SNP ministers are ramping up pressure on Boris Johnson’s government to "accelerate” the development of clean hydrogen - pinned as a crucial part of Scotland’s strategy to transform the economy away from a reliance on fossil fuels.

Fears have emerged that Scotland is “frittering away” the potential of scaling up the industry to play a key role in the move away from high-polluting fossil fuel energy – denting hopes Scotland could become the producer of the “lowest cost hydrogen in Europe by 2045”.

Blending hydrogen with natural gas and feeding it into the grid could support early steps to decarbonise heating, but low-carbon hydrogen could play a key role in Scotland’s future energy demand.

Hydrogen could also help efforts to decarbonise the transport network as an alternative fuel to electrification.

Green hydrogen uses a process called electrolysis, powered by renewable electricity, to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.

HeraldScotland: How green hydrogen can power homesHow green hydrogen can power homes

Blue hydrogen splits fossil fuel gas into hydrogen and carbon dioxide, with the by-product captured and stored to prevent it being released into the atmosphere.

But pressure is to be ramped up by SNP ministers after the UK Government announced that a “final decision” on blending up to 20% hydrogen into the gas grid will not be made until the end of 2023.

The Tory Government’s net zero strategy also set out that officials will “develop the evidence base and frameworks necessary to take strategic decisions on the role of hydrogen in decarbonising heat”, but not until 2026 – potentially holding up progress.

SGN is taking forward a trial in Fife which will deliver more than 2,000kg of green hydrogen per day in Levenmouth.

The H100 Fife project hopes to demonstrate the tole hydrogen can play in decarbonising heat from 2023 for around 300 homes.

The Scottish Government’s hydrogen policy statement, published last year, points to “the need for pace” in developing the industry.

The SNP’s strategy highlights investment in blue hydrogen projects in the 2020s and building up to green hydrogen production at scale by 2045, when Scotland has legally committed to become net-zero.

The policy statement claims that “Scotland’s unique selling points” - its natural resources, infrastructure and skilled energy workforce will “enable us to could "become the producer of lowest cost hydrogen in Europe by 2045”.

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The Scottish Government aims to generate 5GW of energy from hydrogen by 2030, and 25GW by 2045.

The SNP-Greens Government’s hydrogen action plan, which will be published before the end of the year, will formally call on UK ministers to quicken the pace in amending regulations and bringing forward legislation to support hydrogen being blended into the gas network.

The blueprint will also demand that decisions around 100% hydrogen being used in the gas grid are accelerated in a bid to maximise the volumes of renewable hydrogen being used in Scotland’s energy mix as soon as possible.

The Herald understands that the Scottish Government hopes that by loosening hydrogen regulations, along with scaling up renewable energy, island and rural communities could play a key role in producing and exporting hydrogen to the rest of Scotland, the UK and Europe.

Scottish Labour has called on both the UK and Scottish governments to help kickstart the clean hydrogen industry with more urgency.

The party’s net zero, energy and transport spokesperson, Monica Lennon, said: “Scotland has the chance to be a world leader in green energy, but so far we are frittering away that potential.

HeraldScotland: Scottish Labour's net zero and energy spokesperson, Monica LennonScottish Labour's net zero and energy spokesperson, Monica Lennon

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“We should be leading the way in developing new technologies and establishing green hydrogen as a viable energy source.

“Neither the UK or the Scottish Government seem to recognise the urgency here.

“We need to seize these opportunities to build an energy system fit for the future and deliver those all-important green jobs.

“Scottish Labour’s energy transition commission will provide the leadership that has been so sorely lacking, setting out a vision for a jobs-first transition and the future of energy.”

A study by ClimateXChange, led by Scottish-based experts, found that “a 20% hydrogen blend can be safely used in domestic appliances without the need of upgrade or replacement”, potentially saving households thousands of pounds in having to rip out gas boilers for niitial use of hydrogen.

The report also says that “it is generally assumed that internal piping is also safe for use with a 20% hydrogen blend without the need for upgrade or change”.

The ClimateXChange evidence review concludes that “in many key areas, Scotland holds a leading position in the deployment of hydrogen at a large scale for heating and other uses”.

It added that “the technical and engineering skills base centred in Scotland from the oil and gas sector could be leveraged and converted to hydrogen expertise, which could enable Scotland to become a global leading expert in hydrogen very quickly”.

It says: “Developing the required skills, capabilities and expertise quickly could enable Scotland to be viewed as a global leader in hydrogen.”

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The North Sea oil and gas industry is hoping to embrace hydrogen as infrastructure is decommissioned and moves away from fossil fuels.

OGUK energy policy manager, Will Webster, said: “Hydrogen will be critical in reducing emissions from heavy industry, as well as in power, heat and transport and as a complement to other technologies such as heat pumps and electric vehicles, providing flexibility and resilience to the whole energy system.

“The offshore oil and gas industry is well-placed to scale up this technology, and through the North Sea Transition Deal, we will use our skills and infrastructure to support the delivery of a hydrogen production capacity of 5GW by 2030.

“Action is needed now to enable hydrogen to be deployed flexibly in the future, and will require sustained investment. We’d hope to see some hydrogen blending on the network by 2023, but we understand rigorous testing must first prove successful.”

But some have raised concerns about the use of blue hydrogen – with climate activists branding it a licence to continue burning fossil fuels and relying on carbon capture technology which is not proven at scale and Scotland having missed out on UK Government support for the Acorn project in the north east.

Scotland’s biggest polluter, Ineos, is backing the transition to hydrogen with £1.7 billion of investment across its European operations. But Scotland is set to miss out on the first wave of green hydrogen plants set up by the Grangemouth-based company, with projects in Norway, Germany and Belgium being prioritised.

Ineos chairman Jim Ratcliffe ha stressed that “green hydrogen represents one of our best chances to create a more sustainable and low carbon world”, adding that “Europe is crying out for more investment in green hydrogen”.

Nicola Sturgeon told The Herald that “clearly there are decisions of the UK Government that I either don’t agree with or don’t think are going far or fast enough”.

She added that she holds a “very profound concern” that the Acorn carbon capture and storage project, which also has plans to produce hydrogen at scale, has not been made a priority by the UK Government.

HeraldScotland: First Minister Nicola SturgeonFirst Minister Nicola Sturgeon

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She added: “I would have liked to have seen more upfront, hard investment commitments in the Budget.”

But Ms Sturgeon stressed that while “not absolutely everything” in the UK Government's net zero strategy she would have agreed with, it “showed some welcome progress and welcome ambition”.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Many of the levers required to support the emergence of a flourishing hydrogen economy in Scotland are reserved to the UK Government.

“It is critical the UK Government works with us to ensure that our collective vision for the development of the hydrogen economy is aligned, and the benefits of this developing sector are realised across the UK.

“We recognise that the development of a domestic hydrogen sector will play an important role in supporting a just transition to net zero by 2045, and presents significant long-term economic opportunities and we continue to urge the UK Government to accelerate reserved decisions needed to support hydrogen blending and the wider role of hydrogen in the gas grid.”

The UK Government hopes to deliver a neighbourhood pilot of hydrogen heating by 2023 and a “village trial” by 2025 – which will provide evidence on the costs and feasibility of transporting 100% hydrogen safely into the gas grid and using it for heating and cooking.

Government assumptions show that the costs of hydrogen and electrification are expected to be similar in the coming years.

A UK Government spokesperson said: “The Government is working closely with Ofgem and the wider gas industry to explore the potential to blend hydrogen into the gas grid.

“Safety trials are already underway, led by the Hydeploy project, which began injecting hydrogen blends into the gas network in Tyne and Wear this summer.

“Any decision on wider use will be firmly based on our assessment on the value for money and safety of using hydrogen in this way.

"We are aiming to make a decision on blending by the end of 2023.”