Hydrogen fuel cells as sources of clean power for building sites rose by another storey today, as innovators in the technology AFC Energy topped out a deal with construction major Keltbray.

In its first deal with a big building firm, the Surrey-based pioneer in hydrogen cells said it has agreed lease terms with the construction engineer for a trial of one proprietary Hybrid Fuel Cell (“HFC”) generator on a major site, yet to be decided but probably in London. Others are mapped out to follow later this year.

News of today’s deal pushed the Cranleigh-based firm 3.5% higher on the LSE this morning, valuing AFC Energy at £269 million.

Keltbray is best known for its work on high-profile projects such as Crossrail, London’s Shard building, and HS2.  In September the firm pledged itself to turning its operations carbon neutral by 2040, plus assisting its clients towards their own Net Zero goals.

To that end, since October Keltbray and AFC Energy have been jointly assessing options in fuel cell generators. Hydrogen, ammonia and methanol have all been scrutinised.

Before even the current continuing hikes in diesel prices, important in the pair’s assessment has been next month’s removal of the UK’s government’s £0.4861 per litre subsidy for red diesel, announced in Rishi Sunak’s 2020 budget.

Used to power bulldozers and cranes on construction sites, or drills for oil extraction, red diesel accounts for around 15% of all UK diesel consumption,  a share linked to almost 14 million tonnes of annual CO2 emissions.  Red diesel damages air quality, too; a study linked it to 7% of NOx emissions and 8% of PM10 emissions in London in 2018.

Part of the partners’ roadmap to further deployments of clean, hydrogen-based temporary power is both companies encouraging plant hirers to rent out fuel-cell generators.

Under the collaboration, AFC will source and supply hydrogen to Keltbray in addition to supplying the HFC system.  Keltbray will operate the HFC system, after training by AFC.

AFC Energy’s CEO Adam Bond said the deal highlighted how British industry is increasingly playing its role in delivering on society’s Net Zero aspirations.

“As an innovative and socially responsible UK contractor, Keltbray continues to show great leadership in highlighting, through adoption of hydrogen fuel cell power generator technology, how the construction industry is seeing the benefit of displacing highly pollutant fossil fuels in favour of cutting-edge clean energy solutions.

“We are most pleased to be supporting Keltbray, its clients and the sector’s transition towards a more sustainable future”, Bond added.


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