The drive for energy security and the desire to decarbonise means growing demand for hydrogen in the UK. With energy prices having become high and volatile partially due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine over the past year, hydrogen can help build a more reliable, resilient, and sustainable system that reduces exposure to shocks, says green hydrogen producer Lhyfe’s country manager for UK and Ireland Colin Brown in an exclusive interview with Kallanish.

Demand in the UK and Ireland will continue to grow. The UK government has recently introduced the “Hydrogen Business Model,” which supports the sector’s growth.

“We have to reach gigawatt scale production if we want green hydrogen to become a major part of the UK’s energy system. By coupling it with the huge offshore wind potential the UK has, we can become a world leader in offshore production … We see a lot of interest from industries such as steel, glass, cement, and even paper production which could be helped by large-scale green hydrogen sites. However, we need to overcome the ‘chicken and egg’ scenario of ‘which comes first, the production or demand.' That’s why cross-sector engagement and working in partnerships is so important to deployment and scaling up," Brown comments.

Renewable green hydrogen is key to decarbonising the hardest-to-abate industrial sectors, he says. 

“We need to get as much green electricity onto the grid as we can, but the energy transition doesn’t just stop at renewable electrification. As we have done in Europe, we want to design production sites near the point of use in partnership with local stakeholders. This limits transport needs and helps develop a clean energy fuel chain locally and at the best price. By bringing in a range of partners, such as councils, regional authorities, transport carriers, and industry, we can create local ecosystems that bring wider community benefit. Real opportunities and jobs lie in supporting regional solutions. Ultimately, climate protection and energy security start at a local level."

The company is currently looking at several projects that may become operative by the end of 2025. By 2030, it aims to be the green hydrogen partner of choice with a portfolio of production sites across the UK. Brown is actively exploring several opportunities across the country and looking for potential partnerships, key to creating an H2 economy.

In September this year, Lhyfe launched its renewable H2 production floating platform demonstrator called Sealhyfe, powered by an offshore wind farm in Saint-Nazaire, France. In the first six-month trial phase, Sealhyfe will start producing green hydrogen at quay in the port of Saint-Nazaire before being moved off the coast of Le Croisic for a period of 12 months. The platform will be moved by the floating testing facility called SEM-REV, managed by the French engineering school Centrale of Nantes and located about 20 kilometres off Le Croisic.

To the question of whether the firm intends to set up a similar platform in the UK, Brown says that his ambition is to get a large-scale offshore demonstrator deployed in the country, “if the opportunity presents itself … SealLhyfe is a demonstrator for proof of concept, not an industrial scale project. At the end of the R&D, we will have a considerable amount of data at our disposal, which will enable us to design mature offshore production systems and deploy robust and proven technologies on a larger scale."

The firm is actively working on technology and innovation to overcome some of the challenges ahead. “Our SeaLhyfe project is a great achievement, which we succeeded in due to the strong partnerships we have, and I want to bring this approach to the UK business," Brown concludes.

Lhyfe produces its renewable hydrogen using mainly water and wind power. Its production units are currently being built onshore, but the firm intends to take its electrolysis plants offshore, banking on the UK wind power sector and its potential in the North Sea. A start-up created in France in 2017, Lhyfe is strengthening its collaboration with shipbuilder Chantiers de l’Atlantique to assemble several offshore hydrogen production platforms with on-grid or off-grid wind farms off the coast of the French Saint-Nazaire shipbuilding site of Chantiers de l’Atlantique.

Out of the 93 projects the company is involved in, 20 are at an advanced stage of development, representing a total of 380.5 megawatts of installed capacity. Last year, the firm started in France a green hydrogen production industrial site connected to wind turbines located in Bouin in the Vendée. The Bouin site is now producing 300 kilograms of green hydrogen per day. Capacity is planned to ramp up to 1,000 kg per day in 2023 (see Kallanish passim).