Hydrogen boilers could cause four times as many explosions as gas

Safety fears as government-backed assessment finds the alternative fuel could spark as many as 39 blasts a year

So declared the headline to a Telegraph article on 4th August, and it was far from being alone in headlining with the “four times as many explosions as gas” theme. But was it justified? And what was behind it?

In 2017 the Department for Business Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) appointed Ove Arup & Partners to be the programme managers for the Hydrogen for Heat Programme. As is now standard in the ongoing infantilisation of debate and dumbing-down of standards everywhere, it is to be known as Hy4Heat. The task of the programme managers was:

to establish if it is technically possible, safe and convenient to replace natural gas (methane) with hydrogen in residential and commercial buildings and gas appliances, to enable the government to determine whether to proceed to community trial.

In fairness, the programme managers have not produced a dumbed-down piece of work. The reporti appears to have been published on (at least it bears that date) 1st May 2021, but (short-lived) interest in it in the mainstream media seems to have been limited to the last few days. It runs to 144 pages, and a detailed analysis is beyond the scope of a short article here.

Wisely, the decision seems to have been taken to make the safety assessment on the basis of:

a two storey, masonry-built, terraced house with a basement and a loft conversion. This type of property has been selected because it comprises the single largest proportion of houses in the domestic housing stock in Great Britain, and is considered to be one of the most susceptible forms of construction in relation to gas explosion risks in domestic properties. This is because they are, in general terms, the least robust, due to historic or non-existent building regulations being used in the design and construction. They are often of unknown quality and could include substantial owner/occupier modification. They are also the type of home where historically the majority of deaths and injuries have occurred and where the differences in properties between methane and hydrogen indicate that the risks from hydrogen by comparison with methane are likely to be exacerbated.

The report considers the risks from fires and explosions, and doesn’t consider the risk from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, since CO is not a waste product of hydrogen. This is one area where hydrogen is safer than natural gas (though the report does point out that the last CO fatality in the UK was in 2015).

Explosions

The report estimates an average, for the entire British population, of nine explosions (it calls them “ignited events”) per annum from natural gas, excluding any incidents which might be expected to arise from misuse of appliances (such as leaving a gas hob on but unlit).

By alarming contrast, it estimates, for the same population, an average of 39 “ignited events” per annum. They point out that they predict a greater number of very large explosions than observed in practice from historical incident reporting. The number of injuries predicted from hydrogen gas explosions are “considerably higher” than those predicted from natural gas.

This is because of the more serious consequences predicted by the Warwick model for the higher concentration hydrogen explosions.

Mitigation Measures

Only one mitigation measure that might be adopted is then considered, but it makes quite a difference.

Excess flow valves – they might substantially reduce the expected number of injuries so as to be more in line with those associated with natural gas, by reducing the frequency of large and very large leaks, which would lead to the worst-case explosions. There is, however, a caveat:

[F]urther work may be needed to determine whether there is a requirement for regular long-term maintenance strategies in order to ensure these valves are performing as expected.

Small details

Unfortunately, even very small hydrogen ignitions can be disproportionately noisy, this may need to be addressed in consumer literature at an appropriate time.

Hydrogen meters should be installed outside the property for safety reasons (many leaks are apparently associated with meters).

Ventilation – very important.

Competence and training:

Existing competent Gas Safe engineers must be upskilled for facilitation of the community trial, including installation, testing and commissioning, having undertaken an appropriate training course (and subsequent assessment) for working with hydrogen gas.

Assumptions:

A key assumption of this assessment is that hydrogen would not cause accelerated material degradation compared to natural gas in a domestic setting. And, therefore, there is no change in the likelihood of an initiating leak between the two gases. This is considered a reasonable assumption based on theory. However, there is limited published evidence regarding the use of hydrogen in low pressure networks to reference.

Conclusions

Headlines in newspapers such as the Telegraph, Daily Mail and the Mirror, to the effect that hydrogen boilers could cause four times as many explosions as would be the case with natural gas are justified only in terms of the effect of widespread installation of hydrogen boilers without the mitigation measures urged in the report. The clickbait picture associated with this article isn’t really justified, but at least I’m learning about clickbait from the BBC and the Guardian. And if I can’t trust those headlines, why should I trust the headlines associated with climate change?

Nevertheless, there are several caveats; also some irritating details (I for one don’t fancy a “disproportionately noisy” system, even if it is relatively safe); and potentially significant costs associated with the process. Where is the hydrogen to come from? As I understand it, it is going to be produced by electrolysis, so energy has to be used to generate a different energy source. I’m not sure that’s such a great idea.

And finally, what is the by-product of burning hydrogen? Water vapour. Isn’t that a greenhouse gas?

Well, the next stage is a Government trial of hydrogen gas. More taxpayers’ money will be spent in search of a magic solution to a problem that the UK on its own can’t begin to solve. All this despite the fact that we have an existing infrastructure and an efficient and relatively cheap source of heating our homes already. Natural gas, even after recent wholesale price rises, is still only around 20% of the cost to consumers of electricity, and electricity costs are only going to rise as inefficient, expensive and unreliable renewables become an increasing part of the mix.

Sigh.

i https://cliscep.files.wordpress.com/2021/08/3b050-conclusionsincqra.pdf

39 Comments

  1. “How hydrogen could help us to reach net zero”

    https://hydeploy.co.uk/about/news/how-hydrogen-could-help-us-to-reach-net-zero/

    “One of the big areas that must be considered in introducing hydrogen to the gas mix is the impact to calorific value (CV). The CV drops when hydrogen is blended in, which means that more gas must be used to get the same amount of energy at the point of use. We have therefore trialled different blends containing different levels of hydrogen to optimise the output without incurring excessive cost, with 20% hydrogen currently coming out as the most favourable option from a lab perspective.”

    So is methane (natural gas) to be replaced 100% by hydrogen or only 20%? If only 20%, what’s the point?

    Like

  2. I think a key problem with hydrogen is that we intend to replace a perfectly good system – natural gas boilers – with a system that will be more dangerous, more expensive, and will cause all sorts of upheaval re: digging up existing pipes. In other words the new system has a large heap of disadvantages, and its only advantage is that there are no carbon atoms in the gas.

    If on the other hand the new system was in some way better, then I could see perhaps justifying some of the downsides. When every house had a coal fire, plumbing in gas was clearly an enormous improvement of people’s lives, even if there were attendant risks.

    The release of water vapour is not a problem however, because of rain! If substantial amounts of CO2 snowed on Antarctica then there would probably be no issue with CO2 either (as far as I know this does not happen, even when the temperature drops below the freezing point of CO2 – perhaps the air pressure is too low at the height this could potentially happen).

    Like

  3. “Hydrogen
    An Elemental Shift in How We Use Energy”

    https://www.certifhy.ca/index.html

    “~95% of the hydrogen produced in the world today is derived from fossil fuels. So while hydrogen itself is a clean alternative, the fact that most of it comes from fossil fuels makes using this hydrogen counterproductive.

    BUT

    An increasing amount of hydrogen is being generated from clean source (e.g. through water electrolysis using renewable or low-carbon electricity)”

    I can’t help thinking common sense has gone out of the window somewhere along the road.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Here is what an ordinary (coal) gas explosion did at Ronan Points in London in 1968.
    However, hydrogen is much more explosive than coal and/or natural gas. Therefore, will we need to upgrade all of our high-rise buildings to be resistant to hydrogen explosions?

    Photo by Derek Voller, CC BY-SA 2.0
    https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=59931718

    [Edited to make image appear and give credit — passing admin]

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Angusmac, good question. I thought the report had been sensible by assessing the challenge of conversion in respect of a two storey, masonry-built, terraced house with a basement and a loft conversion. Maybe, however, they were avoiding the difficult question of what to do with high-rise buildings? It ain’t going to be easy, that’s for sure.

    Like

  6. I find it hard to imagine water vapor from burning hydrogen or any other industrial process having any significant greenhouse gas effect. I’d expect it to just get incorporated into the various hydrological equilibriums, but I suppose I could be missing something.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. “Climate: WWF warns UK spending is lagging behind targets”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-58170865

    This is the usual propaganda from WWF and Harrabin, but right at the end of the article we get this:

    “Hydrogen warning
    One of the government’s new policy initiatives is to promote hydrogen as a power source. A hydrogen strategy is due soon.

    Lobby groups are pressing for widespread hydrogen use in home heating.

    But a report from Cornell and Stanford Universities warns that using hydrogen could increase emissions overall unless it’s made by electrolysis from surplus wind power.

    That’s because the most common current method of getting hydrogen is to split it from natural gas, which produces high carbon emissions.”

    The report in question can supposedly be found here (the link takes you to a website, not to the article, which you then have to search for, so far as I can see):

    https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/20500505

    Like

  8. More on that story in the Guardian:

    “UK plan to replace fossil gas with blue hydrogen ‘may backfire’
    Academics warn ‘fugitive’ emissions from producing hydrogen could be 20% worse for climate than using gas”

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/aug/12/uk-replace-fossil-gas-blue-hydrogen-backfire-emissions

    “The government’s plan to replace fossil gas with “blue” hydrogen to help meet its climate targets could backfire after US academics found that it may lead to more emissions than using gas.

    In some cases blue hydrogen, which is made from fossil gas, could be up to 20% worse for the climate than using gas in homes and heavy industry owing to the emissions that escape when gas is extracted from the ground and split to produce hydrogen.

    The process leaves a byproduct of carbon dioxide and methane, which fossil fuel companies plan to trap using carbon capture technology. However, even the most advanced schemes cannot capture all the emissions, leaving some to enter the atmosphere and contribute to global heating.

    Professors from Cornell and Stanford universities calculated that these “fugitive” emissions from producing hydrogen could eclipse those associated with extracting and burning gas when multiplied by the amount of gas required to make an equivalent amount of energy from hydrogen.

    Robert Howarth, a Cornell University professor and co-author of the study, said the research was the first to be published in a peer-reviewed journal to lay bare the “significant lifecycle emissions intensity of blue hydrogen”.

    The paper, which will be published in Energy Science and Engineering, warned that blue hydrogen may be “a distraction” or “something that may delay needed action to truly decarbonise the global energy economy”….”.

    Like

  9. Meanwhile, on the other side of the pond:

    “Biden-backed ‘blue’ hydrogen may pollute more than coal, study finds
    Infrastructure bill includes $8bn to develop ‘clean hydrogen’ but study finds large emissions from production of ‘blue’ hydrogen”

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/aug/12/clean-fuel-blue-hydrogen-coal-study

    “The large infrastructure bill passed by the US Senate and hailed by Joe Biden as a key tool to tackle the climate crisis includes billions of dollars to support a supposedly clean fuel that is potentially even more polluting than coal, new research has found.

    The $1tn infrastructure package, which passed with bipartisan support on Tuesday, includes $8bn to develop “clean hydrogen” via the creation of four new regional hubs. The White House has said the bill advances Biden’s climate agenda and proponents of hydrogen have touted it as a low-emissions alternative to fuel shipping, trucking, aviation and even home heating.

    But a new study has found surprisingly large emissions from the production of so-called “blue” hydrogen, a variant being enthusiastically pushed by the fossil fuel industry and probably falling under the definition of clean hydrogen in the Senate bill.

    Blue hydrogen involves splitting gas into hydrogen and carbon dioxide and then capturing and storing the CO2 to ensure it doesn’t heat the planet. But this process involves the incidental release of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and uses a huge amount of energy to separate and then store the carbon dioxide, some of which escapes anyway.

    This means that the production of this hydrogen actually creates 20% more greenhouse gases than coal, commonly regarded the most polluting fossil fuel, when being burned for heat, and 60% more than burning diesel, according to the new paper, published in the Energy Science & Engineering journal.

    “It’s pretty striking, I was surprised at the results,” said Robert Howarth, a scientist at Cornell University who authored the paper alongside Mark Jacobson, a Stanford University researcher. “Blue hydrogen is a nice marketing term that the oil and gas industry is keen to push but it’s far from carbon free. I don’t think we should be spending our funds this way, on these sort of false solutions.”

    The Hydrogen Council, a group that includes the oil companies BP, Total and Shell among its members, has said that hydrogen has a “key role to play in the global energy transition” by replacing more polluting fuels, predicting it will account for 18% of total energy demand by 2050.

    Dozens of gas companies in the US have started producing hydrogen or testing its viability in existing gas pipelines, which some climate campaigners have said is a step towards entrenching fossil fuel infrastructure at a time when the world, as outlined by Monday’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, needs to rapidly move to net-zero emissions.”

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  10. As so often with these schemes, it’s not as easy as it sounds.
    Blending low levels of hydrogen into the natural gas grid should not cause major problems for domestic appliances, aiui (although burners may need regular replacement). However it would cause serious difficulties for gas turbine power plants where the combustion conditions are under very tight tolerances. An HSE report concluded that the hydrogen would have to be removed pre-combustion – assuming that could be done (absorption or membranes maybe?), what happens to the hydrogen then?
    Also the level of blending is unlikely to be uniform across the country and will vary over time (assuming the source is electrolysis powered by “excess” wind generation). That has implications for the maintenance of the calorific value and, maybe, for boiler controls.

    Wrt that article/study decrying blue hydrogen, iirc Howarth, one of the authors, has form as an anti-fracker. Whenever someone bangs the methane drum I wish they could be asked how methane can have much effect outside lab experiments because its absorption spectra are swamped by water vapour which is present at 20,000 times the concentration.

    Speaking of water vapour, burning hydrogen will produce more of it than methane so homes will need better ventilation.

    Like

  11. Mike Hig, welcome, and thanks for the comment.

    I’ve been lurking at BH and observed the hydrogen discussion there, but I’m a bit busy here these days. 🙂

    Like

  12. Mark/Mike: Prof Jacobson has also been frequently on the sceptics’ radar. His most famous achievement is raising science to a new gold standard by suing someone who disagreed with him. After that hot flush he pulled the suit but was ordered to pay costs for his trouble:
    https://wattsupwiththat.com/2020/07/11/stanford-prof-ordered-to-pay-legal-fees-after-dropping-10-million-defamation-case-against-another-scientist/

    The paper in question showed that the US could live without hydrocarbons. The below quote was from the National Review in earlier WUWT coverage:

    Rather than accept any of the criticisms Clack and his nearly two dozen co-authors made, Jacobson responded with tirades on Twitter, EcoWatch, and elsewhere. He claimed that his work doesn’t contain a single error, that all of his critics are whores for hydrocarbons, and that, well, dammit, he’s right. Never mind that Jacobson overstated the amount of available hydropower in the U.S. by roughly a factor of ten and claimed that in just three decades or so, we won’t need any gasoline, diesel, or jet fuel because we will all be flying to Vegas in hydrogen-powered 737s.

    One would suspect that Jacobson would be likely to favour electrolysis over steam reforming.

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  13. Politico is repeating the story, it seems:

    “EU’s clean hydrogen plan raises dirty doubts
    Methane leaks from non-renewable hydrogen could pollute more than coal and natural gas.”

    https://www.politico.eu/article/eu-clean-hydrogen-plan-doubts/

    “The EU’s hopes of powering its green energy transformation with clean-burning hydrogen could potentially speed up global warming instead, scientists warn.

    A study published Thursday shows that making hydrogen out of natural gas — even when capturing some of the escaping CO2 emissions to make what’s known as “blue hydrogen” — is more polluting than simply burning natural gas directly.

    “The use of blue hydrogen appears difficult to justify on climate grounds,” the study said.

    That’s a problem for the EU. Its Hydrogen Strategy foresees ramping up production of blue hydrogen over the next decade to displace natural gas and also to use in hard-to-electrify sectors like heavy transport and steel and cement production. It’s also banking on cleaner but more expensive green hydrogen, made from water and renewable electricity, eventually becoming available in larger quantities.

    The vast majority of hydrogen produced in the EU is so-called grey hydrogen, made by splitting natural gas into hydrogen and carbon dioxide and allowing the CO2 to escape into the atmosphere. It’s relatively cheap, but has a massive carbon footprint.

    Blue hydrogen is a bit cleaner, but the process requires a great deal of energy, and that’s supplied by burning natural gas, according to Robert Horwath, professor of ecology and environmental biology at Cornell University and co-author of the study published in Energy Science & Engineering.

    Even more energy has to be used to capture the CO2 and “that electricity’s also coming from burning more natural gas without capturing the emissions,” he said….”.

    Like

  14. “Oil firms made ‘false claims’ on blue hydrogen costs, says ex-lobby boss
    Chris Jackson believes companies promoted ‘unsustainable’ fossil gas projects to access billions in taxpayer subsidies”

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/aug/20/oil-firms-made-false-claims-on-blue-hydrogen-costs-says-ex-lobby-boss

    “Oil companies have used false claims over the cost of producing fossil fuel hydrogen to win over the Treasury and access billions in taxpayer subsidies, according to the outgoing hydrogen lobby boss.

    Chris Jackson quit as the chair of a leading hydrogen industry association earlier this week ahead of a government strategy paper featuring support for “blue hydrogen”, which is derived from fossil gas and produces carbon emissions.

    He told the Guardian he could no longer lead an industry association that includes oil companies backing blue hydrogen projects, because the schemes are “not sustainable” and “make no sense at all”.”

    Sound familiar?

    “The UK’s future blue hydrogen projects include plans for BP to develop a hydrogen plant in Teesside, and Norwegian state oil company Equinor and SSE to build the world’s biggest hydrogen production plant with carbon capture and storage technology near Hull.”

    That would be SSE that receives subsidies to build wind turbines all over Scotland?

    Like

  15. And Equinor, remember, is the co-owner of Dudgeon, and is familiar with the right end of the money hose. BP is investing in offshore wind. The aim of these companies is to become renewables companies because they believe that our gov’t and others will either ban oil or tax it to death, but that the flow of money for renewables will never be interrupted.

    The bottom line is that however the hydrogen is made, it will have to be subsidised heavily. (Alternatively, it might be possible to tax natural gas to death or simply ban it, but first the boiler switch would have to be made.)

    Hydrogen, being worse in every way than natural gas, is never going to displace it without a large helping hand.

    Like

  16. https://www.rechargenews.com/energy-transition/uk-backs-hydrogen-cfds-to-repeat-offshore-wind-success-story/2-1-1052884

    “UK backs hydrogen CfDs to repeat offshore wind success story”

    The government is proposing using a replica of the CfD scheme that has helped build-out capacity of offshore wind in the UK to more than 10GW while also lowering its cost over the past decade by offering guaranteed ‘strike prices’ for power produced.

    The government said the publication of the document, three months ahead of the UN’s COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, sent out a “strong signal globally” that the UK is to committed to building a thriving hydrogen economy that could deliver hundreds of thousands of green jobs.

    Happened on this while looking for something else. Presumably new green farm machinery could deliver hundreds of thousands of green jobs too. (The return of oversized horses.) The obvious point is that the number of jobs only goes up if a more efficient process is displaced, via gov’t mandate, by a less efficient one.

    The success story referred to is the success of slyly sucking money out of the pockets of people who can’t afford it into the pockets of people who are already rolling in it and with whom in many cases we have very little in common w.r.t. freedom, democracy, old fashioned things like that.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. “Carbon from UK’s blue hydrogen bid still to equal 1m petrol cars
    Government’s plan to use ‘blue’ fossil-fuel hydrogen alongside green version raises concern, say campaigners”

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/aug/22/uk-switch-to-hydrogen-power-must-not-rely-on-fossil-fuels-warn-campaigners

    “Opting for hydrogen that is made using fossil fuels rather than renewable electricity could create up to 8m tonnes of carbon emissions every year by 2050, according to an analysis of government data.

    The figures show that the use of fossil-fuel hydrogen, or “blue hydrogen”, would create the same carbon emissions each year that more than a million petrol cars would produce, compared with using zero-carbon “green hydrogen”.

    Ministers plan to use both blue and green hydrogen to replace fossil gas in factories, refineries and heating, but new figures show that an over-reliance on blue hydrogen would still lead to millions of tonnes of carbon emissions entering the atmosphere every year.

    Blue hydrogen is extracted from fossil gas in a process that requires carbon capture technology to trap emissions – but this method still fails to capture between 5% and 15% of the CO2. Carbon emissions are also released when the fossil gas is extracted from oil and gas fields.

    Using blue hydrogen exclusively to replace fossil gas would result in between 6m and 8m tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year from the late 2020s, or the equivalent of running an average of 1.5m more fossil-fuel cars on the road every year by 2050.”

    Like

  18. “Hydrogen: UK government sees future in low-carbon fuel – but what’s the reality?”

    https://theconversation.com/hydrogen-uk-government-sees-future-in-low-carbon-fuel-but-whats-the-reality-166244

    “…Then there are influential groups lobbying parliament on behalf of hydrogen, such as the Hydrogen Taskforce, which represents members with a vested interest in the fuel who are set to receive a significant amount of business from this strategy. But is what is good for business good for UK consumers and taxpayers?

    The UK government has failed to provide comparative evidence that hydrogen is a preferred net-zero route in many applications. Only by comparing the paths to net zero in a way that considers the complete life cycle of hydrogen fuel, quantifying the impacts on people, profit and the environment can the case for hydrogen be made accurately. That evidence is lacking in this strategy.”

    Like

  19. In Pandora’s Box, the name Lord Callanan cropped up. Here he is again:

    “Hydrogen boiler revolution ‘pretty much impossible’, says minister
    Lord Martin Callanan cast doubt on the feasibility of production demands and overall cost”

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2021/10/05/hydrogen-boiler-revolution-pretty-much-impossible-says-minister/

    “Using hydrogen to replace natural gas as a green alternative in boilers is “pretty much impossible”, a minister has admitted, despite the Government planning major trials over the coming decade….

    …Describing himself as a “little bit of a hydrogen sceptic”, Lord Callanan said: “If I’m being honest the idea that we could produce enough hydrogen at reasonable cost to displace mains gas is pretty much impossible.

    “Technology might get us there, there might be some scientific breakthrough. But it’s more likely that it will end up being used by trains and HGVs, for some industrial processes, rather than for home heating.
    “But the official policy is we will see how the market develops and take a view in the mid-part of this decade as to whether it will play a significant role in the home.”…

    ,,,Lord Callanan acknowledged that moving to green heating in homes is “one of the biggest political challenges that we are faced with as a government.”

    “It doesn’t get that much publicity, but it’s something that will cost us an enormous amount of money over the next 15 to 20 years.”

    Lord Callanan said plans to raise the cost of gas would be “nigh on impossible politically” amid the current energy price crunch.

    But he said it would be necessary to rebalance social and green levies, which are currently around 20 per cent of electricity bills and mean running a heat pump is more expensive than running a gas boiler.

    “To persuade people to make the change, we have to provide them with the right incentives. But it’s a difficult policy challenge. Thankfully one for the Treasury and not me,” he said.

    The Government is expected to announce a consultation on rebalancing the levies, with possible options being to move them onto gas or into general taxation.”

    Like

  20. Cross-pasting a comment on NALOPKT:
    From a report by Jacobs ( Hydrogen supply chain eveidence base; Nov 2018) on the various aspects of adopting hydrogen:

    “Efficiency:The expectation is that H 2 boilers can achieve high efficiencies, similar to those of current natural gas boilers. This would only be confirmed during the required research and development phase of commercialisation.

    Higher burning temperature can lead to NOx formation – performance may be influenced by the NOx specification (low NOx requirements could push down efficiency and may require an exhaust catalyst).

    Lifetime and maintenance: H 2 boilers are expected to achieve 10 15 year target lifetimes (i.e. similar to current natural gas boilers)
    There may be some additional service requirements, hence O&M costs are expected to be higher. Catalytic components (if required) would need to be replaced within 15 year lifetime
    Regular servicing of the appliance may need to be mandatory if components such as exhaust catalysts are needed to ensure performance of the unit is maintained.”

    So, without mitigation via exhaust catalysts, hydrogen boilers will add to NOx pollution. Fitting catalysts will increase costs and maintenance requirements, and efficiency will be lower.
    The report also includes some fairly hair-raising numbers on costs.
    It really is not a happy story.

    Like

  21. “JCB signs green hydrogen deal worth billions”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-59107805

    “Construction equipment maker JCB has signed a deal to buy billions of pounds of green hydrogen, defined as hydrogen produced using renewable energy.

    The deal means JCB will take 10% of the green hydrogen made by mining company Fortescue Future Industries (FFI).

    Australian company FFI said the deal was a “first-of-a-kind partnership” that would see it become the UK’s largest supplier of the clean fuel.

    Production, mostly done outside the UK, is expected to begin early next year.

    JCB and a firm called Ryze Hydrogen would then distribute it in the UK.”

    Quite apart from all the other issues, it’s not exactly green if production is mostly to be outside the UK, for a gas which is to be distributed within the UK.

    Like

  22. “Whitelee green hydrogen facility receives £9.4m investment”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-59365823

    “A wind farm is to become home to a state-of-the-art hydrogen storage facility which could eventually produce enough clean energy to help power the next generation of public transport.

    The UK government has awarded the project, based at Whitelee Windfarm in East Renfrewshire, £9.4m.

    It said the project would help Glasgow reach net zero by 2030.

    The cash will go towards developing the country’s largest electrolyser, which converts water in to hydrogen.

    The hydrogen produced can be easily stored and transported to where it is needed.

    Splitting water and capturing the released hydrogen requires energy, and the project will use electricity produced from the wind farm, the largest onshore farm in the UK, to create the gas…

    …The partnership, made up of ScottishPower, ITM Power and BOC, is currently going through the planning process for the new facility and aims to have green hydrogen available to the commercial market by 2023….”

    Scottish Power, of course, isn’t Scottish at all, but is owned by Spanish company, Iberdrola. BOC is now part of the Linde Group, which is German. So much of this “£9.4M investment” (why doesn’t the BBC headline call it what it is – a taxpayer-funded subsidy?) will probably leach away abroad.

    Like

  23. “Will hydrogen energy help decarbonise the economy?”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-59384415

    More interesting and thoughtful than usual from the BBC, IMO, and worth a read. It concludes with this:

    “Under the SGN/Wood plan, the rest of Scotland’s gas network could be converted to hydrogen only 15 years later than the Aberdeen target, in 2045. Wood throws in an extended pipeline network to gather in carbon dioxide from around the country for treatment and storage.

    The total cost, at today’s prices: £11.6bn. Of that more than £3.4bn is in continued and expanded blue hydrogen generation, and £2.6bn would be required for the green variety, most of that for electrolysis.

    Some £1.1bn would prepare the SGN pipeline network for hydrogen, while £500m would buy a gathering network for carbon.

    A further £3.3bn would pay for conversion of appliances in homes and business premises.

    No-one said it was going to be cheap. But it could bring quality jobs and business opportunities.

    It’s just one set of ideas, while the alternative – of doing nothing to decarbonise energy use across the economy – isn’t a long-term, cheap solution either.”

    Like

  24. “Climate change: Is ‘blue hydrogen’ Japan’s answer to coal?”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-59525480

    “It’s a glorious autumn afternoon and I’m standing on a hillside looking out over Tokyo Bay. Beside me is Takao Saiki, a usually mild-mannered gentleman in his 70s.

    But today Saiki-San is angry.

    “It’s a total joke,” he says, in perfect English. “Just ridiculous!”

    The cause of his distress is a giant construction site blocking our view across the bay – a 1.3-gigawatt coal-fired power station in the making.

    “I don’t understand why we still have to burn coal to generate electricity,” says Saiki-San’s friend, Rikuro Suzuki. “This plant alone will emit more than seven million tonnes of carbon dioxide every year!”

    Suzuki-San’s point is a good one. Shouldn’t Japan be cutting its coal consumption, not increasing it, at a time of great concern about coal’s impact on the climate?

    So why the coal? The answer is the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

    In 2010 about one third of Japan’s electricity came from nuclear power, and there were plans to build a lot more. But then the 2011 disaster hit, and all Japan’s nuclear power plants were shut down. Ten years later most remain closed – and there is a lot of resistance to restarting them.

    In their place Japan’s gas-fired power stations have been doing a lot of overtime. But, as Britain has found out recently, natural gas is expensive.So, the Japanese government decided to build 22 new coal-fired power stations, to run on cheap coal imported from Australia. Economically it made sense. Environmentally, not so much. Japan is now under intense pressure to stop using coal.

    Instead of closing the old coal plants and switching to renewables, Japan’s answer is to switch to burning hydrogen or ammonia….

    …This brings us to the final, and most important question. Where is the hydrogen to power Japan zero carbon society going to come from?

    The answer is “blue hydrogen”.

    Make hydrogen from water using renewable energy and you get “green hydrogen”. The problem is green hydrogen is really expensive.

    Instead, today most hydrogen is made from natural gas, or even coal. That is cheap but it produces lots of greenhouse gases. However, if you capture those greenhouse gases and bury them in the ground, you are allowed to call it “blue hydrogen”.

    This is exactly what Japan says it is going to do.

    Earlier this year, Japan and Australia opened a joint project in the state of Victoria to turn a type of coal called lignite, or brown coal, into hydrogen. The hydrogen is then liquified to minus 253C, then piped into a specially built ship which carries it to Japan.

    What happens to the greenhouse gases produced at the site? Right now, they go straight up into the atmosphere. But Japan and Australia are promising that, at some point in the future, they will begin capturing the greenhouse gas produced at the Latrobe Valley site and inject it into the sea floor off the coast.

    Climate change campaigners are horrified by this plan. They say the technology to capture and store greenhouse gases is unproven and it will lock Japan into digging up vast quantities of brown coal for decades to come….”.

    A long article, probably worth a read. But with the usual caveats when reading anything about climate change on the BBC. What the BBC omits to mention is that ” Takao Saiki, a usually mild-mannered gentleman in his 70s” is a climate change, anti-coal campaigner:

    Click to access Statement-of-opinion-Takao-Saiki.pdf

    Where’s the BBC Climate Misinformation Correspondents when you need them?

    Like

  25. Dr John Constable at the House of Lords’ industry and regulators committee on 14 September 2021. Dr John Constable directs the UK information charity, Renewable Energy Foundation: 

    I have written extensively on hydrogen, and I have what I think is a rational approach to it. Hydrogen is an energy carrier. It is an interesting energy carrier, but it is a difficult gas. It is both fugitive and quite dangerous to handle. However, it is genuinely interesting and could allow us to decarbonise some very difficult areas such as transport, particularly international shipping, as ammonia.

    The key thing is to make the production of hydrogen cheap. That is important for the consumer of the hydrogen but also because making it safe to use in society will not be a cheap activity in itself. It is going to be expensive to make it safe, so the input costs have to be very low. Therefore, the most promising route for hydrogen production is high-temperature nuclear. This was sketched in the 1970s by the physicist and economist Marchetti, known for Marchetti cycles in energy, and was offered to the Japanese. The Japanese government accepted it and are still working on it. It exists within the Japanese machinery as the new Sunshine project.

    It is promising. Will it work? We do not know. It is crucial that the input energy cost is low. Electrolysis from existing nuclear power stations will produce high-cost hydrogen. Electrolysis from renewable energy will produce very high-cost hydrogen. High-temperature nuclear reactors decomposing water thermally, probably in the presence of a catalyst, would in principle produce low-cost hydrogen and might therefore work. If the hydrogen could be low-cost, it would be possible to afford all the safety measures that would be necessary to render it utilisable both in vehicles and in the home. I am open-minded about it and guardedly optimistic.

    Liked by 2 people

  26. I did watch all of that video of John Constable yesterday. Very impressive grasp of the detail, clear articulation of the problems with all of energy policy and stoic patience with some of the ‘slower’ committee members.

    Like

  27. On 27th April 2022, there will be another WEET conference, this one headed “Growing the hydrogen economy in the UK –
    Policy and market development, commercialisation and scaling up, and readying infrastructure”.

    Speakers include:

    Antony Green, Hydrogen Director, Gas Transmission, National Grid
    James Richardson, Chief Economist, National Infrastructure Commission
    Dr Jenifer Baxter, Protium Green;
    Dr Sarah Deasley, Frontier Economics;
    Jayne Harrold, PWC;
    Dr Robert Howarth, Cornell University;
    Katharine Palmer, Shipping Lead, High level Climate Champion, UNFCCC;
    Professor Nilay Shah, Imperial College London;
    Chris Train, Green Gas Champion, Energy Networks Association;
    Dr Tiancun Xiao, University of Oxford

    We are told:

    “The conference will also be an opportunity to discuss a number of key measures due to be released in early 2022 to support deployment and investment including a Hydrogen Sector Development Action Plan; the Net Zero Hydrogen Fund; a UK standard for low carbon hydrogen; and the Low Carbon Hydrogen Supply 2 competition.

    Overall, the agenda is structured to bring out the latest thinking on:
    the Hydrogen Strategy – support for R&D and commercialisation, integration into the energy mix, role in decarbonisation plans, and achieving the sector’s economic potential
    implementation – developing production, distribution, storage and use, plus business models, strategic planning, scaling up, and addressing the fossil fuels cost gap
    market and regulatory frameworks – as well as relationships with the wider energy system
    partnerships and growth – collaboration to support innovation, and development of international hydrogen markets and export opportunities”.

    We are also told that relevant developments include:

    UK Hydrogen Strategy – with government ambitions for hydrogen as part of the policy drive to net-zero, rollout ambitions, hydrogen economy development, global positioning, and tracking progress
    consultation and support – Consultation on a UK Low Carbon Hydrogen Standard; Designing the Net Zero Hydrogen Fund – Consultation; and Low Carbon Hydrogen Supply 2 Competition
    wider policy – the Sixth Carbon Budget; Net Zero Strategy: Build Back Greener and The Energy White Paper with specific attention paid to hydrogen, including targets, investment and implemenation
    the UK in international partnerships – including The Clean Hydrogen Mission; Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM); and International Partnership for Hydrogen and Fuel Cells in the Economy (IPHE)
    · further developments:
    Glasgow to be home to first-of-a-kind hydrogen storage project – under the Net Zero Innovation Portfolio
    Government-backed liquid hydrogen plane paves way for zero emission flight – The Aerospace Technology Institute FlyZero project

    Like

  28. “Dorset’s green hydrogen project secures £6.5m funding”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-dorset-60066866

    “A hydrogen fuel project is set to be up and running in Dorset later this year after securing£6.5m of funding.

    Dorset Green H2 is being built at White’s Pitt – a former landfill site off Magna Road in Poole.

    Electricity from solar panels and existing landfill gases will be fed into an electrolyser with water to make green hydrogen – a zero-emission fuel.

    It will be the first of its kind in the region, according to its operator Canford Renewable Energy.

    The hydrogen fuel will be compressed, stored, and sold for use as a carbon-free fuel.

    It is expected to produce enough hydrogen each year to fuel the equivalent of 900,000 miles travelled by lorries.

    It is being funded with £3m from Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP)’s Growing Places Fund loan scheme, a £1.5m grant from Low Carbon Dorset, along with a £1.7m bank loan and equity funding from Canford Renewable Energy.”

    Value for money, or a green pie-in-the-sky DeLorean?

    Like

  29. “Many people still in the dark over gas boilers, say MPs”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-60235709

    “Many people in Britain remain unprepared for the revolution in home heating that the country faces in the next ten to 15 years, a report from MPs has said.

    MPs on the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee said the government’s approach to decarbonising home heating lacked clear direction.

    Current policies are also not on the scale required, they said.

    However, the report rejected hydrogen as a solution for greener home heating.”

    So, no hydrogen after all? Does that mean we’re wasting a load of money on all the hydrogen experimentation? On top of this:

    “…”In total, we’re investing £6.6bn this parliament to decarbonise our buildings, saving people money on their bills and slashing pollution in the process,” a BEIS spokesperson said….

    …BEIS said the government’s existing plans would incentivise people to install low-carbon heating systems “in a simple, fair and cheap way” and included £5,000 grants for heat pumps…”.

    But back to hydrogen:

    “However, the cross-party committee poured cold water on suggestions that hydrogen could play a major role in home heating.

    Mr Jones told BBC News: “We were not convinced that hydrogen was proven to be a front-running, viable technology.

    “I understand why trades unions are enthusiastic about hydrogen because it preserves jobs – but many workers will need to transition to heat pumps.

    Concerns around hydrogen included “supply, distribution, changes to the network, changes in the home with safety work around pipes and valves – so many reasons we’re not convinced,” he said.

    Mr Jones’ comments were attacked by Mike Foster from the trade body Energy and Utilities Alliance.

    “Comments in the report [about hydrogen] are factually untrue and others deliberately misinterpret government plans,” Mr Foster said.

    Another industry lobby group, Electrify Heat, said it was clear that heat pumps would provide heat for most homes and that hydrogen would have a very small role.”

    Dear, oh dear, oh dear. Rushing down the net zero road, but with no idea where it is going. Except that it’s going to cost the taxpayer a lot of money, and some people are making a lot of money out of it.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. “Aberdeen’s hydrogen buses taken off the road due to technical issue”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-north-east-orkney-shetland-60266199

    “Aberdeen’s fleet of hydrogen buses has been taken off the road due to a “technical issue”.

    The buses were introduced in January last year as part of a project aimed at zero emissions and low noise travel.

    First Bus said an issue had been identified with the 15 hydrogen buses and the vehicles had been taken off service until the technical issue could be “better understood”.

    Replacement buses are being brought in until it is resolved.”

    Diesel, presumably?

    Like

  31. “The neighbourhood leading a green energy revolution”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-60241966

    “An ambitious target of using hydrogen to partly power homes in the UK within three years has been set by the National Grid, the BBC has learned. On the east coast of Scotland, a small neighbourhood is playing a key role in this energy revolution.

    From next year, about 300 homes in Buckhaven, and Methil, in the area of Levenmouth, will be powered by green hydrogen gas in a project called H100. Customers will be offered free hydrogen-ready boilers and cookers in the scheme, which will initially last five and a half years.

    For the first time in its history, the National Grid (NG) plans to use something other than natural gas in its distribution network and start blending hydrogen with natural gas in the next three years.

    Yet, standing in the former Fife coal mining village of Buckhaven as a cold wind howls round buildings made of local grey stone, it’s hard to imagine this is the centre of a groundbreaking experiment working towards the NG’s ambitions.

    But as soon as you walk towards Buckhaven waterfront, it’s impossible to ignore. A 200-metre wind turbine, astonishing in its size and generating green energy, stands just off the coast, making a loud swoosh every couple of seconds, as the wind is picked up and thrown into the sea.

    The region has a long, proud history of energy production from its mines, but now the focus is on more environmentally friendly natural resources.

    The huge wind turbine will generate electricity to power an electrolyser, which turns water into hydrogen gas and oxygen. The hydrogen will then be stored in pressurised secure tanks, before being pumped into people’s homes.

    The £28m project, partly funded by the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (OFGEM), has the capability to be expanded to 1,000 homes from the same turbine.”

    Huge wind turbine – environmentally friendly. Hmmm.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. As for:

    “For the first time in its history, the National Grid (NG) plans to use something other than natural gas in its distribution network and start blending hydrogen with natural gas in the next three years.”

    What about this?

    “HyDeploy Winlaton”

    https://hydeploy.co.uk/winlaton/

    “Following the first HyDeploy project which successfully blended hydrogen into a natural gas network at Keele University, the second phase of HyDeploy at Winlaton, near Gateshead is now live.

    Winlaton, which comprises 668 homes, a church, primary school and several small businesses is playing an important part in the future of hydrogen use, by being the first community to receive a hydrogen blend via a first public network.

    Blending started in August 2021 and will last around 10 months, with up to 20% hydrogen supplied in the gas supply.”

    Like

  33. “Aberdeen’s hydrogen buses returning to service after technical issue”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-north-east-orkney-shetland-61161763

    “Aberdeen’s fleet of hydrogen buses is gradually returning to service after being taken off the road more than two months ago due to a “technical issue”.

    First Bus said in February that an issue had been identified with the 15 buses and the vehicles had been taken off service until the problem could be better understood.

    Replacement buses were instead brought in.

    First said two had now returned to service and others would follow.

    The buses were introduced in January last year as part of a project aimed at zero emissions and low-noise travel.

    First said in a statement: “We are pleased to confirm two of our zero-emissions hydrogen buses have returned to service in Aberdeen.

    “It is expected the number of hydrogen buses in service will continue to increase gradually over the coming weeks as we return our fleet to its full complement.””

    That’s going well, then! Bear in mind the cost:

    “The green and white-liveried buses, built by the Wrightbus company in Northern Ireland, cost £500,000 ($658,000, 555,000 euros) each.

    They complement Aberdeen’s existing fleet of hydrogen- and electric-powered council vans and road sweepers, said Bell.

    The city hopes the £8.3-million project, part-funded by the Scottish Government and the European Union, will help to develop a hydrogen industry in the region as demand grows.”

    https://techxplore.com/news/2020-11-aberdeen-trials-hydrogen-buses.html

    Like

  34. “Green air travel possible – Cranfield University professor”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-beds-bucks-herts-61524740

    “Airports can be green and air travel could be cheaper eventually, but first a high level of investment is needed, a scientist has told the BBC.

    Prof Pericles Pilidis, of Cranfield University in Bedfordshire, said new hydrogen-powered airliners could be a reality within 10 years.

    He claimed expanding airports could also be greener in the long term….

    …Prof Pilidis, head of Cranfield’s Power and Propulsion Department, said zero-carbon hydrogen-powered aircraft would stop air travel damaging the environment….

    …”There is going to be a high transition cost – but in the longer term green aviation could be cheaper than the air travel we have at the moment.”…”

    High transition costs, eh? Looks like high costs all round. For all of it. All of the net zero stuff.

    Like

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