A SCHEME to help transform Tees Valley into a leading hydrogen powerhouse has moved a step closed after the project was awarded £220,000 in funding.

Under plans being drawn up by Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen and the Tees Valley Combined Authority, a bid will be submitted to Government’s Office for Low Emission Vehicles to bring a fleet of hydrogen road vehicles and new refuelling infrastructure to the region.

If successful, the bid will unlock up to £40m to develop new refuelling stations across the Tees Valley, allowing cars, buses, bin lorries and even trains to be powered by the emission-free super fuel.

Mayor Ben Houchen signed off £140,000 to develop the bid and also secure a partnership with TWI.

The Middlesbrough-based engineering firm has also pledged £80,000 to bring “unparalleled expertise” to the region, needed to develop the area’s wider hydrogen economy aspirations.

Mr Houchen said: “Creating the jobs of tomorrow means investing in the right technology today. We already produce 50 per cent of the UK’s hydrogen, so properly utilising it will allow us to keep manufacturing jobs in the Tees Valley and build on the global drive to cut carbon emissions, rather than be held back by it.

“This investment means will help us to put the Tees Valley on the map for hydrogen, not just in the UK but globally.”

Figures from a draft report commissioned by the Combined Authority and produced by KPMG suggest that exploiting the opportunities of the hydrogen economy could add up to £7bn to the region’s economy between 2018 and 2050, with the creation of as many as 1,000 jobs.

Chris Beck, TWI’s strategic fund manager, said: “We’re confident that hydrogen will play a key part in the development of the region for years to come, and we are excited to be involved in shaping the future of energy and the Tees Valley economy.

“Our history in power generation and hydrogen research shows our experience in the sector. The backing to attract unparalleled expertise to the area will give us the resources and capacity to put our skills into action.”

Currently the use of hydrogen has been centred around fleets vehicles, such as road sweepers and small scooters, but the roll out of the environmentally-friendly technology and fuelling points is aimed at reducing the cost to the customer and bringing it the family-vehicle market.

A hydrogen fuel cell vehicle emits only pure water at the exhaust pipe, which is clean enough to drink and does not contribute to local pollution levels.