The UK and the international community have an increasing interest in the benefits of a hydrogen-based economy. Existing and emerging technologies that are inherently carbon-neutral and potentially carbon-negative are increasingly attractive, given the challenge of meeting climate targets to prevent climate change and build a clean growth strategy. The integration of clean energy technologies across the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) can increase the flexibility of the energy system, driving efficiency, cost reduction and enhancing the value of natural resources.

There are over 250 platforms and 45,000 kilometres of pipeline installed within the United Kingdom Continental Shelf (UKCS). As these assets near the end of their economic life oil and gas operators are planning to decommission these facilities in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Current cost forecasts for this activity exceed £58bn with approximately 50% borne by the operators and 50% borne by UK taxpayers.

The Hydrogen Offshore Production (HOP) project identifies an alternative to decommissioning by providing re-use options for offshore infrastructure while addressing the national challenge of a low carbon energy supply. In doing so, the project will prove the feasibility of several decentralised hydrogen generation, storage and distribution options that collectively provide a scalable offshore hydrogen production solution, whilst offsetting a portion of decommissioning costs that are currently forecast for all offshore assets and infrastructure.

HOP will tackle the challenge of bulk hydrogen production by (1) proposing viable environmental and economic technology solutions to be deployed offshore, (2) developing a new Industrial Hydrogen Production test site to both prove the industrial benefits and to aid commercialisation of emerging technology and, (3) conducting market analysis and producing the business case for the transformation of existing offshore infrastructure, re-purposing assets and demonstrating the viability for decentralised generation of hydrogen.

As part of the project, an Industrial Hydrogen Production test site will be established with Flotta (Orkney Islands) being proposed as the location. This will provide a test bed for technology, fast-tracking its development and providing a route for accelerated commercial deployment. Within a region of considerable renewable energy generation, the island of Flotta is ideally placed to benefit from local expertise, existing supply chain and advanced technology solutions. For example, the Industrial Hydrogen Production test site would greatly benefit from lessons learnt at the nearby Orkney Water Testing Centre.

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