Aberdeen Hydrogen Festival review 1st – 4th October: A Week of Success

Aberdeen Hydrogen Festival review 1st – 4th October: A Week of Success

By Nigel Holmes – CEO of Scottish Hydrogen Fuel cell Association


Over the course of one week at the beginning of October, Aberdeen took centre stage to host its first “Hydrogen Festival”, which brought together over 650 participants, from local and international markets, for a series of hydrogen themed events which were centred at the Doubletree, by Hilton venue.
At a time when the world is exploring a more sustainable energy future, the festival was a fantastic opportunity to put Hydrogen under the microscope and evaluate its potential as a future energy source.
The success of the Hydrogen Festival reinforced Aberdeen as a leading UK city for development and deployment of hydrogen mobility, with an ambition to make the transition from an oil-based energy economy to a new low carbon technology economy and maximise the potential of this business opportunity.
Friday 27th September: Energy Observer visits Aberdeen
The evening of Friday 27th September saw the arrival of the “Energy Observer” in Aberdeen harbour as part of the ‘warm-up’ to the Hydrogen Festival. This ‘Vessel of the future’ is a former racing yacht, that is powered by a hydrogen production system, which uses three sources of renewable energy to produce carbon-free hydrogen on board from seawater.  It is the first vessel of its kind in the world, and the crew on board this floating laboratory are travelling around the world to search and document innovative and sustainable solutions for the environment. The extensive voyage carried out by the Energy Observer began in 2017 and it will make more than 100 stopovers in 50 countries. The vessel recently toured the Mediterranean and Northern Europe, with Aberdeen and London as the UK stops.
Monday 30th October: Hydrogen vehicles gather…
A range of hydrogen vehicles gather at the Aberdeen Hilton hotel, as part of the displays and exhibits for the Festival. The outside display includes hydrogen cars and vans, as well as the TCP hydrogen fuel cell powered lighting tower which offers true zero emission lighting. These silent fuel cell powered lights are fast becoming popular additions for many of the premier film-makers, such as “Outlander”.. and the displays inside the hotel include a fuel cell bicycle and the Team PrototAU Shell Ecomarathon ‘Best Newcomer’ vehicle.
Tuesday 1st October: 'Hydrogen: A Business Opportunity in the North Sea Region'
The opening conference of the Aberdeen Hydrogen Festival was organised by ERM, Aberdeen City Council (HyTrEc2/Interreg NSR) and Pale Blue Dot. This event filled the conference venue with well over 200 delegates who heard insights and updates from a superb range of speakers. The audience included many who are already involved in hydrogen sector activities, as well as those who were either exploring potential business opportunities or new to the sector. This spread of interests shaped the questions and subsequent discussions about the potential for Hydrogen to be a significant opportunity for businesses. The afternoon sessions included a range of workshops facilitated by the HyTrec project that gave valuable insights into hydrogen opportunities for vehicles such as trucks and zero-emission logistics. The overall conclusion from the final audience poll was that the word ‘Exciting’ best described Hydrogen and it is clear that this new opportunity is now becoming recognised by the Energy sector in the North-East.
Tuesday 1st October: Aberdeen Civic Reception and SHFCA2019 Dinner
The late afternoon schedule included the optional visit to see the Doosan fuel cell CHP installation at the new TECA facility and networking began in earnest at the evening Civic Reception. The welcoming address was given by Aberdeen’s Hydrogen Champion, Councillor Philip Bell, who spoke about the progress Aberdeen has made since the initial launch of Europe’s largest fleet of hydrogen fuel cell buses. This flagship project funded by the EU Horizon 2020 and FCH-JU partnership has achieved of over 1 million passengers being carried for more than a million miles. Aberdeen is now also host to one of the most diverse hydrogen vehicle fleets in the world, including cars, vans, refuse trucks, street sweepers, and of course the buses. This is all part of the transition for Aberdeen from being the oil capital of Europe to becoming the leading clean energy capital.
Wednesday 2nd October: SHFCA2019 Annual Conference
The 11th SHFCA annual conference attracted a record audience of over 170 delegates to hear updates on progress with deployment and development of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies from Scotland and around the world. The opening plenary speech included the welcoming address by the Lord Provost of Aberdeen, Barney Crockett who has been closely involved with the Aberdeen hydrogen buses from inception through to delivery. International speakers included Christian Friebe of Thuga Gas with an update on the progress with Power-to-Gas projects in Germany, Enrique Giron on the achievements of the FCH-JU programme and Cory Shumaker from the Californian Hydrogen Business Council with lessons from scale-up and roll-out of large scale hydrogen fuel cell cars in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Not to be outdone the ‘Local’ speakers included Jon Clipsham of EMEC on the significant range of hydrogen projects in Orkney, with the UK’s first distillery which will be using hydrogen fuel (Cue the compulsory “Hydro-Gin” pun!), as well as the plans for hydrogen powered aircraft running test flights from Orkney. The closing presentation of the day was also one of the highlights, an update by Team PrototAU on their experience on winning the ‘Best Newcomer’ award at the Shell Ecomarathon in July 2019, and their plans to further develop their vehicle for the 2020 competition. To round off the afternoon, the EMEC team brought along samples of the Orkney gin as well as a classic malt to help the Festival continue in style with yet more networking!
Thursday 3rd and Friday 4th October: Trans-Atlantic Power to Gas Workshop (TAP2G)
This inaugural TAP2G workshop brought together over 50 industry experts from Europe and USA to draw on their collective expertise and identify common areas of interest to move the hydrogen industry forward with Power to Gas deployments. The workshop was co-hosted by the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) who are based in Orkney, and the Institute of Gas Innovation and Technology at Stony Brook University of New York, USA.
Power to Gas describes the production of hydrogen from electricity by the electrolysis of water, which is increasingly being seen as a way of enabling very large scale renewables, such as offshore wind, to be integrated into the low carbon energy system. Once converted to hydrogen the gas can potentially be blended with natural gas to decarbonise heat and industry or used as transport fuel for vehicles such as buses, trucks, trains, and ferries. The two-day workshop highlighted several areas of opportunity for transatlantic collaboration and in addition to the workshop, delegates also took part in an optional site visit to the Kittybrewster Hydrogen Refuelling Station.
Friday 4th October: Arcola Schools Hydrogen Challenge
The final event of the Hydrogen Festival was the Arcola Schools Hydrogen Challenge. This outreach was funded by the Royal Society of Chemistry's Public Engagement Grant, HyTrEc2 and Toyota GB, and supported by Aberdeen City Council, H2 Aberdeen and the University of Aberdeen.
As part of the project, 19 students from the University of Aberdeen were trained in workshop delivery and science communication and engaged with 1212 primary and secondary students over 8 days of intense qualifying rounds. The finals on Friday 4th October brought together 120 pupils to find out who could make a vehicle travel furthest on a tiny quantity of hydrogen. The winning highest distance achieved during the final was over 34 meters using only 6.5ml of hydrogen gas!
Primary Winners were Broomhill School, and the Secondary Winners were Cults Academy with over £2000 worth of prizes given out, consisting of Fuel Cell & Renewable Energy Education Kits and LEGO Robotics.
Overall, this was a hugely successful week with fantastic engagement from industry and the public sector and the success of the Aberdeen Hydrogen Festival reflects very well on the rapidly growing interest in hydrogen and fuel cell technologies, which will play an increasing role in the transition to low carbon and zero emission energy for all cities and regions.
If you would like further information about these technologies and other events and activities please visit the Scottish Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association website: www.shfca.org.uk
For information about the TAP2G workshop and hydrogen projects in Orkney see the European Marine Energy Centre at www.emec.org.uk and for information about the Aberdeen hydrogen vehicles visit HyTrec at www.hytrec.eu

Published: 01-11-2019

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