Aberdeen: Next generation hydrogen – Philip Bell

March 2, 2021
Aberdeen: Next generation hydrogen – Philip Bell

Wall Street analysts are calling the prospects for hydrogen, and particularly ‘green’ hydrogen, a ‘once-in-a-generation’ opportunity – and Scotland is in a strong position to take advantage of this resource.

In recent weeks, hydrogen utilisation has ramped up across the country, including the Scottish Power and Global Energy Group agreement to study the feasibility of deploying green hydrogen at the Port of Nigg.

Holyrood has recognised the hydrogen potential, with Scotland being the first of the four UK nations to set out a hydrogen specific strategy. With a vision to become a leading ‘hydrogen nation’, the Scottish government has committed £100 million over the next five years to the sector, implemented through the Hydrogen Action Plan which is due for publication later this year.

As the hydrogen champion for Aberdeen, it gives me great pride to share the progress that the city is making. Hydrogen will be important to the north east and our hydrogen economy is already taking shape.

Aberdeen has the only two refuelling stations in Scotland that offer both 350 and 750 bar hydrogen to the public. The fuelling stations contain electrolysers which make clean hydrogen from water, to power our fleet of fuel cell buses and cars. We added to this fleet in October, with the unveiling of fifteen of the world’s first hydrogen double decker buses for use in the city. Hydrogen assisted bicycles are expected to be on our roads soon.

We are also utilising solid oxide fuel cells, currently the largest fuel cell installation in the UK, to power and heat the TECA conference facility and associated hotels. These fuel cells consume hydrogen produced from steam methane reformed (SMR) biomethane. The biomethane is produced in an on-site anaerobic digester.

The solid oxide fuel cells are resistant to the carbon monoxide produced in the SMR reaction, which would otherwise poison proton exchange membrane fuel cells which are primarily used within vehicles. The TECA complex is powered by three solid oxide fuel cells, each producing around 440kW of electricity and 460kW of heat.

We recognise that there needs to be an upskilling of the local workforce to maintain these new hydrogen systems.

North East Scotland College is training up the next generation of technicians who are learning about fuel cell vehicles and refuelling stations, and how to maintain them. In January, the University of Aberdeen launched the UK’s first postgraduate MSc degree programme in energy transition systems and technologies. The Robert Gordon University offers an MBA course in sustainability and energy transition. We are looking forward to our AREG webinar this month which will focus on the opportunities for transferrable skills within the energy transition.

Aberdeen is already taking significant steps to capitalise on hydrogen, from infrastructure, to transport and skills, and I look forward to seeing the city continue to take a leading position within this market and secure more projects which will set the pace for future generations.

Councillor Philip Bell is a director of Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group (AREG) and Aberdeen City Council’s hydrogen spokesman.

Get in touch

AREG is the original energy transition organisation, working on behalf of members to empower the energy supply chain and champion its expertise. Please get in touch if you have any questions or would like to find out more about membership.

AREG has played an important role in the growth of Scotland’s renewable energy sector, engaging the supply chain and developing the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre. However, we are only at the very beginning of the transition that AREG was established to both lead and support so there are still opportunities for companies to get into the constantly evolving renewables supply chain. We look forward to continuing our work together as renewables builds on its place as Scotland’s main source of power, and as we seek to deliver real change in the crucial areas of heat and transport.

Scottish Renewables

Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce has worked closely with AREG since its formation. The recent progress in the developments of offshore wind projects by Equinor and Vattenfall are as a result of the work of the group over many years. The north-east is known as the oil and gas capital of Europe. At the Chamber, we believe the region must evolve its position to being recognised as the energy capital. Whilst hydrocarbons will continue to be essential in driving our economy for years to come, the generation of renewable resources will play an increasingly important role in providing cost-effective power, innovative development and economic growth.

Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce

The enthusiasm and dedication of the early group that would become AREG was fundamental in us choosing to launch All-Energy in Aberdeen. The first tiny show was held in 2001, and AREG’s Chairman at the time, Jeremy Cresswell, played such an active role that I often describe him in terms such as All-Energy’s ‘midwife’. All-Energy is now the UK’s largest renewable and low carbon energy exhibition and conference in terms of number of attendees, space booked, and number of exhibiting companies. As AREG became firmly established, their presence and support for the event grew spectacularly over the years. We thank them most sincerely for their invaluable input.


Vattenfall has forged a strong working relationship with AREG through the development of the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre. AREG has worked tirelessly on behalf of the North East and it can take enormous credit for the growth of sustainable energy in the region and the path it has cleared for the region to capture further investment.


Aberdeen City and Shire is emerging as a key location for renewables by successfully transferring its world-class oil and gas expertise into the sector and AREG has done much to advance this through a broad range of initiatives. It has acted as a catalyst in driving further investment in the local economy by engaging with companies, Government, public bodies and existing projects and we have been pleased to support their efforts. Scottish Enterprise will continue to engage with AREG as we increase Scotland’s use of renewable energy.

Scottish Enterprise