People are being invited to comment on the environmental impact of plans by IGas to produce unabated hydrogen at its gas site at Albury in Surrey.
The company is seeking consent from the Environment Agency to convert methane, extracted at Albury, into hydrogen by passing it through steam heated to 700-1,000C.
The process, known as steam reformation, could make up to 1,000 kg of grey hydrogen each day at Albury, IGas said. The gas would then be compressed and stored in cylinders before collection by road trailers.
A by-product of the process is carbon dioxide. There is no reference in the non-technical summary, a key part of the application, to capturing any of the carbon dioxide emitted during production or in generating the steam.
IGas said there would be increased localised carbon dioxide emissions within the Albury site boundary. But the non-technical summary has no estimates of these emissions.
The gas management plan includes an estimate from BayoTech, which manufactures the production unit proposed by IGas for Albury.
This said CO2 emissions would be 8.9kg (gross) or10.1kg (net) per kg of hydrogen. The difference between net and gross emissions is not explained and IGas did not respond to our request for information. No one at BayoTech was available when we phoned the company at its headquarters in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
But BayoTech’s website has a specification for the H2-1000 hydrogen generation system which IGas plans to use.
This said the CO2 emissions would be 9,090kg a day, based on production of 1,000kg of hydrogen. BayoTech does not make clear whether this figure included additional CO2 emitted from burning methane to produce steam to run the conversion process.
However, using the 9,090kg/day figure, the Albury site could generate up to 3,317 tonnes of CO2 a year. One tonne of CO2 is the equivalent to driving 23,000 miles, almost all the way round the world, in the average car.
IGas said hydrogen from Albury was likely to be used to run local buses or lorries. It estimated the scheme could save 0.1Mt (100,000 tonnes) over the project’s life.
Neither the non-technical summary nor the gas management plan said how long hydrogen production could be expected to continue at Albury. We asked IGas what was the predicted life of hydrogen production at Albury. The company did not respond.
It is therefore not possible to compare the lifetime CO2 emissions resulting from making the hydrogen with savings in diesel emissions by running local vehicles on hydrogen.
The IGas non-technical summary estimated annual savings of 2,769 tonnes CO2-equivalent.
Nearly three-quarters of world hydrogen is currently grey hydrogen, according to the industry consultancy, Wood Mackenzie. It said carbon capture and storage was not yet widely commercial in hydrogen production.
The International Energy Agency reported in 2019 that hydrogen production from both gas and coal emitted about 830m tonnes of CO2 each year. This is equivalent to the combined annual CO2 emissions of the UK and Indonesia, the campaign network, the Weald Action Group estimated last year.
The Environment Agency consultation into the Albury plans continues until 6 July 2022.
This is separate from IGas’s application for planning permission to Surrey County Council. The company has made a similar application for planning permission for hydrogen production at Bletchingley, also in Surrey.