Once this has been achieved, the nation could become a key player in the hydrogen market.

One company aiming to support not only safety protocols with hydrogen but actively seeking opportunities to turn the UK into a global hydrogen powerhouse is BOC. BOC has several large-scale hydrogen production projects being developed in the UK and, according to Ian Hibbitt Business Development Manager Industrial Decarbonisation & Applications at BOC, they also have the ‘largest’.

But who are BOC? And how are they enabling the growth of the UK’s hydrogen sector?

“We at heart industrial gases company. We make industrial gases for primarily industry to consume there’s very little of what we do goes to the public, maybe a bit in health care,” Hibbitt exclusively told H2 View.

“We impact virtually all of industry, whether it be food, manufacturing, metals, glass and steel plants couldn’t run without our oxygen going into them. Most of the chemical sector couldn’t operate safely without the nitrogen. We send them either liquid or down pipelines.”

Having this infrastructure already in place for hydrogen could be a massive coup for the company. Many widely believe that existing pipelines can be converted for hydrogen and thus the switch to the clean energy carrier could be both cheaper and quicker. For this, hydrogen is a focus for BOC and has been for the previous 100 years.

“Hydrogen is one of those industrial gases we’ve been supplying, I think, just over 100 years now. That’s not unusual. Don’t forget that most of our s gas was 48% hydrogen. But the country’s been used to dealing with high amounts of hydrogen in pipes and in combustion and in industry up until the back end of the late sixties/very early seventies.

“People talk about ‘we’re going to put 20% hydrogen in the grid’ well we work with 40%, 48%.”

On the safety aspect of hydrogen, Hibbitt references perhaps one of the most infamous events involving hydrogen as the last widely known hydrogen ‘incident’ to take place – the Hindenburg disaster of 1937. And this is actually seen as a testament to the safety protocols that must be undertaken with this being the last know catastrophe.

“People normally ask ‘when was the last major hydrogen incident you can think of?’ They all go through they go back to an airship. They have to go back 100 years ago – they go back that far. When compared to road transport accidents this week it makes no sense.”

By today’s standards, its argued that fuels such as a petrol and diesel would never be accepted due to safety implications – an argument shared by Hibbitt.

When questioned on this, Hibbitt responded, “No, it couldn’t. If you were to proceed to fill in something that wasn’t petrol by a member of the public who’s never been trained, I’d be arrested.”

Although playfully expressed the implications in what Hibbitt is stating is significant. Hydrogen faces above odds chances in being incorporated into vehicles and much of our day to day lives due to the consciousness of danger in using new technologies such as these and more importantly, how the general public would interact with it.

Expanding on this argument, Hibbitt told H2 View, “We have a lot of history. And we should not forget our history, our experience and knowledge we do have in this country. We have a lot of knowledge on how to operate with hydrogen. But interestingly, you know, we talk about the BOC can produce it, we can move it.

“Hydrogen is a funny substance. It’s not very ‘squishable’. It’s not very good at being compressed. Natural gas is. And to be fair to t natural gas. It’s a wonderful stuff and it’s very, very difficult to replace. So there’s going to be lots and lots of solutions required to replace that natural gas. When you think about our big challenge ahead of us, there’s three sort of big numbers that are going to impact us.

“Energy in this country moves by three ways. It goes to a pipe for natural gas, it goes down a wire for electricity. And the one that people don’t recognise very much is the other pipeline grid we have is call it products, products pipeline grid. That’s how the diesel jet one and petrol moves around the country in very large quantities.

“Electricity grid is by far the tiniest of those three. So by 2050, there’ll be no natural gas going down the gas pipelines and there’d be no petroleum products going down the other pipeline. The gas pipes are over 700 terawatt hours a year.

“Electricity only is less than 300MW. The product pipeline is over 600. That’s a massive change coming towards industry.”

This massive change is what is a concern among many in the industry. Decarbonising the energy industry will require a rapid scaling up of zero-emission technologies, hydrogen included. However, for hydrogen to truly flourish in this carbon-free world, renewable energy must be scaled up in order to facilitate its production.

Despite this, Hibbitt, and BOC remain confident they can support the growing urgency, “We’ve been supplying hydrogen into that testbed for many years and that work has been underway for the UK grid for many, many years. So I don’t have much worry about that.”

With hydrogen continuously ramping up in the UK the region could become a crucial area for innovation, research and development, and hydrogen production. BOC clearly intends to be at the forefront of the UK’s hydrogen industry and will actively support its integration.

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