Port of Cromarty Firth has been pinpointed as the “ideal home” for the UK’s largest green hydrogen electrolyser, a feasibility study has found.
The North of Scotland Hydrogen Programme ‘Distilleries Project’ has compiled a list of sites around the facility that would be suitable to house a 35 megawatt (MW) electrolyser by 2024.
The Highland’s facility, which would be capable of producing up to 14 tonnes of green hydrogen a day, could also be expanded to meet growing demand, both at home and abroad.
The fuel is produced by splitting water atoms through a process called electrolysis, with the power being supplied by renewable energy.
The feasibility study examined the viability of a facility in the Cromarty Firth supplying local whisky distilleries with green hydrogen, decarbonising the process.
It was backed by partners including ScottishPower, Pale Blue Dot, a subsidiary of Storegga and Port of Cromarty Firth, as well as drinks giants Glenmorangie, Whyte & Mackay and Diageo.
Port of Cromarty firth was found to be particularly suitable due to a high concentration of nearby renewable energy potential, including offshore wind sites that could supply power.
The study proposes a phased development for the facility, starting with an electrolyser being placed by 2024 to meet local and distillery demands.
A second phase would lead to an expansion of green hydrogen to meet growing energy demands nationally and internationally.
Following the feasibility study, the project will now move into its next stage of development, which will include detailed engineering, community engagement and commercial development.
This will prepare the project for a final investment decision by 2023.
Bob Buskie, chief executive of the Port of Cromarty Firth, said: “This is fantastic news for both the Cromarty Firth and for the country’s ambitions to become a leading hydrogen nation, with targets for Scotland to generate 5GW of renewable and low-carbon hydrogen by 2030 – enough to power the equivalent of 1.8 million homes.
“Phase 1 of the electrolyser could be up and running, and the first hydrogen produced, by 2024 in what will be one of the biggest electrolysers in the UK. Such a facility will be a game changer not only for industries across the Highlands and Scotland, but also for the UK and internationally as we will be able to export green hydrogen to energy markets around the globe.”
Barry Carruthers, hydrogen director at ScottishPower, said: “This is an industry leading project, harnessing the region’s rich, renewable energy to help support industries and sectors near the Port of Cromarty Firth on their own decarbonisation journeys. The North of Scotland Hydrogen Programme will see the Highlands become home to one of the UK’s largest green hydrogen facilities and we’re looking forward to moving ahead with our partners, the Scottish Government, Highland Council and all local stakeholders as we move into the next stages of the project.
“Now, more than ever, we need to see more projects like this being developed across the country. We’re in a climate emergency and so we have to focus on zero emission technologies – green hydrogen offers the long-term, sustainable, zero emission solution for industries, sectors and businesses that cannot be supported by renewable electricity alone. With only months to go until COP26, one of the most important climate summits, we’re showing what can be achieved when industry collaborates in order to tackle climate change.”
Nick Cooper, chief executive of Storegga, said: “This study confirms that the Cromarty Firth region is well positioned to play a leading role in Scotland’s green hydrogen economy. The consortium has jointly delivered a feasibility assessment that demonstrates the viability of the Phase 1 green hydrogen production plant. The plant will be developed in phases to become one of Europe’s largest hydrogen electrolysers.”
Peter Nelson, operations director for the Glenmorangie Company, added: “We have all learnt a huge amount from the feasibility study into the potential of hydrogen as an alternative fuel source and excitingly for us it is firmly rooted in, and relevant to, the particular needs and challenges we all face in the North of Scotland. It is a great example of collaboration across different companies and sectors and we look forward to progressing discussions further.”
Keith Miller, distillation & maturation director, Diageo, said: “This was a great feasibility study to understand the potential of hydrogen in the Cromarty Firth area and we look forward to understanding the next steps.”
Shane Healy, director, production and sistilling at Whyte & Mackay, said: “Cromarty Firth is home to a thriving community and this project has been a catalyst to come together and share our vision for what the future of the local economy and community around it will be.”