Hydrogen: UK government sees future in low-carbon fuel, but what’s the reality?

Posted: August 18, 2021 by oldbrew in Critique, Emissions, Energy, government, hydrogen
Tags: , , ,

cloudcuckooland

[image credit: latinoamericarenovable.com]

HMG pays another visit to climate cloud cuckoo land. Its hydrogen ‘strategy’ turns out to be as full of obvious holes as a string vest. Don’t even ask about safety issues.
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The UK’s long-awaited hydrogen strategy has set out the government’s plans for “a world-leading hydrogen economy” that it says would generate £900 million (US$1.2 million) and create over 9,000 jobs by 2030, “potentially rising to 100,000 jobs and £13 billion by 2050”. From: The Conversation (via Phys.org).

The strategy document argues that hydrogen could be used in place of fossil fuels in homes and industries which are currently responsible for significant CO2 emissions, such as chemical manufacturing and heavy transport, which includes the delivery of goods by shipping, lorries and trains.

The government also envisages that many of the new jobs producing and using “low-carbon hydrogen” will benefit “UK companies and workers across our industrial heartlands.”

On the face of it, this vision of a low-carbon future in some of the most difficult to decarbonise niches of the economy sounds like good news. But is it? And are there other options for delivering net zero that will be better for the public?

Let’s examine some of the claims.

A heated debate

The government prefers what it calls “a twin track approach”, meaning both blue and green hydrogen will be used to phase out fossil fuels. Blue hydrogen fuel is produced from natural gas—a fossil fuel which currently provides most of the UK’s water and space heating—but the CO2 that would usually be emitted is captured and stored underground.

A recent report cast doubt on the green credentials of blue hydrogen, though. The research suggested that, because of methane emissions throughout the supply chain, blue hydrogen may actually be 20% worse for the climate than simply burning natural gas for heat and power. It doesn’t appear that the government’s strategy has recognised these issues or explained how they might be avoided.

Green hydrogen meanwhile is produced by splitting water molecules using electricity. A lot of energy is lost in this process, and so on average, the cost of hydrogen per kilowatt-hour (kWh) will be greater than the electricity it is derived from.

Is green hydrogen a better option for UK households than electrifying the heating system with heat pumps in homes? Green hydrogen bills are likely to be three to five times higher than this alternative. That’s because heat pumps take 1 kWh of electricity and convert it to around 3 kWh of heat, whereas green hydrogen takes 1 kWh of electricity and converts it to around 0.6 kWh of heat.

The strategy also proposes blending natural gas supplies to home central heating systems with 20% blue or green hydrogen. This, it’s reported, will help reduce CO₂ emissions from heating by 7%. No bad thing, but are there better ways to use that blue or green hydrogen?

Continued here.
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The Telegraph: There’s a huge problem with the Government’s hydrogen strategy
— ‘Hydrogen won’t just lead to higher energy bills, it could even increase greenhouse gas emissions’
— ‘Technology may advance, and hopefully it will, but there is nothing in the government’s hydrogen strategy to give any confidence that it will help us reach net zero emissions in just 29 years time – certainly not without imposing punitive costs on the economy.’

Comments
  1. ivan says:

    Oh dear, this is what you get when you let unelected Princess Nut Nut run the government green policy.

    Maybe if there were real engineers a working as politicians rather than the usual lawyers there might be some sense in government diktats.

  2. saighdear says:

    LowCarbon fuel, eh? How Low? C1,2,3 or 4 or maybe even C12 or so? will that do Princess?
    Now in Scotland today, we are already talking about Blue and Green Hydrogen: how long before the Woke brigade tell us it can’t be Blue or green, – but mabe shades of PINK, also? Silly Season? who is paying? And! according to Gridwatch, I wouldn’t be getting ANY Windmill Sales based on wind performance this past few several weeks. So where’s this synthetic fuel coming from, China?

  3. oldbrew says:

    Hydrogen is estimated to be about 5 times more costly to produce than natural gas. Then there are the storage costs for a difficult to handle easily escaping product. Not going to work at large scale.

  4. tom0mason says:

    Every time I hear some government official spout-off about the UK becoming ‘world leaders’ in this or that memories of Nuclear power reducing the price of electricity so it is ‘too cheap to meter’, or being ‘world leaders’ in commercial Supersonic Flight (via Concorde technology), or ‘world leaders’ in Vehicle Production (via expertise gained at British Leyland), or being ‘world leaders’ in Tidal Electricity Generation, or being ‘world leaders’ in implementing a National Super Fast broadband infrastructure, etc., etc. All of these over-hyped pipe-dreams have had the long term structural integrity of The Millennium Dome with none of utility.
    Bozo Johnson may as well paraphrase Tony Blair’s excessive optimism about the Millennium Dome, as “In Green Hydrogen Technology we have a creation that, I believe, will truly be a beacon to the world”, and probably be as financial sound as that Dome!

    So Britain will become ‘world leaders’ in Green hydrogen technology until yet more of the country’s basic infrastructure is mismanaged and ill maintained so allowing more of it to break down, giving another government leader the opportunity to distract attention to some other ‘white heat of technology’ pipe-dream.

  5. Phoenix44 says:

    How does it “generate” money?

    This is the insane logic of the Government, a group who seem to know less Economics than they do Physics. If we replace say £7 billion of natural gas consumption with hydrogen consumption that instead costs £13 billion we haven’t “generated” £13 billion we have destroyed £5 billion. The economy now has £5 billion less to spend on other things. Wealth is generated by making things cheaper, not just making things (as the USSR discovered) and making things more expensive reduces wealth.

  6. oldbrew says:

    UK: we’ll be world leaders in [insert expensive half-baked idea].
    Rest of the world: You first!

  7. saighdear says:

    Ha ha haa LOL Have a look here: ‘The Difference Between Gasoline And Hydrogen Engines’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l6ECwRnJ0Sg&t=326s and when “People complain about having to take high school level geometry and chemistry. Do you really think they’re going to be able to understand stoichiometric fuel ratios and ignition energies” kinda sums up the State of the Nation or Narrative

  8. Chaswarnertoo says:

    Mr Nut Nut PM showing his insanity.

  9. peterandnen says:

    Going with hydrogen to get to net zero is old hat. Apparently the US National Ignition Facility has now produced 1.3 megajoules output from 1.8 megajoules input. (About a mars bar of energy output for two crunchy bars input.) NIF is also aiming for net zero by 2035 if they can get another few $bn government sub. God save the planet!

  10. Charles Fairbairn says:

    When all is said and done there is NO reason to reduce CO2 emissions.
    That is a FALSE message, put out for political purposes. So why bother to muck about with hydrogen?
    The UN and its acolytes is being grossly irresponsible over this by peddling the CAGW Meme which has gone viral, thanks to a compliant Media chasing after Clickbaits.

  11. Hasbeen says:

    Burning hydrogen emits water vapor rather than CO2.
    Water vapor is a much stronger global warming gas than CO2
    If we are trying to reduce global warming, why the hell would we want to emit a lot more of a stronger green house gas.

    I guess it has actually become a vendetta against the fossil fuel our prosperity is based on, rather than anything to do with global warming, if it ever was.

  12. oldbrew says:

    Net zero switch threatens new oil shock, warns top economist
    19 August 2021

    The vast expense of ending global warming will trigger a blow to the world economy that is as damaging as the 1974 oil shock, a top international economist has warned.

    A scramble to cut carbon emissions is likely to send energy prices rocketing and hold back living standards for years to come, Jean Pisani-Ferry said in a report published by the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2021/08/19/net-zero-switch-threatens-new-oil-shock-warns-top-economist/
    – – –
    ending global warming — which doesn’t depend on carbon dioxide levels anyway

  13. pochas94 says:

    “the cost of hydrogen per kilowatt-hour (kWh) will be greater than the electricity it is derived from.”
    But, as we all know, the cost of energy from nuclear will be “too cheap to meter.”

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