Government backs 'greener' Cheshire and Aberdeenshire hydrogen plants
The first low-carbon hydrogen energy production plants in the UK have been granted government funding.
Facilities at Stanlow Oil Refinery in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire and St Fergus Terminal in Aberdeenshire will produce hydrogen for manufacturing industries.
St Helens glassmakers Pilkington and Unilever in Port Sunlight will trial using hydrogen to cut carbon emissions.
The £70m investment follows the government's commitment to reduce greenhouse gases to "net zero" by 2050.
Hydrogen is a low or zero-emission substitute for fossil fuels.
Scientists hope to demonstrate that it can be used instead of natural gas in a range of industrial settings, helping companies' transition to a low-carbon future.
More than 95% of the carbon used in the process at Ellesmere Port will be captured and stored, said operator HyNet.
The pilot projects at Unilever and Pilkington's Greengate Works have been allocated £5.2m of the government's investment.
Director of Energy Lancaster at Lancaster University, Prof Harry Hoster, acknowledged that the schemes were "expensive but it is our only way of doing it at the moment".
He added that he hoped production costs would eventually fall for hydrogen, as well as being "greener in the long run".
The North West Hydrogen Alliance seeks to promote the region as a pioneer for the greater use of hydrogen in industry.
Chairman Prof Joe Howe, from the University of Chester, said the investment put the UK at the "forefront of a global agenda".
He said: "It is a significant step and I welcome the opportunity for industries to trial it."
In the North West, operator Cadent Gas will distribute hydrogen through a pipeline network.