The UK Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association released a new research highlighting the critical role that blue hydrogen can play in assisting the UK’s transition to low carbon energy and meeting its 2035 and 2050 net zero energy ambitions.

According to the paper, blue hydrogen will be the quickest option to deploy substantial volumes of low carbon hydrogen across the UK economy in the short term and will help accelerate the growth of green hydrogen production in the long run.

Blue hydrogen is a method that converts natural gas to hydrogen and carbon dioxide (CO2), with the CO2 being stored in geological formations. All blue hydrogen projects now under development in the United Kingdom set a high bar for carbon capture, with over 95% CO2 removal from the process considered a minimum. As the process requires natural gas conversion, blue hydrogen has the potential to extend the economic life of the UK’s current gas infrastructure and to facilitate a ‘fair transition’ for the UK’s oil and gas industry, which contributes significantly to the UK economy.

According to the paper, the UK could install 10GW of blue hydrogen by 2030 with the correct legislative backing from the government. This is greater than the combined nuclear power capacity of the United Kingdom at the moment. Additionally, it indicates that this figure might reach 80GW by 2050. To do this, the UK HFCA is urging the UK Government to implement a variety of initiatives. Among the recommendations are the following:

  • Establishing and enforcing rigorous criteria for the production of low-carbon hydrogen — The government must ensure that blue carbon emission regulations are standardized and credible.
  • Government support – similar to the measures already in place for renewables – to ensure commercial viability;
  • A coordinated industry-wide strategy for increasing hydrogen exports and imports.

Commenting on the paper, Energy, Clean Growth & Climate Change Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP said: “I welcome this paper from the UK Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association. It clearly highlights the role CCUS-enabled or ‘blue’ hydrogen can play in reaching the UK’s legally binding climate change commitments, and in helping to provide flexible energy across heat, power and transport.

“It comes ahead of us publishing our first ever Hydrogen Strategy this year. We have already set out our ambition for this new technology, to generate significant amounts of energy in the coming years and support thousands of jobs.”

Numerous contemporary blue hydrogen initiatives in the United Kingdom are concentrated in clusters where blue hydrogen can be produced and used in a variety of sectors, including industrial activities. This cluster-based method enables the sharing of carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) equipment, hence accelerating the decarbonisation of adjacent businesses and decreasing the cost of CCUS infrastructure. By the mid-2020s, the UK government intends to create CCUS in at least two industrial clusters. Scotland, the North West, the Humber, and Teesside are the primary competitors for the UK’s cluster.

Commenting Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen, said: “Here in Teesside we are already leading the way in developing hydrogen as a fuel source. We will be home to the government’s first hydrogen transport hub which will research and trial hydrogen across all forms of transport. Northern Gas Networks is conducting a world-first trial of hydrogen in the domestic gas pipes that have been isolated from the rest of the domestic network. And bp will create the UK’s largest “blue” hydrogen production facility in Teesside. 

“From offshore wind to pioneering work on hydrogen Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool are paving the way for the UK to be net zero by 2050 and our position at the centre of the clean energy revolution will create thousands of good-quality, well-paid jobs for local people for generations to come.”

Commenting on the report Celia Greaves, CEO of the UK Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association, said: “Our report shows how the UK is uniquely placed to take advantage of the opportunities from low carbon blue hydrogen. The UK HFCA supports the UK’s Governments strategy of a technology agnostic approach to hydrogen as we know that both blue and green hydrogen will play a key part in helping the Government achieve their Net Zero goals. However, if the Government is to achieve their ambitions, the upcoming Hydrogen Strategy needs to provide clarity and greater certainty around the support that will be available for hydrogen. This will enable the investment to flow in time so we can get production going in time to meet the UK’s 2035 78% carbon reduction target.”

Sam French Business Development Director at UK HFCA member Johnson Matthey stated: “Blue hydrogen offers an exciting opportunity to help the UK meet its carbon reduction targets up to 2050 as well as supporting economic growth throughout the UK. This report shows the vast potential that exists for the sector. The next step for industry is to deploy technology at scale. Investment and clear rules from the Government will be crucial.”

Commenting on the report, Rob Butler, Partner and Co-Head of the Global Hydrogen and CCUS Practice at international law firm Baker Botts, said: “This report demonstrates that blue hydrogen is critical to the UK government’s net zero ambitions, and that with the right level of investment the UK can become a world leader in blue hydrogen. However, if the UK is going to ramp up low-carbon hydrogen production capacity significantly by 2030, then certainty is needed as to the government support that will be available for these early projects. In addition, a robust mechanism for certifying blue or lower-carbon hydrogen is required, whether by seeking to join the EU’s CertifHy scheme or by development of the UK’s own scheme, to provide purchasers and end consumers with the much-needed confidence that the hydrogen they have purchased or indirectly consumed is blue or lower-carbon.”

Nedim Husomanovic

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