The north west is ready to blend hydrogen into the gas grid and pipe it into homes and businesses as early as 2024, according to a 17 October briefing by HyNet, a consortium geared to delivering hydrogen from natural gas.
The consortium is led by clean energy company Progressive Energy, and also includes gas network operator Cadent and infrastructure developer Peel Environmental.
The north west is home to the most advanced hydrogen and carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) project in the UK, HyNet says.
Attendees at the Westminster briefing heard that hydrogen could be added to the existing gas network in Manchester, Liverpool, Cheshire and Warrington, using new pipelines to supply major manufacturing and power generation sites.
Speakers explained that the project has benefitted from the region's geology, with depleted gas fields in the Irish Sea converted to store the sequestered CO2 produced during the hydrogen production process.
HyNet has been awarded £1.6m in government grant funding in a competition for CCUS, hydrogen supply and industrial fuel switching to develop the engineering solution for the project.
The consortium is now bidding for further funding to support the next stage of the project.
Other partners involved include CF Fertilisers, Essar, Peel, Johnson Matthey, SNC Lavalin, Unilever, NSG Pilkington and the University of Chester.
HyNet forms part of the region's proposition to become the UK's first low carbon industrial cluster, which aims to deliver 33,000 jobs and over £4bn investment while saving 10 million tonnes of CO2 per year.
Dave Parkin, director at Progressive Energy, said: "To achieve our national target of net zero emissions by 2050 it is essential that we develop a hydrogen economy in the UK. HyNet is a real project, with real partners undertaking real engineering which can start delivering CO2 savings within the next five years.
"Why are we in the North West? The region has unique geology, with salt caverns that can be repurposed for hydrogen storage, and depleted gas fields in the Irish sea that can be used to store CO2. The region also has a strong industrial heritage and existing skilled workforce which make it the obvious choice."
Ed Syson, chief safety and strategy officer at Cadent said: "HyNet is game-changing - achieving huge reductions on carbon emissions by 2024, just five years from now. It is a massive step in the UK's journey to net zero.
"Keeping our homes warm using the similar appliances we use today, fuelling trains, buses, lorries and potentially even some cars, and powering industrial processes in a way that simply would not be achievable by relying on green electricity alone. To think otherwise, is just not realistic."
The North West Energy and Hydrogen Cluster is being led by the North West Business Leadership Team, with support from Greater Manchester and Liverpool City Region Mayors and the Cheshire & Warrington LEP.
Mark Knowles, head of energy at Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, said: "We recognise not only the huge carbon reductions that the project would deliver, but the clean growth opportunity is massive in terms of job creation from safeguarding existing business and attracting new companies to the area.
"Our own projects also complement HyNet; by supporting hydrogen transport infrastructure we are effectively paving the way for more extensive roll-out of fuel cell vehicles which will deliver significant carbon benefits but also improve local air quality."