A hydrogen testing facility has been opened in Buxton, Derbyshire, to demonstrate whether hydrogen can be used in place of natural gas in millions of homes across the country. Critical safety tests will be conducted at the facility, the purpose of which is to establish that it is as safe as natural gas. The project is part of H21, a suite of gas industry projects designed to support conversion of the UK gas networks to carry 100% hydrogen.
The UK government has made a commitment to net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and, therefore, policies are urgently required to achieve that goal. Around 30% of UK carbon emissions are from the heating of homes, businesses, and industry, making heat a prime target for emissions cuts. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is due to publish a ‘low-carbon gas’ consultation later this year.
Hydrogen can be produced on a large scale by extracting it from natural gas (methane), while the remaining CO2 is captured and stored. Alternatively, it can be produced on a smaller scale through the electrolysis of water using electricity generated by renewables. The use of hydrogen does not produce greenhouse gas emissions, with the only by-products being water and heat.
It is now recognised that there is significant potential for hydrogen as an energy vector. That is, it allows for the transportation and/or storage of energy. As well as a potential replacement for natural gas for heating and cooking, it can be used as storage for electricity from renewables and as a zero emissions fuel for transport.
The first step to commercialising the use of hydrogen in the heavy-duty vehicle sector is underway with projects such as H2 bus in Aberdeen. It includes a 1MW electrolyser to produce hydrogen, a hydrogen refuelling station, and a fleet of 10 hydrogen buses. The buses will only emit water vapour, reducing carbon emissions and air pollution, as well as being quieter and smoother to run.
At the request of the G20, the IEA has produced a report to investigate the current state of play for hydrogen and to offer guidance on its future development. The report: The Future of Hydrogen – Seizing Today’s Opportunities, finds that clean hydrogen is receiving strong global support. Recommendations include establishing a role for hydrogen in long-term energy strategies, bringing down costs, and removing unnecessary barriers while also harmonising standards.