UK: Engineers seek hydrogen production scale up

According to the National Engineering Policy Centre, the UK needs to increase low-carbon hydrogen generation as soon as possible since it will be “essential” to the development of a net-zero energy system (NEPC).

The 42 professional engineering organizations that make up the center stated in a study that the UK must move quickly on hydrogen in order to keep up with other nations.

It also draws attention to the dangers of quickly expanding the use of low-carbon hydrogens, such as emissions from fossil fuel extraction and reliance on other technologies like electrolyzers, carbon capture and storage (CCS), and renewable power.

Leakages, safety, public trust, talent gaps, cost uncertainty, restrictions, the rivalry between blue and green hydrogen, and embodied carbon in infrastructure are among the other problems that have been highlighted.

There are two techniques to manufacture hydrogen, but only one of them is thought to be really low-carbon.

While blue hydrogen is created by splitting natural gas, green hydrogen is created by electrolyzing water. While blue hydrogen may only be referred to be a net-zero carbon fuel when used in combination with carbon capture and storage, green hydrogen can be a zero-emission fuel when electrolysis is fueled by renewable sources.

According to a recent study, using blue hydrogen as a heat source has a higher carbon footprint than using natural gas, coal, or diesel.

The appropriateness of hydrogen for important uses in the economy, such as industry, power, transportation, and buildings is examined in the paper.

Although the optimum use for low-carbon hydrogen has not yet been identified, it is advised that it be made accessible for any final applications where hydrogen deployment has the potential to be the best or the only low- or zero-carbon choice.

This covers sectors including basic steel production, commercial heating, and chemical feedstock for commercial processes. By doing so, hydrogen’s contribution to the decarbonization of the whole energy system and to reducing emissions gaps will be maximized, putting the UK on pace to fulfill the 2050 net zero objectives.

The research also promotes a region-specific strategy for fostering local hydrogen economies, with initial attention paid to industrial clusters where grey hydrogen production and consumption (generated by steam methane reforming) are already concentrated.

“Hydrogen is a very adaptable energy vector that might be employed in many hard-to-decarbonize industries where other energy vectors, such as electricity, may not be viable,” said Professor Nilay Shah, vice chair of the NEPC.

The UK needs far more low-carbon hydrogen generation than it now produces to fulfill its carbon budget and accomplish its goal of net zero emissions by 2050. It will be necessary to quickly establish low-carbon hydrogen production capacity, which is effectively starting from scratch if the government’s commitment to hydrogen is to be successful.