SCOTLAND could become an international leader in green hydrogen exports – if the UK Government gets on board, the Scottish Energy Secretary has said.

Appearing before Westminster’s Scottish Affairs Committee, SNP MSP Michael Matheson said it was “critical” to move quickly in order to cement Scotland’s advantageous position in the green hydrogen industry.

Green hydrogen refers to gas made by using electricity generated from renewable sources to split water into its two constituent elements (oxygen and hydrogen). When burned, hydrogen does not give off carbon dioxide, and the oxygen by-product has no negative impacts on the atmosphere.

While some critics say it is not very efficient, there is optimism due to the fact that hydrogen could replace natural gas and use much of the existing infrastructure.

READ MORE: Doubts cast over how 'realistic' Scottish Government's hydrogen plans are

At the Westminster committee hearing, SNP MP Pete Wishart asked Matheson if the Scottish Government has “everything you require as a devolved legislature to make sure that you can do what you need to do in terms of Scottish Government ambitions” for the energy source.

Matheson said that there were “a lot of areas of commonality” between the UK and Scottish Government’s ambitions on green hydrogen, but identified exports as a point of difference.

The Scottish Cabinet Secretary said: “We see the potential for growing the export market much more markedly than the UK Government does. There is real potential for Scotland to be seen as being one of the leading nations in Europe in delivering green hydrogen in particular for export purposes.

"It’s critical we move quickly in order to cement that position.

“There’s a lot of interest in Scotland’s capability in being able to deliver green hydrogen at scale in a fairly quick timeline compared to other countries. The reason for that is because of our extensive renewable energy network ... We’re ahead of quite a number of countries in being able to do that.”

The National: Michael Matheson MSP Net Zero and Energy Secretary during Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party debate on Net Zero, Energy and Transport, at the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood, Edinburgh. Picture date: Wednesday September 15, 2021..

Matheson (above) said Scotland was in a position to move at “quite a considerable pace” on the development of green hydrogen infrastructure.

He further said that a key project which was being considered was a connection “into the EU’s hydrogen backbone”.

“We see that as being a really critical element in helping to make sure that we don’t find ourselves in a situation where Scotland is a missing link in the hydrogen backbone in Europe given that we have the potential to be one of the biggest suppliers of it,” he said.

Matheson warned that not being connected to the EU’s pipelines could see the price of Scottish green hydrogen driven up, making it less competitive against other nations.

The Energy Secretary said: “We’ve made representations to the UK Government on the need to make sure that they prioritise export from Scotland much higher than it has been in their thinking to today.”

The SNP minister also addressed what he called a “missed opportunity” in the UK Government rejecting the carbon capturing Acorn Project, based at the St Fergus gas terminal in Aberdeenshire.

Officials said the site could have been up and running by the mid-2020s. However, it missed out on the first round of Westminster funding.

Speaking at the Scottish Affairs Committee, Energy Minister Graham Stuart said it seemed "highly unlikely" that the Acorn project would not form a part of the move to decarbonise British industry before 2030.

"Being in track one or track two I think in the longer term will seem immaterial," he said.

Matheson said that carbon capture had “potentially significant economic advantages” for Scotland, not only meeting domestic needs, but also having “quite a considerable storage industry associated with that”.

“The UK Government can’t meet their net zero targets without the Scottish cluster, Scotland can’t meet its targets without the cluster. It’s mission critical,” he said.