Firm hails ‘major advance’ towards making fuel produced using renewable energy viable for large vehicles

The construction equipment maker JCB has signed a multibillion-pound deal to import and supply hydrogen produced using renewable energy.

As the Cop26 climate conference got under way in Glasgow, the company announced a deal with Australia’s Fortescue Future Industries (FFI) that will allow it to start selling “green” gas through a specialist division, Ryze Hydrogen, from early next year.

Hydrogen does not produce carbon dioxide when burned and so is considered an alternative option for heavy industries as the world seeks to wean itself burning fossil fuels. It already powers buses in many countries – including in the UK – and could power trucks, trains and other highly energy-consuming vehicles including aircraft – areas that are currently considered difficult to decarbonise.

FFI’s green hydrogen is produced from 100% renewable sources but still requires significant energy to produce.

JCB’s chairman, Anthony Bamford, whose company Wrightbus built the world’s first hydrogen double-decker bus, said the deal was an important step towards getting greener energy to commercial customers.

“It’s fine having an engine powered by green hydrogen, but no good if customers can’t get green hydrogen to fuel their machines,” he said. “This is a major advance on the road towards making green hydrogen a viable solution. We want the government to show its commitment to the sector by investing in buses, trains, trucks, ships, aircraft and the entire green hydrogen supply chain.”

FFI’s chairman, Andrew Forrest, said the deal would help the UK achieve its net zero targets, particularly in hard-to-electrify sectors. “The reduction in greenhouse gas emissions associated with replacing fossil fuel with only 2m tonnes of green hydrogen is the equivalent of taking over 8m cars off the road – almost a quarter of the UK’s entire fleet.”

The business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, has previously said low-carbon hydrogen has a critical role to play in the UK’s transition to net zero. Trials have been ongoing to see whether it can be used to heat the nation’s homes. It is an attractive option as much of the existing gas network can be utilised.

However, producing it using renewable electricity is less efficient than using that electricity as a direct power source. In recent weeks ministers have been talking up air source heat pumps instead, suggesting hydrogen may be better used in hard-to-decarbonise sectors such as transport.

Extracted in full: JCB signs deal to import ‘green’ hydrogen from Australia to UK | JCB | The Guardian