How the UK will move ahead with hydrogen –
the end of the H2FC Supergen era but still much more to come
A special thank you from the H2FC Supergen Hub to Dr Jasmin Cooper of Imperial College London’s Sustainable Gas Institute for providing this review.
If you’d like to download the presentations from our speakers, head to the MAwH Digital Delegate Pack. We’ve uploaded each speaker’s slide-deck to their session in the relevant section of the programme. You can also see a selection of photos from the event.
Since 2012 the H2FC SUPERGEN hub has been pioneering advances in hydrogen research in the UK with over £50 million invested.
The hub saw collaborations across many UK universities with a research network spanning over 30 institutes and over 100 academics. But alas, all things must come to an end. To mark the end of 10 years of innovation, the Moving Ah2ead with Hydrogen event held at Illuminate at the Science Museum in London, on December 9th 2022, brought together those involved with the hub to bid farewell, as well as to introduce the two new hubs that will begin in 2023: UK-HyRES and HI-ACT.
The first session of the day centred on hydrogen in the UK: past and future, and opened with an overview of H2FC Supergen delivered by the hub’s director, Nigel Brandon, before handing over to Katy Milne (Catapult) for her keynote session on hydrogen for aviation. Katy delivered a wonderful keynote on how hydrogen can be used by the aviation sector to cut their greenhouse gas emissions, including using hydrogen as a fuel and how to improve advanced manufacturing capabilities for the aviation sector in the UK.
A retrospective from the hub’s management hub closed the first session, with the hub’s co-directors and work package leaders giving an overview of their work and research conducted as part of H2FC Supergen. The research themes spanned engineering (production and storage of hydrogen, as well as safety) and social aspects (white papers and policy and incorporating more hydrogen content in higher education courses), which shows the breadth of the work carried out by H2FC Supergen.
The second session of the day focused on rising stars in the hydrogen field and gave attendees the opportunity to hear from those who have benefitted from the hub, ranging from early career to senior lecturer/chief scientist. For industry (Ceres and Bramble Energy), the work generated by the hub has allowed hydrogen technology to grow to a scale where it is being used commercially.
For those working in a university setting, the hub has allowed innovations through the application of new methods in material structure analysis, as well as allowing for translating hydrogen into action (create partnerships and outreach, share experiences and identify funding).
The third session of the day centred on the two new hubs which will reignite the flame of Hydrogen research in the UK. Professor Tim Mays introduced UK-HyRES which will focus on H2 and alternative liquid fuels, with the aim of accelerating H2 production and use to reach net-zero. Research into hydrogen storage, distribution and end use are included in UK-HyRES, but fuel cells and blue hydrogen are not. UK-HyRES also only considers green hydrogen.
Professor JianZhong Wu introduced the other hub, Hi-ACT, which will focus on energy systems integration and acceleration of hydrogen. This hub will include fuel cells and other types of hydrogen (not blue hydrogen) and is multidisciplinary with socioeconomic work packages.
The final session of the day was a panel discussion centring on hydrogen stakeholder perspectives. The panellists, from a range of backgrounds including Deloitte, BEIS and academia, gave an insightful and thoughtful discussion on the challenges still facing hydrogen in the UK and what needs to be done to overcome constraints so that we can move ahead with hydrogen.
One of the main challenges still facing hydrogen in the UK is whether or not the UK is moving fast enough. With other countries, such as Germany and Australia taking proactive actions to accelerate hydrogen production and use, there is uncertainty on how the UK will compare, especially given the lack of public awareness on hydrogen in the home (only demonstration homes hooked up to hydrogen and little taught in schools on hydrogen for energy) and the skills gap (what is the level of education required and what are the transferable skills already available in the UK).
Overall, the day marked the end of an era for hydrogen research in the UK but also signalled the beginning of a new wave of innovations. While there are still a number of challenges still facing hydrogen in the UK and no one is certain what the hydrogen landscape will look like in 5, 10 or 15-years’ time, if the level of enthusiasm and interest in the room on the day are a sign of things to come then future of hydrogen in the UK is bright.