UK: North East airports to benefit from new hydrogen transport funding

Exterior view of Teesside Airport terminal.
The joy of all things, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Len Varley - Assistant Editor 6 Min Read
6 Min Read

Airports could become greener and more efficient thanks to an £8 million government fund to support hydrogen-powered transport in the North East.

The UK government funding plan will foster hydrogen-powered transport initiatives in the North East. These initiatives not only contribute to environmental sustainability but also hold the promise of boosting the economy and creating job opportunities.

The Transport Secretary’s announcement on August 2, 2023, revealed two projects in the second phase of the competition. This move seeks to inspire businesses and innovators to harness the potential of hydrogen fuel technology for expediting the decarbonization of transportation.

Revolutionizing airport ground support

One of the projects is led by ULEMCo, which will receive a portion of the £8 million fund. This initiative focuses on developing hydrogen-powered support vehicles for airports.

These vehicles, including tow trucks for airplanes and runway sweepers, will be stationed at Teesside International Airport. The ultimate goal is to aid the airport in achieving its ambitious target of becoming net zero by 2030.


Creating a hydrogen refuelling network

Another project, spearheaded by Element 2, aims to establish new hydrogen refuelling stations. This infrastructure is pivotal for the widespread adoption of hydrogen as a fuel source.

With the newfound funding, four publicly accessible hydrogen refuelling stations will be established, marking a 50% increase in the UK’s refuelling station count.

These stations are designed to accommodate a diverse range of vehicles, from airside equipment to heavy goods vehicles, including those used for supermarket deliveries.

Skill development and workforce upskilling

Beyond these innovative projects, the announcement allocates £300,000 directly to local colleges. This financial support is intended to enhance the skill set of the local workforce, thereby nurturing specialized skills and fostering a pipeline of talent.

This strategic investment further solidifies the Tees Valley’s reputation as a hub for hydrogen-related advancements.

Mark Harper, the Transport Secretary, highlighted the immense potential of hydrogen technology in both decarbonizing transportation and driving economic growth.

The successful projects underscore the Tees Valley’s expertise in pioneering hydrogen technology, with the resulting investments contributing to job creation and apprenticeships across the North East.

A crucial step towards decarbonization

This funding brings the UK a step closer to decarbonizing complex and heavy vehicles, such as those used in airside operations. Hydrogen fuel cells, already employed in buses across the nation, hold the advantage of emitting no harmful exhaust gases.

The increased utilization of hydrogen has the potential to foster economic growth by establishing a resilient transport system that is environmentally friendly and capable of generating thousands of skilled jobs.

The funding announcement signifies the ongoing expansion of the UK’s sole hydrogen transport hub, drawing in more innovation, investment, and employment opportunities to the Tees Valley.

The competition prompted proposals for overcoming challenges in scaling up hydrogen technology, including large-scale refuelling and the integration of hydrogen-powered vehicles within the regional supply chain.

Teesside Airport comments

Phil Forster, the Managing Director of Teesside International Airport, emphasized the airport’s commitment to responsible practices for the benefit of the local community, businesses, and the environment.

The new hydrogen refueling station not only demonstrates the safety and reliability of this technology but also positions Teesside as a pioneer in aviation and clean energy sectors.

This marks the second round of government competition funding for the Tees Valley hydrogen transport hub. The initial phase focused on developing hydrogen-powered vehicles, resulting in over £2.6 million granted to various winners.

Notable among them was Toyota, providing hydrogen vehicles for local police, and Hydrogen Vehicle Systems, which devised a hydrogen-powered van for supermarket deliveries.

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen celebrated the area’s early involvement in hydrogen fuel trials, which culminated in securing a permanent refueling station.

He reiterated the region’s commitment to supporting cleaner, healthier, and safer industries that align with the UK’s net-zero aspirations.

Since its launch in 2020, the Tees Valley region has reaped the rewards of substantial government funding and private investments. Projections suggest that by 2030, the hydrogen sector could contribute to over 12,000 jobs nationwide and attract more than £9 billion in private investment.

Local innovation

Mike Biddle, Executive Director for Net Zero at Innovate UK, highlighted the significance of place-based innovation in revitalizing local economies like the Tees Valley.

These projects represent crucial investments that decarbonize transportation, stimulate local innovation, foster skill development, and drive business growth.

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