RESIDENTS close to Ansa’s environmental hub in Middlewich are being assured that a new hydrogen fuelling station will be as safe as possible.

Bosses at the Cheshire East Council-owned waste management company are hoping to launch the project next spring after it secured planning permission this year.

The trial project will see two Ansa lorries be converted for dual-fuel, running on diesel and hydrogen – which will be produced on-site in the most environmentally-friendly was possible, converting solar power and rainwater into hydrogen using an electrolyser.

Kevin Melling, managing director at Ansa, insists the 'exciting' project will be safe.

He told the Guardian: “Safety is paramount in doing this. Everything is being designed clearly with safety in mind. We wouldn’t want it on our site if it wasn’t.

“The tanks that are going on the vehicle are an industrial-strength steel – they’ve got to be that standard – and they have all got to be certified.

“There were lots of worries and concerns when they were first putting petrol stations out there, but we live with it, we handle it, we all use it, and I suspect hydrogen will be the same.

“Great lengths are being taken to make sure that it is safe – even down to the positioning on-site where it is and the constraints that come in with the planning. I personally believe that it will be as safe as it can be.”

Ansa, which is working with King Street-based Storengy on the trial, hopes one-third of emissions will be reduced from the two waste collection vehicles that are converted.

The trial will last for three years, and Kevin hopes more infrastructure will be more widely available by the end of that period to expand the use of hydrogen in future.

“We are on the verge of massive change in the industry," he said.

“There are trials happening across the world, but the problem at the moment is lack of infrastructure to be able to fill them up.

“Ultimately – whether it’s five years’, 10 years’ or 15 years’ time – we will have HGVs that are effectively electric with hydrogen fuelling that fuel cell, that generates electricity, and it will do long distances.

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“We pride ourselves in trying to get best in class whenever we go out to procurement. We are replacing the fleet at the moment, and I would like to think that the current tranche we are going through is our last fully diesel engines, but only time will tell.”

Council chiefs hailed the scheme, which received funding from the Cheshire and Warrington local enterprise partnership, as an ‘exciting first step’ in CEC's bid to become carbon neutral by 2025 when it was announced back in February.