Hydrogen: the future fuel to achieve net zero? – asks the National Grid

Posted: February 17, 2021 by oldbrew in Emissions, Energy, hydrogen, net zero
Tags: , ,


If they need to ask the question, the answer is probably ‘no’.
– – –
Hydrogen has the potential to be a low-carbon alternative to gas in our homes and businesses, but first we need to test this fuel for the future.

That’s where FutureGrid comes in, says the National Grid.

Today most of us are reliant on gas to heat our homes and businesses, with 85% of households using gas central heating.

But a waste product of burning gas for heat energy is carbon dioxide (CO2) – a greenhouse gas which, when released into the atmosphere, contributes to climate change [Talkshop comment – evidence-free assertion].

In contrast, when we burn hydrogen to produce heat energy the only waste product is water vapour.

Heating, cooking and industrial processes account for 37% of the UK’s CO2 emissions. So, to reach the climate change target of net zero by 2050 and dramatically lower these emissions, we need a green alternative to natural gas. Hydrogen has the potential to be that green alternative.

Converting to hydrogen

The ability to transport hydrogen through existing gas pipelines would minimise disruption, cancelling the need for new, expensive infrastructure to support a new hydrogen network.

Another potential plus point is that, as people are used to using natural gas for cooking and heating, a switch to hydrogen energy using the same network has the potential to be an easier transition.

A safe and reliable future home fuel?

Reliability and safety are of the utmost importance to delivering low-carbon energy to people’s homes and businesses. So, extensive testing and detailed trials are essential to uncover the full potential for hydrogen and to understand what modifications may be needed to safely transport hydrogen.

Under our HyNTS programme – Hydrogen in the National Transmission System – we’ve already run several projects looking into the physical capabilities of the gas transmission system transporting hydrogen.

The next step is FutureGrid, which aims to technically demonstrate how we can re-purpose our gas network to transport hydrogen.

Construction of the FutureGrid facility will begin at DNV GL’s test centre at Spadeadam in Cumbria this April (2021).

The facility will be constructed ‘offline’ from the actual gas network, so we can mimic the real-life National Transmission System (NTS) operation quickly and safely.

Full article here.

Comments
  1. ilma630 says:

    Can you transport hydrogen through existing pipelines? My understanding is that it’s a much smaller molecule so existing pipes would not properly contain it, i.e. they’ll leak, which is the last thing you want.

    Hydrogen fundamentally is also *not* a fuel, but just an energy transport mechanism. It takes significant energy to separate it, so overall is likely less efficient for energy RoI than even renewables.

  2. Chaswarnertoo says:

    H2 is a sneaky, leaky explosive gas. A better fuel is to attach some carbon atoms, you could call it natural gas…

  3. pochas94 says:

    So we switch the whole town over to hydrogen on Thursday? What could go wrong? Best to use hydrogen as a transportation fuel exclusively. Homes should be transitioned over to heat pumps run by electricity.

  4. JB says:

    The energy density of hydrogen is probably the lowest of all gases. To come even close to present performance of NG will require mfg a LOT of it, and a complete change of mindset in its handling. Its not visible in the same way while reacting like NG or LPG, does not smell, requires more robust storage and movement apparatus.

    Imagine the whole world learning to work safely on a daily basis with Hindenberg apparati.

  5. pochas94 says:

    Of course, the idiots we elect to public office will never pass up the opportunity to place burdensome requirements on the citizenry.

  6. oldbrew says:

    In terms of domestic heating and cooking, where’s the benefit in using electricity to create hydrogen at great cost (including conversion or replacement of boilers) when you could just use the electricity?

    What if people en masse don’t fancy hydrogen in their homes and switch to electricity anyway? Insurers might be looking at this idea in a rather less favourable way 🤔

  7. ilma630 says:

    Oldbrew, and indeed, what’s the point of turning (natural) gas into electricity when we can just use the gas.

  8. oldbrew says:

    The whole experiment could well be a waste of time, as there’s no obvious path to generating sufficient quantities of ‘green’ hydrogen to fully replace gas. Plus there are other potential users in the (future) queue, such as heavy goods vehicles, buses and trains.

    The Department for Transport said that the technology would be available by 2023 to retrofit current in-service trains to hydrogen.
    https://eandt.theiet.org/content/articles/2020/09/uk-s-first-hydrogen-train-begins-trial-on-main-rail-network/

  9. dennisambler says:

    the only waste product is water vapour,..which is the most abundant “greenhouse gas”. Won’t all that extra water in the atmosphere change the climate?

  10. pochas94 says:

    Renewables will eat our lunch.

  11. Chaswarnertoo says:

    Pochas 94. Just where is the electricity coming from to power all those heat pumps? The Grid is at breaking point in the winter, anyway.

  12. Gamecock says:

    Yes! Hydrogen! The oceans are full of it!

  13. pochas94 says:

    Chaswarner: Think. The electric grid will have to be expanded in a planned, rational fashion.

  14. pochas94 says:

    The preferred option would be to simply leave the homeowners alone as long as gas supplies can be found, i.e., virtually forever.

  15. Peter Mander says:

    In addition to low energy density and high capacity to permeate metals, hydrogen has another point of difference wrt natural gas: its flame is virtually invisible so fires are almost impossible to see …

  16. Gamecock says:

    BWTM, PM. No odorant has been found effective for hydrogen. You get a leak in your house with natural gas, you smell it. You get a leak of hydrogen, you die.

  17. ivan says:

    Something they didn’t mention is that so called ‘test facility’ will have all new infrastructure, even the test house has been built with the use of hydrogen in mind. Considering that, how can it be a fair test of all the old infrastructure and housing with inadequate high level ventilation to the atmosphere. Just think of one of the London tower blocks using hydrogen and there is a gas leak – BANG, except it could well take out the surrounding area.

  18. Graeme No.3 says:

    @ivan,
    for all the bias in the test facility at least there will not be a catastrophe if it fails with leaks, explosions, or fires.
    Unless such calamities make hydrogen unacceptable to politicians.

  19. It doesn't add up... says:

    Hydrogen has only become fashionable in policy circles since we moved from the 80% reduction target to net zero. It’s the price we are supposed to pay for net zero, and it’s a very expensive price.
    Turn electricity into hydrogen with at best 50% efficiency in energy terms, so it is at least twice the cost of electricity. It will be much more than that, because you have to pay for the kit, and it will have a intermittent load factor, and the process doesn’t do well at intermittent loads. Then you will lose more turning the hydrogen back to useful energy, whether in a fuel cell, a hydrogen fuelled generator or engine, or simply burning it. It becomes essential if we are to have any chance of having a storable energy supply to cover for renewables intermittency. That it costs about 10 times as much as methane at wholesale (at least when that is not subject to spike pricing from extreme weather) does not matter to net zero zealots. It’s how to wreck the economy once and for all.

  20. Peter Norman says:

    I thought the old town gas contained about 50% hydrogen. So 50% mixture with natural gas should not be such a big deal? Saying that, I blew up a car battery last year through a bit of careless overcharging. The bang left my ears ringing for hours and bits of battery casing are still to be found. Small amounts of this stuff and the right oxygen mix detonates! The movie opens with a nice view of my local beach. Three Cliffs Bay Gower, South Wales. I wonder why they need AONB pictures to sell their story?

  21. oldbrew says:

    Can domestic hydrogen compete with electricity on price? Bearing in mind that electricity is going to be used to produce it.

  22. tempestnut says:

    The only thing lacking in our world is switched on and working brain power. Any half decent engineer could work out that hydrogen is not a fuel. Yes tiny amounts can be used in specialist fuel cells, but atomic and molecular hydrogen don’t exist in usable quantities on earth, and it takes more power than is ever returned to create molecular hydrogen. Its the most unsustainable so called fuel on the planet.

  23. peterandnen says:

    I thought 70% of the universe was H2 and Sol used it as a fuel?

  24. The word “no” springs to mind

  25. Graeme No.3 says:

    oldbrew:
    Hydrolysis is only 62% maximum efficiency and that is from potassium hydroxide solution under pressure. The fanciful idea of the Green Gullibles is intermittent hydrolysis of water using ‘renewable electricity’ and that is 38% maximum, so what they are talking about is 2.7 to 2.8 times the cost of the electricity. Except they think ‘renewables’ are a cheap source.

  26. Clyde says:

    Hydrogen has a propensity for leaking through even metal containers (and embrittling the metal in the process, leading to catastrophic failure), plus it’s highly explosive, with a really wide explosivity index.

    There’s a safer way.

    Consider a three-chamber vertical container… one chamber on top, one chamber in the middle, one chamber on the bottom.

    The top chamber, we’ll call the OH- chamber, the middle chamber we’ll call the segregation chamber, and the bottom chamber we’ll call the H3O+ chamber.

    The OH- chamber is connected to the segregation chamber via a pipe, as is the H3O+ chamber. In the middle of the segregation chamber is a permeable membrane to slow recombination of OH- and H3O+ when the voltage is turned off.

    In the segregation chamber are low-voltage electrodes made of platinum or some other conductor which won’t plate out when voltage is applied.

    The electrodes are situated vertically (ie: the + electrode at the top, the – electrode at the bottom) in the segregation chamber.

    All three chambers are filled via a fill nozzle on top of the OH- (ie: the top) chamber with pure water.

    Now a low voltage is applied. The water will segregate into OH- and H3O+.

    Since OH- is less dense than H2O, it will float to the top, displacing the water in the OH- chamber until that chamber is full of OH-.

    Similarly, H3O+ is denser than H2O, it will sink to the bottom, displacing the water in the H3O+ chamber until that chamber is full of H3O+.

    You’ll note we’re creating acidic and basic solutions here, so the chambers will have to be made of materials able to withstand high and low pH. Note also that we’re creating ions, so the chambers will have to be non-conductive.

    Now we separately draw OH- and H3O+ from the upper and lower chambers, and separately inject them (atomize them) into a burner with an electric igniter. Or we separately inject them into the cylinders (direct injection) of an internal combustion engine and spark the mixture with the spark plug.

    It’ll burn, giving off heat, with the only by-product water.

    Thus, we get nearly the same energy density of hydrogen, without the explosivity and leakage problems of hydrogen.

    It’s not an energy source, but it is an energy storage solution.

  27. oldbrew says:

    peterandnen says: I thought 70% of the universe was H2 and Sol used it as a fuel?

    Yes, but none of it is available on Earth as a gas, hence the need for electrolysis to separate it out from water.

  28. Chaswarnertoo says:

    Pochas94. Grid expanded in a planned, rational manner? 🤣🤣🤣

  29. ilma630 says:

    Chaswarnertoo, [Existing gas] grid expansion is a relatively trivial matter, and in our current experience. A Hydrogen grid would have to be completely new, using new materials and techniques, so very hard and very expensive, as well as the inefficiencies of creating (separating) the gas. It just won’t be done, as even if politicians decided to try and drive it with subsidies, we just couldn’t afford them. And as we know, govts deciding things like this is the worst option possible, they can never pick winners.

  30. Gamecock says:

    “It just won’t be done”

    Agreed. Politicians make all sorts of declarations, for out in the future. Stuff ten years out is just stylin’ and profilin,’ signifying nothing.

  31. tom0mason says:

    Hydrogen: the future fuel to achieve net zero?
    Yes if you don’t mind spiraling down the availability energy paradigm, while simultaneously winding up the inefficiencies of making, distributing, and utilizing hydrogen.
    Nature in balance, eh?

  32. oldbrew says:

    Global spending in hydrogen projects to reach $300bn by 2030
    Friday 19 February 2021

    More than 200 large-scale projects are already in the pipeline, new report estimates

    https://www.energylivenews.com/2021/02/19/global-spending-in-hydrogen-projects-to-reach-300bn-by-2030/

  33. ilma630 says:

    oldbrew, I just wonder how long it will take them to realise how expensive and disruptive it will be, how inefficient the process is (which was why CCS failed), and how dangerous a gas it is? No doubt the ‘something must be done’ politicians will try an hype it up, until it falls off the tipping point cliff edge into the murky sea of good intentioned but mad ideas.

  34. oldbrew says:

    Carbon capture, hydrogen, mega-batteries and all these attempts to make renewables viable as replacements for fuel burning, are economically and practically doomed at full scale.

    Worse still, all are unnecessary anyway as climate control is an exercise in futility.

  35. Susan Ewens says:

    Is the plan to convert Leeds to domestic hydrogen still on the cards?

  36. pochas94 says:

    Allowances will have to be made for low income, 3rd world, etc. No need to rush into something we can’t afford.

  37. pochas94 says:

    We’ll be around a lot longer than the fossil fuels will. I like hydrogen not because it is better but because using it conserves a depleting resource. Leave some hydrocarbons for generations to come.

  38. pochas94 says:

    @ilma630:
    Glad to see your concern about efficiency. You are correct. However with all its terrible inefficiency, a hydrogen car will be more efficient than the clunker you are driving right now. And don’t ever get on an airplane. It is much more likely to crash than that you will ever be involved in a hydrogen explosion.

  39. oldbrew says:

    I’m with Bill Gates on this one, even if he is yet another nauseating fly-everywhere climate obsessive: ‘let’s quit jerking around with renewables’.

    And green hydrogen is in that category IMO.

  40. Gamecock says:

    “We’ll be around a lot longer than the fossil fuels will. I like hydrogen not because it is better but because using it conserves a depleting resource. Leave some hydrocarbons for generations to come.”

    “We?” kemo sabe.

    What is the advantage for Man to run out of hydrocarbons in 2476, instead of 2436?

    Hydrogen is not a fuel source. Free hydrogen must be created by using energy derived from elsewhere. Additionally, conversion is inefficient. Further depleting the depleting resource. Using hydrogen as an energy transfer medium ADDS to the alleged problem.

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