up to 9000 high quality jobs by 2030 and Teesside is at its heart. The strategy uses a tried and tested Contracts for Difference scheme to boost private investment in the sector.

Teesside has the legacy and the expertise to spearhead the UKs net zero goal. Generations of Teessiders have worked in engineering, processing and chemicals. Now, that global reputation is already paying dividends. BP has already voted with their feet, announcing plans to create the UKs largest blue hydrogen production facility within the Tees Valley, Middlesbrough is now the home of the UK Hydrogen Transport Centre and the newly reborn Teesside Airport is the first in the UK to trial hydrogen ground vehicles.

The Government is facing a dilemma. It can’t pull the rug from under carbon intensive industries that form the backbone of our economy, yet at the same time it has ambitious net zero targets and COP 26 in less than two months. Hydrogen proves that going green can mean growth and jobs, but it can also protect a legacy and build a future for some of the most left behind places in the country.