Policymakers in Merseyside are devising a plan to tap into the rapidly emerging hydrogen fuel market among car manufacturers and oil giants as part of its support for firms operating in the low carbon economy.
Low carbon is one of the LEP's priority sectors targeted for growth in the coming years and, according to Mark Knowles, head of low carbon at Liverpool LEP, the sub-region needs to make the most of its assets in hydrogen generation and distribution.
Knowles said: "A unique selling point for us as a city region is hydrogen capacity. The city region has a set of facilities and assets probably unique to Europe in that it has large scale hydrogen generation centred around Halton. It has the only hydrogen distribution network in Europe. There are pipelines that run out from Ineos Chlor in Runcorn and we've also got hydrogen fuel cell development companies."
In August, Amanda Lyne, co-founder of Runcorn-based ACAL, which invented a new type of fuel cell, joined the LEP board.
The LEP, Knowles said, was "trying to corral a number of facilities in a similar way that we worked with a lot of partners around the table on offshore wind a couple of years ago to pull together a coherent strategy to exploit the assets we have."
Birkenhead-based ship repair engineer Cammell Laird moved into offshore wind turbine production, and is currently producing 158 turbine shafts for the Gwynt y Mor wind farm off North Wales. As well as bidding for further offshore work, Cammell Laird is targeting the nuclear sector, to build the large containers for the next wave of nuclear power stations, if they are approved by the government.
Knowles said the automotive and oil industries were investing heavily in hydrogen power technology globally and Liverpool city region could put itself in a strong position to benefit from this low carbon niche.
Other initiatives within the low carbon work at the LEP include increasing boat tonnage for biomass material through the port and developing new glazed insulation products with Pilkington and Liverpool University.
Mark Knowles was speaking at a roundtable event organised by Hill Dickinson and Place North West, held at Liverpool LEP's office in 12 Princes Parade. Extracts from the discussion, covering topics such as skills, doing business in Liverpool and dealing with government red tape will be published throughout this week. Among the attendees at the event were Chris Acton, lead renewable consultant, Carbon Consultancy Company; Les Bellmon, senior regeneration consultant, Eldonian Group; Christine Darbyshire, senior environment development manager, Liverpool City Council; Mark Knowles, head of low carbon, Liverpool City Region Local Enterprise Partnership; Richard Mathias, chief executive, Belvedere Energy Investments; Alex McCann, partner, Hill Dickinson; Steve Pimlott, senior consultant, Arup; Alan Pugh, partner, Hill Dickinson; Guy Shorrock, building surveyor and energy assessor, Aldrock Chartered Building Surveyors & Energy Assessors; Peter Sutton, head of operations, DONG Energy Power (UK); David Williams, business development manager, Cammell Laird Shiprepairers & Shipbuilders; Paul Unger, editor, Place North West.