Back to the Future; Hydrogen in the Gas Grid

With the urgent need to act on the climate crisis, the time has come for widespread development of hydrogen projects. Hydrogen has a critical and massive role to play in decarbonizing emissions from heat, industry, transport and power.

“The world is on fire”. Urgent action to address climate change is required, but current actions are too slow. In the UK around half of our emissions are related to heat and most of that comes in the form of natural gas, which emits CO2 at the point of use. Whilst we are making some progress decarbonizing power and transport, little progress is being made decarbonizing heat. Urgent action is required.

Our UK objectives are clear, to be net zero by 2050 (2045 in Scotland). Scotland has also committed to reducing emissions from fossil fuel use by 70% by 2030, only 10 years away. Time is short.

Hydrogen is an energy vector, to be considered in a similar way to electricity and gas, as a means of storing and transporting energy to end users. Using hydrogen is not new. It used to be part of the gas stream prior to our conversion to natural gas.

The time has come to accelerate the deployment of hydrogen as a replacement for natural gas in the gas distribution system, initially as a blend of natural gas and hydrogen. In the UK, several such gas reformation projects are underway; Acorn in Scotland, Hynet in the North West and H21 in Yorkshire.

Other projects are underway to design, test and understand the impact, cost and effect of hydrogen in the gas system. Together these projects create real opportunity for providing low carbon heat for the UK in the short term, which will be essential if we are to meet our climate change objectives.

Producing hydrogen from natural gas without emitting CO2 , requires the use of carbon capture and storage (CCS) to permanently store the CO2 separated from the gas during hydrogen production. Several CO2 storage projects are being assessed around the UK, the most mature project being Acorn CCS in Scotland.

To make the system transformation successful requires us to put a price on carbon and to enable a just transition this needs to be done in a fair and proper way. This carbon pricing structure will take time to develop, which in the interest of climate change, we do not have. In the meantime, these early projects need to get started and government and developers need to work closely together to create interim funding models which support their development.

It is time for urgent action and collaboration to move quickly and develop hydrogen as a replacement for natural gas. It’s time to go back to the future.

Acorn Hydrogen and a number of other exciting hydrogen initiatives received funding last week from the UK Government’s second phase Hydrogen Supply Competition.

 

News, Perspectives

Written by Pale Blue Dot Energy

Management Consultants for the Energy Transition, delivering support in three key areas: 1. Carbon Capture and Storage 2. Oil and Gas Transition 3. Emerging Energy Systems