The Port of Cromarty Firth (PCF) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Norwegian firm Gen2 Energy to import green hydrogen from Norway.
The arrangement will enable the fuel to be distributed from the firth by road, rail and sea to customers in the Highlands and across the UK.
It was described as a “massive boost” to the efforts by the Invergordon-based PCF and others to establish a “green hydrogen hub” in the area.
The trust port said it would provide security of supply for businesses that are aiming to start using the fuel by mid-2023 and give them confidence to make firm plans to start switching their energy infrastructure.
A number of big names from the whisky industry are currently working with ScotishPower to explore ways of powering their distilleries in the Highlands with green hydrogen. Global Energy Group has also signed an MoU with the energy giant in connection with use of the fuel at its proposed offshore wind fabrication plant at Nigg.
PCF chief executive, Bob Buskie, said: “This is an historic moment for the port, and for the move towards green hydrogen as a reliable and secure source of energy in the Highlands, Scotland, and the UK.
“We are on the cusp of another renewable energy revolution, with demand for clean energy rising every year. This MoU can put the Highlands on the map as one of the largest suppliers of clean hydrogen energy in Europe, alongside our established leadership in the onshore and offshore wind markets.
“Norway’s remote northern regions have similar issues to the Highlands in terms of an excess of renewable energy, and constraints on putting that energy into the electricity grid. However, they are significantly more advanced domestically in the production of green hydrogen.
“The ability to produce and ship hydrogen to new markets is a huge opportunity for them and they see the port as a key partner to the UK market.
“This will give companies throughout Scotland, and indeed the UK, the confidence to switch their infrastructure to clean energy sources, accelerating the decarbonisation process.”
Mr Buskie added: “Through this memorandum of understanding, we have the potential to not only distribute green hydrogen but develop our own substantial production infrastructure, allowing Scotland to retain its position as a global frontrunner in clean energy.
“It will also have a positive effect on Scotland’s energy transition plans and provide skilled jobs and business opportunities for decades to come.”
Gen2 Energy is currently building its first plant in northern Norway, which is due to start operating by December 2023, making 11,700 tonnes of green hydrogen a year. A second, larger one is being developed in the south-west of the country.
Gen2 Energy chief executive, Jonas Meyer, said: “We are very pleased to sign this MoU with Port of Cromarty Firth. The agreement marks a significant milestone in the creation of a value chain for hydrogen between Norway and the UK, resulting in significant environmental and social benefits as we move towards a net zero emission society.
“Gen2 Energy is working diligently to build large-scale production and distribution of green hydrogen with zero emissions through the value chain. Together with Port of Cromarty Firth, we are able to provide customers with easily adaptable plug and play solutions for green hydrogen and ensure supply security from multiple production locations.”
Plans to establish a “world-leading” green hydrogen hub on the Cromarty Firth were announced in March by the recently-established North of Scotland Hydrogen Programme (NSHP), which includes the PCF.
ScottishPower hydrogen director Barry Carruthers said the scheme would place the north at the “centre of the green hydrogen revolution”.
Distillers Glenmorangie, Whyte & Mackay (W&M) and Diageo are among the NSHP partners.