UK looks to strengthen links to India to deliver Nuclear Enabled Hydrogen solutions

The UK Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association (UK HFCA) has called on the country’s government to take early and decisive action to “embrace the power” of Nuclear Enabled Hydrogen (NEH) as it seeks to create a new partnership with India to progress the use of the fuel.

The association has issued a position paper which calls ion the government to support the potential of NEH with legislation, financial backing and more nuclear sites to allow it to become a future energy player in the race to net zero.

It comes as the UK HFCA staged a conference in London to meet with business and energy leaders from India to explore how the two countries can build closer ties and develop new NEH capabilities.

Celia Greaves, CEO of the UK HFCA, said: “This event was such a valuable addition to the conference and involved the largest ever Department for International Trade-led delegation from India to the UK.

“It really paved the way for bigger and better ways for the UK to work in conjunction with India to facilitate opportunities that can make a global impact and it was enlightening to hear from so many companies doing such excellent work in the hydrogen sector in India.

“I see this as a real chance for us to develop strong working partnerships for the greater good.”

This sentiment was echoed by Peter Cook, British Deputy High Commissioner of Gujarat and Rajasthan for the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

He added: “For the UK, this is an opportunity to get ahead of the crowd and to get in on the ground floor to work with Indian companies that are set to be game changers in the sector.

“For India, this is a chance to learn from the UK’s impressive experience.

“This is the beginning of a long journey, but the conversations today will form a key part of creating a successful programme to benefit markets around the world.

“When it comes to hydrogen, politicians want this to happen. Technology can make this happen. It’s down to us to make it happen.”

The event has bolstered the association’s efforts to get the UK government to heed the calls included in its report entitled The Role for Nuclear Enabled Hydrogen in Delivering Net Zero.

Marcus Newborough, of ITM Power, a member of the UK HFCA, said: “Net zero solutions require hydrogen to be produced with a zero GHG footprint, which means electrolyser operators will need to source their electricity from renewables and/or nuclear power.

“Unfortunately, it’s difficult for an electricity grid to match supply and demand by integrating a substantial capacity of base-load nuclear generation, while at the same time integrating a substantial capacity of variable renewables.

“Electrolysis can provide the flexibility required to solve this challenge by absorbing nuclear electricity at times of high renewables generation – or vice versa. In addition, it can provide the means for matching nuclear power generation to the steady-state demand for hydrogen that characterises several of our essential chemical processes, such as ammonia and methanol production.

“Nuclear enabled hydrogen can therefore play an underpinning role in achieving net-zero, both for the electricity grid and for industrial clusters.”

In the positioning paper, the association highlighted how one nuclear power plant has the potential to generate enough hydrogen to decarbonise the heating of one million homes or 40,000 hydrogen buses from a site no more than a few square miles in size, with technology available that is today.

It also stressed that NEH could play a key role in meeting the new UK production target for low carbon hydrogen – which has risen from 5GW to 10GW by 2030.

Greaves added: “3GW of nuclear power with today’s technology could produce enough hydrogen to meet 22.5% of this new target.

“And in light of the recently updated targets for UK nuclear power – with plans now for 24GW to be online by 2050 – decisive early action is key. With projects reaching final investment decision each year until 2030, the role of NEH in these proposed plant operations must be considered today and decided on in the near future.”

Key recommendations for bringing NEH into the energy mix by 2030 and enabling future growth of the energy vector encompass accelerating the roll-out of new nuclear plants to produce NEH, building on synergies between industrial clusters and NEH, and providing incentives for NEH.

Greaves said the NEH also offers benefits and roles across the energy system that are not currently recognised in the key energy system models used by the UK Government.

“These include coupling large scale nuclear power stations with electrolysers to generate high purity hydrogen required for fuel cell vehicles, decarbonising the gas grid, decarbonising marine transport with ammonia and decarbonising flights with synthetic aviation fuels,” she said.

Allan Simpson, senior research technologist at the National Nuclear Laboratory, and chair of the UK HFCA’s Nuclear Enabled Hydrogen Working Group explained: “The report highlights the potential for NEH to provide 40GW of hydrogen generating capacity to support decarbonisation by 2050, based on a range of flexible operation of planned capacity and increased demand from alternative applications currently unrecognised in energy system models.