It is increasingly difficult for anyone working in the UK energy sector to be unaware of the way hydrogen has crept back into the discourse for transitioning to a low carbon economy. Just a few days ago Alstrom announced it was set to make the UK’s first hydrogen train fleet and through the Clean Growth Strategy – published in October 2017 – and last week’s announcement of the £20m Hydrogen Supply programme, the UK government has committed political and financial support to accelerate the cost effective production of hydrogen. The government is right to target investment here as reducing the high cost of producing large volumes of low carbon hydrogen is crucial if hydrogen is to significantly replace natural gas. With such a flurry of announcements by government and industry, this has led some to declare we are on the verge of a new ‘hydrogen economy’. But what does this mean? The hydrogen economy refers to a vision of using hydrogen as an alternative low carbon energy source that can be used as a replacement in transport, heating fuel, and energy storage. These different uses and the methods of production are likely to be highly interconnected, with one service creating a supply for other uses. It is precisely this interconnectedness and interdependency that creates a hydrogen economy. Hydrogen is now back on the agenda for several reasons: 1) greater commercial maturity of hydrogen and fuel cell vehicles; 2) changes in the energy policy and technology landscape, such as the rapid deployment of intermittent renewables that require grid scale storage; 3) the response by gas incumbents to the threat of stranded assets in a decarbonised world; and 4) the continuing difficulty in decarbonising heat. A major drawback is that the most commonly used production method – steam methane reformation – produces CO2. The adoption of hydrogen is therefore contingent on the development, scaling and wide deployment of some form of carbon capture and storage (CCS) or carbon and utilisation and storage (CCUS) to avoid releasing CO2 to the atmosphere. A higher carbon price will certainly help in this regard. Both the capture and storage is technologically possible, yet CCS development has been slowed by political and economic barriers and the cancellation of the planned CCS Commercialisation Programme was a significant set-back to the development of CCS in the UK. Michael Liebreich (founder of Bloomberg New Energy Finance) has said, while it is fashionable to posit electrolysis as the perfect way of using up surplus wind and solar power, this is probably wrong. The challenge is whether this can cost effectively scale in order to make a substantial contribution to overall hydrogen production – something that looks doubtful. Policy Exchange is currently examining if this is possible and how public policy can facilitate its commercialisation with competitive prices, quality, reliability, and security of supply. Putting aside the beneficial role hydrogen can play in facilitating the transition to a low carbon economy, until cost effective, scalable, and sustainable production methods reach mass market, the proliferation of a hydrogen economy will remain on the precipice.
Business Green 18th May 2018 read more »
The BIG HIT green energy programme in Orkney has marked another milestone along the renewable road with the official handover of two hydrogen tanker trailers from supplier Calvera. These new trailers for the safe and efficient transportation of ‘green hydrogen’ increase the Orkney fleet of hydrogen tube trailers to five. This is a significant step in the Orkney Islands as part of the £10.9 million EU-supported Building Innovative Green Hydrogen systems in an Isolated Territory programme (BIG HIT). The ‘green hydrogen’ is produced on-site at the European Marine Energy Centre on the northern island of Eday. The hydrogen is then transported to Kirkwall by the fleet of hydrogen-tube trailers aboard the inter-island ferry service.
Scottish Energy News 3rd March 2018 read more »