National Highways hydrogen plan dismissed as greenwashing


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The greenest road ever?

National Highways says that replacing diesel with hydrogen to fuel heavy construction machinery on the project will help make it carbon neutral in construction. Thames Crossing Action Group, campaigning against the scheme, dismisses this as propaganda.

Earlier this week the government roads authority published a tender notice seeking a supplier for more than six million kilograms of hydrogen for ist contractors to use on the project.

However, the small print of the tender notice reveals that, even if a supplier is found, it will only replace a third of the diesel to be used during construction – 40 million litres of diesel will still be required.

Thames Crossing Action Group (TCAG) questioned whether the contracts that have already been awarded for the project include provision and costings to use such a costly fuel.

“The procurement of the hydrogen is estimated at £50m, and we know construction machinery is predicted to cost more than three times than more traditional fossil fuel machinery.  Who would pick up that bill?

“It is clear that hydrogen is also not always as clean, green and efficient as expected, and is far more expensive.  We do not believe that the use of cleaner greener construction, such as the use of hydrogen, has been included in the costings used for the proposed Lower Thames Crossing (LTC) in the business case.”

Laura Blake, chair of TCAG, said: “There are no guarantees that any of this can or would happen, if the proposed LTC goes ahead.  Even if it did the cost of greener construction is predicted to be more than three times as much, and supply of green hydrogen is limited.  Large amounts of electricity are needed to produce hydrogen, and this comes at a time when we have shortages of electricity in the country.

“The cost associated with greener construction would push the already high cost up even further, and force the already low benefit cost ratio down.  Value for money is something many, including government officials and the project examiners are already questioning.

“There is nothing green about the proposed LTC, it would be hugely destructive and harmful, and it fails to meet scheme objectives, it is simply not fit for purpose.  We welcome the Climate Change Committee’s call for an urgent review of all current and future road building, which we believe should result in the scrapping of the proposed LTC.”

As previously reported, National Highways project director Matt Palmer said: “The proposed Lower Thames Crossing is designed to be the greenest road ever built in the UK, with the aim of being carbon neutral in construction. At the heart of these plans is the use of clean low-carbon hydrogen power, and by using it on such a large scale to power our heavy construction machinery that is traditionally hard to electrify, we can significantly reduce our carbon footprint, accelerate the construction industry’s shift away from diesel, and help kick start the creation of a hydrogen ecosystem in the Thames Estuary.”

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