Exeter Hydrogen Refuelling Hub Coming by 2026
Hydrogen developer Tower Group has revealed that its Exeter H2 Hub will be delivered by 2026. How will this hub help to support the South West’s journey to a net zero transport network?

The Exeter H2 Hub consortium, which is behind the plans, has said that it could supply fuel for vehicles owned by utility companies, councils, and the public.

It is aiming to provide a 5 MW pilot plant with mobile refuelling capacity in East Devon, and the plant will supply hydrogen to fuel cell vehicles owned by consortium member Wales & West Utilities for example, helping to support the switch for commercial fleets.

Growing the hydrogen economy is key for the South West

The facility will also be used to explore how low-carbon hydrogen may be used to decarbonise industry in the region.

Also open to third parties, the refuelling station is focusing on encouraging the growth of the hydrogen economy in the area.

It has been said by the consortium that demonstrating how hydrogen can be used in transport is a key step to increasing hydrogen production, with both retail and direct offtake hydrogen supply being planned in the area.

Consortium members also plan to apply for government support to advance their ambitions to make hydrogen refuelling a reality for the region.

The deal builds on a pre-existing agreement between Tower Group and Element 2 to co-develop hydrogen refuelling stations in the South West.

Further opportunities for hydrogen in the region will be explored 

Other consortium members include the University of Exeter’s Centre for Future Clean Mobility, Emotive, Oort Energy, Costain, and Gardiner & Theobald.

Alex King, CEO of Tower Group explained that projects like this one will be crucial to moving forward on the journey to decarbonisation: “The UK needs more investment in hydrogen infrastructure. If we are going to truly level up the country and deliver on the promises of net zero, then we must accelerate our efforts and bring investment and jobs to those places desperately in need.”

This pilot project takes us one step further towards this goal, with many more to come.

Initial modelling suggests that the pilot plant could expand significantly due to demand from utility companies alone.

By demonstrating the viability of this pilot, Tower Group aim to catalyse organic hydrogen growth to the benefit of East Devon, Exeter, and the wider South West.

In addition, Tower Group will also use the project to explore further opportunities for hydrogen in the area, such as the capture of secondary heat and direct offtake to industrial users.

Retrofitting existing fleets with hydrogen will be investigated 

Wales & West Utilities maintains 1,300 vehicles in its fleet, half of which could require hydrogen to meet its net zero targets.

Stephen Offley, Wales & West Utilities Fleet Manager expressed that hydrogen has great potential: “Wales & West Utilities believes that hydrogen will soon become the most operationally satisfactory zero-emission solution for high energy demand vans.

“Consequently, we expect to deploy hydrogen-fuelled vans at the earliest practicable opportunity, initially in smaller clusters, that operate within a convenient radius of the hydrogen refuelling location.”

Continuing, Stephen added: “These clusters will each create significant daily demand for hydrogen and cover almost 90% of our fleet duty cycles: subject to satisfactory operating experience and total cost of ownership (TCO), we would expect to progressively increase cluster sizes year-on-year.”

Going forward, the Exeter H2 Hub consortium plans to work with consortium members and clean vehicle innovator Emotive to investigate opportunities to retrofit existing fleets with hydrogen combustion engines and/or fuel cell electric powertrains.

This will be via a pilot project of 5-10 vehicles from Wales & West Utilities, co-located with the refuelling pilot.

The intention is to increase this up to a facility where the team can retrofit and maintain the thousands of vans and larger vehicles in the region.

The project supports plans to operate a UK-wide hydrogen refuelling network

Dan Regan, Managing Director of Emotive said that the project’s focus is on amplifying sustainability: “Emotive has been working on innovative clean commercial vehicle designs right here in Devon for over five years now. We’re incredibly proud to now be part of Tower Group’s consortium taking this leap in the South West towards a cleaner and greener future for our region.

“This project will take great steps in achieving better air quality, more sustainable industries and shine a light on the South West as a leader in greener transport and energy systems.”

The project supports Element 2’s plans to operate a UK-wide network of hydrogen refuelling stations from Land’s End to John o’ Groats by 2027. The business is lending its expertise on the installation and operation of mobile and fixed hydrogen refuelling stations.