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  • Writer's pictureSafer Highways

Four firms shortlisted for groundbreaking Lower Thames Crossing hydrogen bid

• Four firms shortlisted to provide largest ever volume of hydrogen to UK transport sector

• Lower Thames Crossing to be first major UK infrastructure project to use hydrogen to power heavy construction machinery

• The infrastructure and skills developed by the project will speed up the use of hydrogen in the construction industry and a new hydrogen economy in Thames Estuary

National Highways has today (29 November 2023) unveiled the four businesses that have been shortlisted to supply over 6 million kilograms of hydrogen for use on the proposed Lower Thames Crossing project, the largest volume ever bought in the UK transport sector.

The shortlisted firms are:

• Air Products PLC

• BOC Limited

• BP Oil UK Limited

• INOVYN Europe Limited

Having passed the first stage of the procurement process, , the firms will move into a Competitive Dialogue with National Highways. This approach allows for direct discussion between each bidder and National Highways, and is designed to find innovative, deliverable solutions. The contract award is expected in summer 2024.

The contract is for the supply, storage and distribution of over 6 million kilograms of hydrogen, which will be used to power the construction machinery that will be used to build the new crossing.

Diesel accounts for around a third of the projects carbon footprint, and using hydrogen will allow the scheme to replace around 20 million litres of diesel on its worksites. Electric plant and battery powered machinery will also be used for static or slow-moving machinery. Other renewable fuel sources and biofuels may also be used.

Kat Ferguson, Procurement Director, Lower Thames Crossing said:

“The proposed Lower Thames Crossing is designed to the greenest road ever built in the UK. We’ve put carbon reduction at the heart of our procurement process, and have ambitious plans to use hydrogen to target one of the biggest sources of embedded carbon in the construction industry - diesel. We’ve shortlisted four firms who want to help us meet our carbon reduction targets by replacing around 20 million litres of diesel with hydrogen, and I look forward to moving into the next stage of the procurement process with them.”

As part of National Highways’ commitment to net zero maintenance and construction emissions by 2040, the Lower Thames Crossing has been designated a pathfinder project to explore carbon neutral construction during its main work phase between 2026 and 2032. The scheme seeks to remove an estimated total of 66 million litres of diesel from its worksites – and using new, cleaner fuels such as hydrogen is one of the ways that will contribute to making this possible.

The purchase of such a large volume of hydrogen to use on the Lower Thames Crossing will speed up the construction industry’s shift away from diesel power by showing other infrastructure projects what is possible, and by giving some of the UK’s biggest construction firms the confidence to invest in the next generation of machinery and skills that will then become the new standard practice on other projects.

The ambitious plan will also kick-start the highly anticipated development of a hydrogen ecosystem in the Thames Estuary that, according to the government-backed Thames Estuary Growth Board, has the potential to create 9,000 new highly skilled jobs and give a £3.8 billion boost to the economy.

The Lower Thames Crossing is a proposed new road and tunnel across the river Thames east of London. The detailed examination of the Lower Thames Crossing by the Government’s independent planning experts, the Planning Inspectorate, is currently underway. If the plans are approved, construction is currently expected to start in 2026.

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