The renowned construction equipment maker JCB signed a deal to purchase billions of pounds worth of green hydrogen. The deal means JCB will take 10% of the green hydrogen made by the Australian firm Fortescue Future Industries (FFI).

FFI said the deal was a “first-of-a-kind partnership” that would see it become the UK’s largest supplier of the clean fuel.

Production, mostly done outside the UK, is expected to begin early next year. JCB and a firm called Ryze Hydrogen would then distribute it in the UK.

Lord Anthony Bamford, chairman of JCB, said the deal would help to make green hydrogen a viable solution, in an interview he said it is “the right thing to do”.

Hydrogen does not produce carbon emissions when it is burned, so is considered a likely replacement for fossil fuels in heavy industries such as shipping and steel and cement-making.

Lord Bamford called on the government to invest in hydrogen-fuelled forms of transport such as buses, trains and aircraft. In a statement, he said: “It’s fine having an engine powered by green hydrogen, but no good if customers can’t get green hydrogen to fuel their machines.” “This is a major advance on the road towards making green hydrogen a viable solution,” He added.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has said low carbon hydrogen has a “critical role” to play in the UK’s transition to net zero, balancing the amount of greenhouse gas produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere.

In the government’s UK Hydrogen Strategy, the business secretary argues the UK’s “infrastructure and technical know-how make us ideally positioned to be a global leader in hydrogen”.

Robert Buckley, an energy analyst at Cornwall Insights, said: “Hydrogen has the potential to be a very important energy source for heavy transport and industry.”

Ministers think low carbon hydrogen has a critical role to play in the transition to net zero. The goal is 5 gigawatts of production capacity by 2030.

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