Can hydrogen bring the good times back to Harwich?
The Plastic Problem
When plastic was first synthesised in the early years of the 20th Century we had no idea that this new creation would become the global pollution issue we are seeing today. Daily news stories, from around the world, of plastic waste are becoming somewhat alarming and is something we, as a human race, need to address pretty quickly.
Plastic in our oceans presents a serious threat to marine life and the food chain, and we are seeing a wide variety of plastic being washed up on our beaches.
Turn the Tide on Plastics
Earlier this year Harwich Haven Authority launched a new campaign, “turn the tide on plastics” ,to increase awareness of the ever-growing problem of plastic in our seas and the affect it’s having on our local marine environment.
What can we do with the plastic waste?
Recycling at home is the first step and we are becoming better at it. But what happens when it’s collected every week? Some of it is being recycled, but not all. The plastic that slips through the net is going into landfill or was exported to counties such as China to be incinerated. However, since China stopped accepting waste plastic the issue has been handed back to us.
Birds eye view of the issue
Harwich is located in an ideal position to see first-hand the alarming amount of plastic being washed up and is also in a great position to benefit from this. Could a new disruptive technology be the catalyst to return the good times to a once thriving haven port?
PowerHouse Energy and Distributed Modular Gasification
A UK based company called PowerHouse Energy have engineered a solution to the issue of plastic in our environment. Using high temperatures, or gasification, the plastic they can recover the energy contained within and produce high quality hydrogen without any environmental damage.
Harwich is in an ideal position to benefit from this technology. There are many suitable sites around Harwich to place one or several DMG units and being a port it would be able to receive waste plastic in large quantities by ship from the UK and overseas.
The Hydrogen produced can be sold and used to generate electricity for the town potentially bringing down the cost of energy to residents. It will also create much needed employment and help kickstart a regeneration of the town.
A hydrogen future
The world has woken up the problems we are currently facing with global warming and the car manufacturers recognise a need for alternative power methods. Hydrogen fuel cells are a burgeoning technology and several manufacturers such as Toyota see a future powered by them. Electric batteries may be just a stop gap on the way to a new propulsion method, but longer term we need a solution that works for the masses. At the moment, charging an electric car is by no means an easy task. Not just in terms of a charging infrastructure but also the time taken to replenish a battery.
We need a solution as easy to use as petrol and diesel and that’s where hydrogen comes in. Hydrogen powered vehicles will be just as straightforward for the consumer to refill as it is today and the only thing coming from the exhaust pipe will be water.
Hindsight is easy, but foresight isn’t
If we can think ahead today and get it right, Harwich could be ahead of the curve here. There’s the possibility of the A120 being made into a dual carriageway and this could be key to a bright future. If Harwich can create a successful hydrogen processing facility, a modern road infrastructure will be vital.
The town needs employment and the possibility of a key future industry establishing itself in the town could look very tempting to any business looking to re-locate.
Harwich has the space available. There are several brown field sites obvious to any observer as well as the already established ferry terminal. We have a direct rail link to London and proximity to the A12 in our favour too.
If we act now the future could be bright, it could be hydrogen!