Head of hydrogen trade body quits over “expensive distraction” of blue hydrogen

The chair of the UK’s largest hydrogen association has resigned saying blue hydrogen risks locking the country into fossil fuels.

Chris Jackson

Chris Jackson stepped down as chair of the UK Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association (UKHFCA), just before the publication of the government’s hydrogen strategy earlier this week.

The strategy confirmed ministerial support for both blue hydrogen, made from methane with carbon capture and storage, and green hydrogen, from water using renewable electricity and regarded as more climate friendly.

In a statement to the trade publication H2 View, Mr Jackson said:

“I believe passionately that I would be betraying future generations by remaining silent on that fact that blue hydrogen is at best an expensive distraction, and at worst a lock-in for continued fossil fuel use that guarantees we will fail to meet our decarbonisation goals.”

Onshore gas companies, including as IGas and UKOG, are promoting projects to convert methane to hydrogen at their onshore sites.

Last year, IGas formed an operating agreement with BayoTech, which makes hydrogen production systems. It estimated that hydrogen produced at its site at Bletchingley could power 50-100 buses a day.

IGas said: “The proposal will facilitate the reduction of emissions that would otherwise be generated by diesel powered vehicles.”

But Mr Jackson, who is also chief executive of the green hydrogen company, Protium, said in his statement:

“Our industry is at a very important crossroad, one where the decisions we make will have long-lasting effects.

“I fully appreciate the energy transition cannot be achieved by one silver bullet, and green hydrogen alone cannot solve all the worlds challenges.

“Equally, I cannot ignore or make arguments for blue hydrogen being a viable and ‘green’ energy solution (a fact also validated by external studies).

“As chair of the UK HFCA, my role has been to represent the interests of all, even when I disagree. However, I feel I can no longer do this in good conscience.”

Earlier this month, Mr Jackson tweeted about the “code red” report on climate change from the IPCC:

Mr Jackson’s resignation came five days after publication of a peer-reviewed study which concluded that blue hydrogen could be 20% worse for the climate than burning natural gas or coal for heat.

Academics at Cornell and Stanford universities, writing in  Energy Science and Engineering, said blue hydrogen needed large amounts of natural gas and, even with the most advanced carbon capture and storage technology, there would be “a significant amount of the carbon dioxide and methane emissions that won’t be caught”.

The government has said a combination of blue and green hydrogen was “consistent with reaching net zero”.

As part of the strategy, ministers are consulting on a low-carbon standard for blue hydrogen. They have not set out a vision for the future balance of green and blue hydrogen.

UKHFCA says it is the “oldest and largest pan UK association, dedicated to supporting stakeholders across the entire value chain of both the Hydrogen sector and the Fuel Cell industry”.

It was formed in 2010 following the merger of Fuel Cells UK and the UK Hydrogen Association. Iit has more than 70 members, including BP, BOC, Johnson Matthey and Rolls Royce,

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

5 replies »

  1. So, a conflict of interests.

    Appropriate he should resign.

    Imagine the outcry if Sir Jim was the Chair.

  2. The ‘conflict of interests’ clearly being the promotion of Hydrogen as a low/zero carbon alternative to O&G, when it clearly isn’t with blue Hydrogen. Yet another greenwashed Trojan Horse by this govt, kicking the can even further down the road.

    • Apart from the obvious question as to how all this green hydrogen will be produced and stored, it would appear that burning any hydrogen be it green, blue or pink will be bad for air pollution.

      “It is widely claimed that burning hydrogen results in only water. While this is true of fuel cells it is not the case when hydrogen is burned. Like any high-temperate combustion, hydrogen flames lead to reactions between nitrogen and oxygen, and in turn to health-harming nitrogen dioxide pollution. It is unlikely that the nitrogen dioxide from hydrogen boilers will be worse than the fossil gas and oil used today, but it may not improve either. Replacing fossil gas heating with hydrogen may appear attractive compared with installing district heating, heat pumps and home insulation, but it would be a missed opportunity to reduce air pollution in towns and cities.”

      Perhaps not the answer………

  3. Oops, something odd happened, so I will repeat:

    I notice how may turns into would in the space of two sentences. That’s the Guardian for you!

    That is why there is something called R&D.

    Perhaps answers will be difficult to come by, but if the R&D is done then it will become clear. If it isn’t, then all that is left is that mankind is doomed and protests must be organised to whinge about it.

    (A lot of methane leaks in Texas, Dr. Frank, to keep the satellites busy-once they have been blasted into space producing their own carbon footprints. Thousands and thousands of them-called beef cattle. Will Americans stop eating steaks? Nope. Will newly affluent individuals in other parts of the world (billions of them) decide to knock animal protein off their wish list? Not the ones I have spoken with.)

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