The Port of London Authority (PLA) is leading a consortium of eight organisations in a ground-breaking development project looking at the scope to establish a national hydrogen highway network, integrating land, sea and port.

Under the Smart Maritime Land Operations Call, a Maritime Research and Innovation UK (MarRI-UK) initiative supported by the Department for Transport (DfT) the two-year project will benefit from £1.3 million towards the £2.1 million total cost. Partners in the project include OS Energy, University of Strathclyde, University of Kent, Solutions from HSE, ORE Catapult, University of Birmingham and Newcastle Marine Services, supported by a number of other ports, operators and trade associations. The project partners are providing the balance of the funds, under MarRI-UK match funding rules.

The six project work packages cover energy diversity research, trialling hydrogen power generation for vessels based at the PLA’s Denton Wharf, establishing the business case for back hauling hydrogen into central London, ship design and health & safety requirements.

PLA chief executive, Robin Mortimer said: “We are delighted to win Government backing for Hydrogen Highway from 19 bids submitted. The project underlines our collective commitment to creating a Net Zero future and using the Thames as a test bed for new technologies. The scheme’s strategic fit with the Government’s Maritime 2050 policy was recognised and we are looking forward to getting the work underway with our partners.”

The Government published Maritime 2050 – a strategic vision for the future of the maritime sector – in January 2019. Maritime 2050 targets the UK leading the way in taking action on clean maritime growth, enjoying economic benefits from being an early adopter or fast mover.

MarRI-UK launched its initial call for project proposals in November 2020. The Hydrogen Highway project was the sole one selected for funding, from 19 submissions. The funding package is looking to support development of technological innovation that integrates the land and maritime needs that enable the use of cleaner, alternative fuels.

The PLA’s sustainability commitments include a 2040 target for achieving Net Zero, development of the first evidence-based Air Quality Strategy for a UK port and development with operators, of an emissions reduction roadmap for inland waterway vessels.