Consultation opens on low-carbon standard for blue hydrogen

The government is seeking views on setting a low-carbon standard for blue hydrogen.

The consultation is part of the long-awaited hydrogen strategy, published today, which aims to produce 5 gigawatts (GW) of hydrogen by 2030.

The strategy covers both blue hydrogen, which extracts hydrogen from methane before capturing and storing carbon emissions, and green hydrogen, produced from water using renewable energy with only oxygen as the waste product.

The government said today the low-carbon standard aimed to ensure that blue hydrogen production captured enough greenhouse gas emissions to qualify as low-carbon.

Ministers are promoting hydrogen as a replacement for hydrocarbons in energy-intensive industries, heavy transport and home heating.

Nearly all the hydrogen produced in the UK so far is based on fossil fuels. Onshore gas companies, such as IGas and UKOG, are looking to convert methane produced at their sites to blue hydrogen.

So far, the government has not given details of the future balance of green and blue hydrogen.

Last week, a US study concluded that blue hydrogen could be 20% worse for the climate than burning natural gas or coal for heat. They said the focus should be on green hydrogen.  

Current proposals for the standard would exclude what are known as “embodied emissions”, such as construction and decommissioning emissions, the government said. It also wanted comments on whether waste fossil feedstocks would be accounted for under the standard.

Today’s strategy said hydrogen could cover 20-35% of UK energy consumption by 2050.

It also estimated that the hydrogen economy could be worth £900m and create more than 9,000 high-quality jobs by the end of the decade. This could rise to £13bn and 100,000 jobs by 2050, the strategy said.

The government also launched a public consultation on the preferred hydrogen business model. And ministers are consulting on a £240m Net Zero Hydrogen Fund, which aims to support commercial hydrogen production plants across the UK.

  • The low carbon hydrogen standard consultation closes on 25 October 2021

Ruth Hayhurst will be reporting for DrillOrDrop from the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow in November

10 replies »

  1. If the single study you report on – (Blue hydrogen could be 20% worse for climate than methane) – is ultimately accepted by the scientific community, and if CCS proves unworkable for whatever reason, both propositions looking likely, then precious time will have been wasted by going down the blue hydrogen route, to the short-term benefit of course of those who have lobbied Johnson for this solution, but to the catastrophic disadvantage of the planet and those who aspire and conspire to save her.

  2. Of course, there are many countries already utilising considerable quantities of hydrogen, so it is only right the UK look at the benefits of doing so and the best and most economical ways of achieving it.

    Just as the UK have looked at renewables, and then promoted best solutions where it is appropriate. (Although several previous examples of NOT promoting best solutions, so consultation is a good thing. And, in this case, pretty rapid.)

    These factors should not be confused by some wanting to manufacture political capital out of something that is underway in large parts of the world already.

    I would gently suggest that looking at the timescale and quantities, such is going to require the active participation of Big Oil. They are the ones already engaged, but need some assurance of the standards required for the UK market. Industry rarely gets too enthusiastic until they have some assurance as to what is required-they do have shareholders to keep happy.

    So, some will end up with something more to protest about. Happy days? Hopefully, the rest of “us” will end up with an economic and rapid introduction of hydrogen and the planet will benefit. Definitely, happy days.

  3. The study that claimed blue Hydrogen could be 20% worse for climate change than Methane, included data where ‘fracked’ natural gas with a leakage rate of 3.5% was used to produce the Hydrogen and didn’t take into consideration new tighter US regulations or the difference in leakage rates and regulations elsewhere in the world.

    Air Products already run two Steam Methane Reformers in the US with CCS. This was initially a joint research venture with the US Department of Energy, with the aim to capture 75% of the CO2 produced during the Hydrogen manufacturing process, the completed project now achieves over 90% capture.

  4. As you know, John, there are many other reasons why fracking is frowned upon by most scientists. Even if new regulations could bring the leakage rate down, I doubt they would then look favourably upon the process or its effects. Time is of the essence. So too with CCS – thanks by the way for this information. It is probably, as you say, technically possible to achieve the 90% but the identfication of sites, the questions of safety and of scaling remain. We simply, as I have argued, cannot afford to waste this time, which is what
    would happen if blue hydrogen were pursued.

    • Laith1720, the leakage rates, lax systems and regulations previously used in the US have nothing in common with those used or current in use in the UK. The only issue observed with Shale gas fracking here has been with seismic activity, hence the moratorium. This has been established on here many times.

      Annual world production of Hydrogen is in excess of 70 million tonnes per annum. Over 95% of this is produced by steam reforming of Methane, which includes several such plants operating in the UK.

      The small amount of Blue Hydrogen that the government wants to see produced by 2030, could easily be produced by conversion and expansion of existing plants in the UK or by new purpose built units where the gas is produced or where the Hydrogen is required, the technology is already available, tried and tested.

      By applying the technology worldwide it could reduce emissions from the production of Hydrogen by around 830 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.

      • Thanks for that John. Once again it is interesting to look at the facts regarding existing hydrogen production rather than the fantasy that time has been wasted, or will be wasted.

        As you indicate, the expansion in production in UK should be quite straight forward. The key is setting standards that are realistic to those who have already invested to encourage them to scale up investment and production.

        I must say, I am much more inclined towards hydrogen fueled cars than electric. At the very least, a proper choice would be welcome.

        • Martin, it would be sensible to have a choice from various low carbon energy sources, rather than putting all our eggs in the electrification basket and hoping that weather conditions remain favourable for generating the demand.

          • I agree, John.

            Why there is any confusion between producing hydrogen and fracking in UK I fail to understand. Other than the lazy methodology of just quoting fracking to cause excitement, whether it is relevant or not.

            UK is producing blue hydrogen already, it is not fracking to do so.. Production can be scaled up if the technology and the standards match.

            So, let’s get a standard produced.

            (I have tried the electric eggs-they were rotten! I also have a recollection of the summer of 1976 when UK experienced a very long hot spell without any significant wind, and people were sleeping out in their gardens at night-except the “gardens” were scorched earth.)

            Meanwhile, a big increase in investment into fusion by some pretty intelligent individuals. That could be an ostrich sized egg.

  5. Yes, John, the would-be frackers have long claimed superior UK regulations. Other than a putative natural superiority of all things British. I guess we just don’t know, do we? As I said, given the other claimed downsides – health, social, economic, environmental – it would seem foolish to put it to the test especially as we still have to dispose of the leaked methane and produced CO2. The time wasted in pursuing the fracking dream means that we have run out of time to waste.

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