Warning on blue hydrogen

Barry White

This week, UK ministers published their hydrogen strategy https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-government-launches-plan-for-a-world-leading-hydrogen-economy , which includes a consultation on subsidy plans for producers to help cut fossil fuel use. The government said around £900m of funding will be available to support hydrogen projects in Britain, which they say could create more than 9,000 jobs by 2030 and could account for up to 35 per cent of Britain’s energy consumption by the middle of the century. Nearly all of the hydrogen produced in Britain so far is based on fossil fuel energy.

The government aims to replace up to one fifth of natural gas in powering around three million homes, as well as industry and transport with “green” hydrogen, made through electrolysis powered by renewable energy to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.

It would also use “blue” hydrogen, produced from natural gas and steam. Unlike green hydrogen, blue hydrogen is not emissions-free, but the carbon emissions are captured, stored and used in other applications.

Research published last week by U.S. Universities Cornell and Stanford https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/ese3.956 warned that blue projects could be up to 20 per cent worse for the climate than fossil fuel gas, due to harmful escaping gases. Scientists have long warned that carbon capture technologies will not be advanced enough to use on a major scale for some time.

Greenpeace UK chief scientist Dr Doug Parr said green hydrogen is an environmentally friendly alternative but that its blue counterpart would lock the country into costly infrastructure builds and could see emissions rise overall.

Dr Jan Rosenow, from the Regulatory Assistance Project, an organisation dedicated towards accelerating the transition to clean energy, told the media that: “As the strategy admits, there won’t be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. We need to use it where there are few alternatives and not as a like-for-like replacement of gas. He said the plan confirmed that “hydrogen for heating our homes will not play a significant role before 2030. The government’s strategy shows that less than 0.2% of all homes are expected to use hydrogen to keep warm in the next decade. This means that for reducing emissions this decade, hydrogen will play only a very marginal role. “But we cannot wait until 2030 before bringing down emissions from heating. The urgency of the climate crisis requires bold policy action now.”


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