How the region's industrial past will help lead the world to a clean green future with Hydrogen

Hydrogen is hailed as the fuel of the future - and our region is leading the way in Hydrogen power, from heating our homes to making steel.

In a Gateshead village, Winlaton is the first area in the UK to pilot hydrogen as a main source of fuel. One school there is using hydrogen as fuel in the canteen to cook the school meals.

Caroline Tetley, Head Teacher at Winlaton West Lane Community Primary, said: “This is a generation for change, and with us cooking on the right kind of gas we are leading the way. What a privilege.”

  • What are the perks of using Hydrogen?

Hydrogen is one of the few sources of energy you can use without producing carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases. When you burn it, it produces nothing but heat and pure water. 

Most energy experts see hydrogen as the only practical way many sectors of the economy can meet net-zero climate change targets. Particularly ones that are currently reliant on natural gas or liquid fossil fuels (like heavy industry, chemical refining, and transportation).

  • Is it really the answer to lowering carbon emissions?

Many experts warn blue hydrogen still has a high carbon footprint, and the technology for storing the left-over carbon dioxide is unproven at scale. 

Jess Ralston, an analyst at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, said: "The government should be alive to the risk of gas industry lobbying causing it to commit too heavily to blue hydrogen and so keeping the country locked into fossil fuel based technology, making reaching net zero more difficult and costly."

It’s noteworthy that the co-chair of the government’s Hydrogen Advisory Council is the UK boss of oil major Shell.

Domestic hydrogen needs pipes to get it into our homes, and appliances that can use it – both of which are made from steel.

Steel - an industry heavily reliant on carbon – up till now. And now new technologies will allow us to make steel using hydrogen.

Fossil free steel is being made in Stockholm by manufacturers SSAB. Their main client is the Swedish car firm Volvo.

It was initially pioneered in Sweden, but is now being followed on Teesside.

Chris McDonald from the Materials Processing Institute in Middlesbrough said: “The European leaders by far and away are Sweden where there is a big collaboration supported by the Swedish Government. And to be honest there is a risk of the UK falling behind.

“We’ve got already this great expertise, but what we need to do is to have an investment into the pilot scheme, a proposal I’m taking and discussing with Government."

Swedish manufacturers SSAB are at COP26 to offer guidance.

Marin Pei, Vice President of SSAB Sweden said: “I’m extremely excited because the world needs better solutions. We now see countries who are looking into this, which is extremely positive for the future.”