GKN and Airbus form hydrogen consortium and SW hub

GKN Aerospace, Airbus and Bristol Port are part of a major new consortium which has launched this week, aiming to bring the benefits of hydrogen to the South West of England through several substantial engineering projects.

The move could see the establishment of new hydrogen production facilities in the region, as well as developing hydrogen-powered transport.

This so-called ‘infrastructure ecosystem’ of key industries – Hydrogen South West – said it aims to decarbonise transport, commerce and power, while driving sustainable growth, upskilling the region and delivering new job opportunities.

Focusing on key sectors such as shipping, aviation and housing as well as industry, the consortium comprises leading companies Airbus, Easyjet, and Hynamics (EDF); as well as industrial heavyweight GKN Aerospace;  consultants and engineers Costain and Wood; and regional leaders Bristol Port, Bristol Airport, and Wales and West Utilities.

The collaboration intends to create links between supply and demand centres in the region, and enable cross-sector partnerships that it hopes will drive the development of hydrogen infrastructure and technology.

Hydrogen South West also supports the UK government’s drive to generate 10 GW of low carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030.

It is also intended to provide a means for further representation and collaboration in national initiatives.

Several major new pilot projects are planned, including:

  • Hydrogen Hub at Bristol Port – a study is underway to explore configuring the port to accept hydrogen or ammonia by ship, power landside vehicles with hydrogen and establish a hydrogen production facility at the port. The project includes developing a local pipeline network and supporting Airbus’ hydrogen-powered aircraft of the future.
  • Project Acorn – Easyjet aims to begin flying hydrogen aircraft as soon as they are commercially viable. To prepare the ground, the company will continue with the research and development of hydrogen-powered ground support equipment at Bristol Airport

“The South West has a rich engineering and energy history, and is home to a powerful cluster of leading aerospace, transport and logistics businesses,” said Simon Earles, Hydrogen South West chair. 

“This combination of industrial experience, delivery expertise and regional knowledge presents a formidable opportunity to accelerate the UK’s transition to alternative power at scale.”

Joseph Sczurko, executive president at Wood, added: “Wood has led advancements in hydrogen production and development for over 60 years, and we are truly excited to be part of this innovative partnership with some of the biggest names in aviation, marine transport, energy, and utilities.”

“As engineers and scientists ourselves, we are proud to play our part in the development of the hydrogen ecosystem and the skills and jobs that it will bring for the region.”

The announcement of the SW hydrogen consortium follows the news earlier this month that two leading universities are to receive funding to explore the future uses of hydrogen as a fuel at the heart of a net zero future.

The University of Strathclyde has become one of three higher education institutions in Scotland to receive funding from the Scottish Government-funded Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) Scotland-Germany Hydrogen Research Scheme. The programme aims to facilitate research and practice-based partnerships between the two countries to explore the future use of hydrogen.

The university is to work alongside Technische Universität Braunschweig to develop a digital toolkit for hydrogen production.