UK plan to boost hydrogen production relies on fossil fuels

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Environment 16 August 2021

By Adam Vaughan

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Rendering of an off-shore hydrogen accumulation facility

Shutterstock / Alexander Kirch

The UK authorities has backed a program to usage the accumulation of hydrogen from fossil fuels with c seizure and retention to cleanable up dense industry. This comes contempt concerns that the exertion doesn’t seizure each CO2 emissions, remains commercially unproven and perpetuates earthy state extraction.

In a 120-page hydrogen strategy published connected 17 August, which follows successful the aftermath of akin plans by the EU and different countries past year, the UK laid retired however it volition boost hydrogen production. A strategical determination connected the relation hydrogen could instrumentality successful decarbonising heating successful buildings volition besides beryllium taken wrong 5 years, it said.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said it is mulling implicit subsidies akin to ones for offshore windfarms to bring down the outgo of some bluish hydrogen, made from earthy state but with astir of the CO2 captured, and greenish hydrogen, wherever renewable energy is utilized with electrolysers that nutrient hydrogen from water.

“It’s not a astonishment the UK is backing both,” says Anise Ganbold astatine Aurora Energy Research successful the UK. “It’s what the UK has been pushing for, and not a astonishment fixed however beardown the state lobby is. At the moment, it is cheaper to marque hydrogen from blue, but we don’t deliberation that volition past for long. We deliberation greenish volition beryllium cheaper by the 2030s.” Blue hydrogen is opposed by immoderate environmentalists, partially due to the fact that astatine best it lone captures 95 per cent of the CO2, raising questions implicit its relation successful hitting net-zero targets.

It is besides untested astatine a commercialized level, though Norwegian vigor steadfast Equinor has plans to physique a bluish hydrogen works adjacent Hull successful north-east England. Jess Ralston astatine Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit successful the UK says: “The authorities should beryllium wary astir being lobbied by the state manufacture and committing excessively heavy to bluish hydrogen, which inactive uses fossil fuels successful its accumulation and relies connected [the] not-yet-ready exertion [of] c seizure and retention to trim its emissions.” Storing the c astatine sea, wherever the UK has the astir retention capacity, could besides beryllium expensive, says Ganbold.

The authorities argues that this “twin track” volition assistance the UK conscionable a people of 5 gigawatts of low-carbon hydrogen accumulation by 2030, up connected what it says is “almost no” capableness now. “Today marks the commencement of the UK’s hydrogen revolution,” said vigor caput Kwasi Kwarteng successful a statement.

In presumption of utilizing the hydrogen, Ralston says it could beryllium captious for decarbonising dense industry, successful peculiar steel production. However, she fears its usage successful location heating could hold enactment connected alternatives, specified arsenic electrification done vigor pumps.

The UK’s strategy reveals that the authorities is considering mixing hydrogen successful with earthy state supplies. BEIS estimates that a 20 per cent blend of hydrogen would little emissions by 7 per cent, but Ralston thinks that isn’t enough. “At the extremity of the day, immoderate proportionality of hydrogen blend with fossil state successful the grid is conscionable not compatible with nett zero and it’s not yet wide however effectual hydrogen volition be, nor however overmuch it volition cost,” she says.

According to the published strategy, the authorities volition acceptable a modular for low-carbon hydrogen that is “consistent with nett zero”. Ganbold says this volition beryllium important, successful portion due to the fact that Scotland has made wide it wants to export low-carbon hydrogen, and a modular volition assistance trade.

BEIS besides said it is consulting connected a £240 cardinal money for hydrogen accumulation plants, and believes a UK-wide hydrogen system could make astir 9000 jobs by 2030. The strategy envisages 20 to 35 per cent of the UK’s vigor depletion coming from hydrogen by mid-century.

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