Scottish hydrogen: assessment report

Examines how applications of hydrogen-based technologies in transport, industry, heat and whole system approaches can best be deployed in Scotland.

1. Introduction And Policy Context

1.1 Net-zero and a hydrogen pathway

The Scottish Government is committed to achieving net-zero by 2045[1]. To date, most of Scotland's emissions reductions have come from decarbonisation of electricity generation. Solutions to decarbonise heat, industry and transport are now growing priorities which will require a broader range of technologies, strategies and energy systems solutions. 

There is broad consensus that hydrogen will play a critical role in decarbonisation of the energy system. Key policy and publications such as the Scottish Energy Strategy (2017)[2], Committee on Climate Change (CCC) Net Zero report (2019)[3,4] and National Grid ESO's Future Energy Scenarios (FES) 2020[5] have identified hydrogen as vital in decarbonising the energy system. Within these, hydrogen generally plays a role in decarbonising sectors where electrification is challenging. 

Identifying the unique Scottish context and understanding hydrogen's role in decarbonisation is critical to informing the policy framework and interventions necessary to achieve Scotland's ambitious decarbonisation targets. 

Figure 01: Developing Scottish and UK policy context for hydrogen [6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11]
Developing Scottish and UK policy context for hydrogen 13 
The figure shows and array of key policies and publications that have assisted the development of the Scottish and UK policy context for hydrogen. These policies and publications identify the role of hydrogen as vital in decarbonising the energy system and have set the framework for the development of the Scottish Hydrogen Assessment. The Hydrogen Assessment Report will in turn set the framework for the development of a Hydrogen Policy Statement and a Scottish Hydrogen Action Plan.

1.2 Scottish hydrogen assessment

This Scottish Hydrogen Assessment will inform the development of future Scottish Government decarbonisation policy. It will form an important part of the evidence base for the development of the Hydrogen Policy Statement and Hydrogen Action Plan committed to in the Programme for Government 2019-20[12]

Figure 02: Three phases of the Hydrogen Assessment
AlternateThree phases of the hydrogen assessment 14
The figure portrays the three phases of development of the Scottish Hydrogen Assessment. These included the development of a hydrogen baseline where the context of hydrogen in Scotland was described, a scenario development where three distinct pathways by which hydrogen could be deployed in the Scottish energy system are described and, an impact assessment which considered the economic benefits associated with each of the identified scenarios.

This assessment aims to investigate how and where hydrogen may fit within the evolving energy system technically, geographically and economically. To assist in this consideration, a key part of the Hydrogen Assessment is the development of distinct viable scenarios for hydrogen deployment in Scotland and the economic assessment of those scenarios. 

1.3 Stakeholder engagement

The Hydrogen Assessment was supported by extensive stakeholder engagement focused on a selection of key organisations likely to be involved in the future hydrogen sector, both in Scotland and further afield.

This engagement was designed to gather thoughts and views on the options for hydrogen production, transportation and end use in Scotland. This fed into the design and development of the scenarios, through which these options could be fully explored (see Section 6 for the scenarios). Engagement was conducted over a number of months and set out in four phases.

Figure 03: Selection of stakeholders consulted
Selection of stakeholders consulted 14
The figure shows some of the stakeholders that were consulted as part of the development of the Scottish Hydrogen Assessment.
Figure 04: Stakeholder engagaement process
Stakeholder engagement process 15
The figure outlines the different phases that formed the Hydrogen Assessment’s stakeholder engagement process. The first phase included focused group sessions to develop ideas and concepts for the scenarios. This phase was followed by a survey on the status of hydrogen in Scotland and how this could be developed in the future. Thirty-eight detailed responses formed this phase. The third phase focused on the scenario development through a series of focus group sessions undertaken to elicit feedback on the proposed scenarios. The final phase was completed through a range of one-to-one interviews with senior figures in the energy industry.

1.4 Hydrogen in the energy system

As the first element in the periodic table, hydrogen is the simplest, the lightest and the most abundant element in the universe. Hydrogen does not commonly exist in its pure form on Earth, and is typically found with other elements, for example, water (H2O). Hydrogen and carbons form hydrocarbons which we think of as fuels (e.g. methane CH4). To be used in the energy system hydrogen needs to be produced from other sources with water and methane being the most commonly used.

Hydrogen production and use within the energy system is not a new concept. The earliest forms of large scale production via electrolysis date back to the 1900s. Hydrogen was a key constituent of 'towns gas', which powered a significant amount of Scotland's heating and street lighting systems until the discovery of North Sea natural gas. 

More recently, hydrogen has become of interest as a decarbonisation option as it emits no carbon dioxide at the point of use. It can support sectors where it is difficult to reach net-zero with just electricity. Hydrogen, like electricity, is considered an energy carrier i.e. it is produced to allow the storage and transfer of energy, rather than a primary source like natural gas, oil, coal etc. Hydrogen can be used widely across parts of the energy sector as seen in Table 1. Currently, the majority of these areas are served by carbon intensive fossil fuels.

"The key technologies required for hydrogen production are already available, however further development will reduce costs and improve performance"

Stakeholder questionnaire opinion

Table 01: Application of hydrogen
Category Description
Production Grey hydrogen – hydrogen produced from reforming natural gas. This process produces both hydrogen and carbon dioxide.
Blue hydrogen – hydrogen produced from reforming natural gas, as for grey hydrogen. However, in this case around 95% of the carbon dioxide produced is captured and stored through Carbon Capture Utilisation and Storage (CCUS) technologies. Blue hydrogen could also be produced using biogas. This could potentially act as a carbon sink to offset sectors that cannot reach zero emissions.
Green hydrogen – hydrogen produced by splitting water in an electrolyser powered from zero carbon sources. This process produces hydrogen and oxygen. No carbon dioxide is released.
Transportation Pipelines, hydrogen delivery vehicles or vessels. 
Storage Above ground or geological. 
End usage Including in transport, domestic & commercial heating, industrial heating & processes and power generation. These applications can be either fuel cell or direct combustion. 
Figure 05: Example hydrogen energy system
Example hydrogen energy system 17
The figure shows a schematic representation of what a hydrogen energy system may look like. Two ways of producing hydrogen are portrayed, one by splitting water in an electrolyser powered by zero carbon sources and one where hydrogen is produced by reforming natural gas and capturing the carbon dioxide produced during the process. The hydrogen produced by these methods is then used across transport, power, storage, heating and, industrial applications. Excess hydrogen could also be exported to other nations or regions.



Back to top