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.


Acorn Hydrogen awarded UK Government Hydrogen Supply Competition Funding

Pale Blue Dot Energy, the project developer behind Acorn CCS and Acorn Hydrogen, is delighted to have been awarded funding from the second phase of the UK Government’s Hydrogen Supply  Competition.

This award will support 13 months of engineering studies, to progress the technical and commercial plans for the Acorn Hydrogen project at the St Fergus gas terminal.  This first phase of Acorn Hydrogen will establish the technology to convert some of the natural gas at the St Fergus gas terminal in North East Scotland into hydrogen – a clean burning fuel.

In the UK, around half of all our energy is used for heat. The majority of this heat is provided by burning natural gas, which emits carbon dioxide (CO2). Replacing some, or all of this natural gas by blending hydrogen into the National Transmission System (NTS) will help reduce CO2 emissions. The CO2 emissions that are created from converting natural gas to hydrogen at St Fergus will all be captured and permanently stored using the Acorn carbon capture and storage (CCS) infrastructure that is on track to be operating at St Fergus from 2024.

Sam Gomersall, Pale Blue Dot Energy Commercial Director said:

‘Acorn Hydrogen is a hugely exciting project that is a critical step for Scotland and the UK to reach its ambitious climate change targets. We are working extremely hard, alongside our project study partners: Chrysaor, Shell and Total, to progress this important component of the wider Acorn initiatives, in the aim that Acorn Hydrogen’s first injection of hydrogen into the gas grid is in 2025. Blending as little as 2% hydrogen into the National Transmission System would remove 400,000 tonnes of CO2 per year from the energy system, and that is just the starting point with an ambition to decarbonise all the natural gas flowing through St Fergus’.

Minister for Business, Energy and Clean Gowth, Kwasi Wwarteng said:

“Hydrogen offers the opportunity of a cleaner, greener fuel for heating our homes and getting us from A to B. The innovative Acorn project is a clear step in that direction – particularly in this year of climate action”.

Detailed design work on Acorn CCS is already underway, and with this earlier stage design on the first phase of Acorn Hydrogen now started, Acorn is on track to establish critical infrastructure in the mid-2020s ahead of then significantly expanding both Acorn CCS and Acorn Hydrogen, delivering a serious contribution to UK and Scottish Net Zero targets.

Download the press release here – Acorn Hydrogen_Press Statement.

Pale Blue Dot Energy welcomes the launch of the NECCUS alliance

The team at Pale Blue Dot Energy, the Project Developers behind Acorn CCS and Acorn Hydrogen, are delighted to be at Holyrood today to support the Ministerial launch of the North East Carbon Capture, Usage and Storage Alliance (NECCUS).

This formal collaboration between industry, academia and Government is a really encouraging sign of support for the urgent deployment of both carbon capture and storage infrastructure and hydrogen production in Scotland, to help the country’s bid to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2045.

All the signatories to the NECCUS alliance are agreeing to work together to support the Scottish energy transition. This co-ordinated effort to address hard to decarbonise sectors like heat, heavy industry, transport, and chemicals through the deployment of CCUS and hydrogen production with CCS, is critically important, and echoes the strong recommendations from Chris Stark, Chair of the Committee on Climate Change, who said, Carbon capture and storage is a necessity not an option for enabling the UK as a whole to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.’

Alan James, Managing Director at Pale Blue Dot Energy said,

“This ground-breaking alliance is a major boost to the work we are doing to develop the Acorn CCS and Acorn Hydrogen projects and at Pale Blue Dot, we are very proud to be amongst the founding members of the alliance. The conversations we are having in Scotland now, are all about enabling, and making the best possible use of the country’s incredible existing resources. With supportive Government and development agencies, and now an impressive collection of Scotland’s largest emitters seriously engaging with this technology. It feels like CCS is finally beginning to get the recognition and support it requires.”


SAVE THE DATE: Hydrogen Event


Event: Hydrogen: A Business Opportunity for the North Sea Region

Location: Hilton Treetops Hotel – Aberdeen

Date: 1st October 2019

Following our very successful Hydrogen Conference in Aberdeen last October, Pale Blue Dot Energy are delighted to be organising it again this year in conjunction with ERM and Aberdeen City Council and with additional support from Opportunity North East, Scottish Enterprise and the Oil and Gas Technology Centre.

Pale Blue Dot would be delighted if you were able to attend the conference.

The conference ‘Hydrogen: A Business Opportunity for the North Sea Region’ will be on the 1st October 2019 at the Hilton Treetops Hotel in Aberdeen. It’s a one day event ~200 attendees and ~12 speakers. There will be a number of hydrogen events in Aberdeen that week, 1st-4th October; including 2nd October will be the SHFCA Annual Conference at the same venue.



Business: Climate Change is Here!


How long before young people are protesting on your doorstep for action on energy transition?

It started in August 2018 with Swedish school girl, Greta Thunberg, sitting outside the Swedish Parliament building; the School Strike for Climate movement was born. In little over 6 months, this has escalated from one passionate individual to tens of thousands of young people all over the world striking from school to mobilise their governments and large organisations to take serious action on climate change. For Greta, she has gone from protesting outside the Swedish Parliament to directly challenging CEO’s of Global Business at Davos, speaking at COP24 and TED (watch here). She is now the youngest nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize.

The #SchoolStrike4Climate movement is only going to get bigger and become more impactful, particularly with social media and mainstream media engaged and following every step. The rapid growth of this movement demonstrates the need to change, but also the pace at which young people engage. The energy transition must happen fast, and young people are clearly engaged in this process.

Pale Blue Dot Energy staff members Hazel Robertson and Luke Robertson support strikes in Edinburgh on 15th March

At the moment these inspired young people are focussing on parliament buildings, but large emitters and fossil fuel producers could be next. The oil and gas industry already has issues attracting young adults; which will be a much greater challenge when the current teenagers enter the job market in 5-10 years.

It’s not just schoolchildren who are campaigning for a quicker transition to a low carbon economy. In January 2019, environmental protestors chained themselves inside the National Museum of Scotland to protest at the Scottish Oil Club dinner; their aim being to stop a night of, what they considered to be, inappropriate celebration and highlight the climate damage done by oil and gas.

The BBC documentary Blue Planet II acted as a catalyst for public awareness of plastic waste driving action by Governments, corporates and supermarkets. Similarly, schoolchildren striking for climate action could start to impact the bottom line of fossil fuel operators and large fossil fuel users, as increased public focus moves to support them. The only mitigation for this risk is full commitment to rapid change to deliver the energy transition. In oil and gas, this means rapid diversification into low carbon power, the development of clean hydrogen and the widespread deployment of carbon capture and storage (CCS). Future investment in oil and gas exploration and production activity is now in question.

Young people’s language and actions are powerful and the lobbying for governments and organisations to take action to achieve the 1.5℃ target is gaining momentum. These teenagers will soon grow into adults with disposable income, making their own purchasing decisions. They live in a fast-paced world and their buying power can quickly switch into or away from organisations who are not in line with their values; decisions which they share online to encourage their peers to do the same.

They will also be choosing career paths, which fit their beliefs. In order to attract young talent, the energy industry, particularly the oil and gas sector, and energy intensive industries needs to make significant changes. Teenagers who are picketing today outside parliament buildings are not going to work in what they consider to be a ‘dirty industry’. Increasingly the focus will be on a 1.5℃ compliant career path.

Greta Thunberg has inspired a generation to take action and fight for their climate future. If the energy sector wants passionate and smart young people in its future workforce, it needs to listen up and act now.


Author: Charlotte Hartley, Regulatory Pilot, Pale Blue Dot Energy