The UK has lost its lead in windpower and batteries, but there is one eco fuel that could transform its post-Covid fortunes – hydrogen. The Humber region is currently the biggest emitter of carbon in Britain and the second-highest emitter in Europe. Equinor’s plan, if it goes ahead, would amount to a green revolution at Saltend, allowing businesses on the site to convert to clean energy. And if the rest of the region follows suit, by 2030 this windblown stretch of North Sea coastline could conceivably be one of the world’s leading green energy hubs. Hydrogen has been the next big thing for longer than its advocates would care to remember. Before Elon Musk, Tesla and electric battery technology, it was commonly assumed that we might all, one day, be driving hydrogen cars. The traditional drawback for investors has been the expensive complexity of actually producing the stuff. But in an era of net zero carbon emissions targets, the green utility of the most common chemical element in the universe is turning it into one of the most fashionable products on earth. “Blue” hydrogen – the kind Equinor hopes to produce in Hull – can be made almost carbon-free from natural gas, by using the capture and storage technology. For groups such as Friends of the Earth, “almost” is not good enough, and the enormous cost of capture and storage has also generated scepticism. Green hydrogen, on the other hand, which is made from renewable sources, bypasses fossil fuels altogether. Both types can be stored and kept in reserve, to be deployed as an inter-seasonal fuel supplementing wind and solar power. Hydrogen, its supporters claim, can also heat homes and workplaces, distributed through the existing infrastructure of the National Grid. It can be used to de-carbonise trains and buses and provide green fuel for heavy-duty vehicles, for which electric-battery technology is impractical. In synthetic form, hydrogen could even help fly zero-carbon planes. All of which led the European Union’s green deal supremo, Frans Timmermans, to tweet this month: “Hydrogen rocks, and I am committed to making it a success.”
Observer 19th July 2020 read more »
Britain can lead the world in transmuting water into fuel. A hydrogen revolution could halt our looming over-reliance on China for electric cars, and Britain is well-placed to do it. ever mind Huawei. A greater menace is posed by our looming dependence on China for electric cars. China makes 73 per cent (and rising) of the world’s electric vehicle batteries. It controls the production of the African rare-earth elements that go into each unit. As the West continues to decarbonise, there is a danger that China will become what Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia were in the late twentieth century: a capricious autocracy which, because it can switch off our energy supply, rests its boot upon our windpipe. Britain no longer has to worry about dodgy Middle Eastern dictators. We are phasing out fossil fuels at breakneck speed. Coal will be banned from our power stations in 2024. The last gas heating system will be installed in 2025. Petrol, diesel and even hybrid cars will be gone by 2035. There is no point in arguing about whether ordering these bans was proportionate; we have made the decision, and industry is already adapting. How absurd it would be, though, to wean ourselves off spoiled Saudi princelings, merely to replace them with Beijing’s “appalling old waxworks”. Happily, though, there is an alternative – an alternative to which the EU and Australia are waking up, but where Britain has more inherent advantages than perhaps any other nation. Vehicles can be powered by hydrogen. Homes can be heated with it. With a gentle initial push to help reach economies of scale, we may soon be able to produce hydrogen as cheaply as any eco-friendly fuel.
Telegraph 18th July 2020 read more »