Carbon capture and storage (CCS) and the ‘hydrogen economy’ have long been touted as essential tools in decarbonising our energy system, yet they have always seemed to be 10 years away. CCS in the UK received a major blow in 2015 when the Government announced that it was cancelling a £1bn demonstration programme for power plants equipped with carbon capture technologies. Hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles were originally thought to be the mostly likely driver of a new hydrogen economy, but due to recent dramatic cost reductions and range increases from battery-electric light vehicles, hydrogen-powered cars seem to be losing the race in the low emissions transport market. Despite this bleak picture for CCS and hydrogen sectors, they have been thrown a potential lifeline by proposals to decarbonise industry and domestic heating systems using hydrogen that is produced by the steam reformation of natural gas. A report by the H21 Leeds City Gate project suggests that converting the entire natural gas network of Leeds from methane to hydrogen is feasible. This process requires all domestic appliances that run on methane, like boilers, to be replaced with hydrogen-fuelled equivalents. The authors estimate that this entire transformation would cost £2bn, which sounds like a lot, but is likely to be less disruptive and costly than alternative paths to decarbonising heating systems, such as district heating, heat pumps or electrification. Just last week, another major UK hydrogen project was proposed. Cadent and Progressive Energy are launching a plan to convert methane-powered heavy industry in the Liverpool-Manchester region to hydrogen. They also propose to blend a small percentage of hydrogen with the local domestic natural gas system.
Business Green 15th Aug 2017 read more »