The Hydrogen Champion Report, written by Jane Toogood, the Chief Executive of Catalyst Technologies at Johnson Matthey and Co-Chair of the Hydrogen Advisory Council, was published earlier this week - March 2023. It provides recommendations to the UK government and to industry for accelerating the development of the UK’s H2 economy. The report highlights the importance of a clear and consistent policy framework, investment in infrastructure, and building public support for hydrogen as a clean energy source. The report also recommends the establishment of a Hydrogen Delivery Unit to oversee the implementation of the recommendations. By following these recommendations, the UK can become a global leader in the production and use of hydrogen as a clean energy source. All well and good as far as this goes. But lets take a look at the specific recommendaions made by Toogood:
Those last 3 points I don’t think any but the most mealy-mouthed would argue with. Those first two recommendations cannot be passed over without comment.
The blending of hydrogen into the existing gas network is contentious, to say the least. The premise of its inclusion is that it is a kind of a quick win. Quick, perhaps. A win? The jury is out. In fact, no. The answer is no. Clean hydrogen is costly, at least for now. To pump it into the gas network would be to replace one expensive gas with another and doesn’t really represent an efficient use of a precious commodity. If we’re looking for quick wins, we’d have to agree with Michael Liebreich and displace the mountain of grey hydrogen thats being fed into making fertilsers.
Given that blending H2 into the Gas pipe network, it follows that H2 boilers would be a blind alley, especially as air source heat pumps are proving to be more dependable than has been predicted, working efficiently in sub-zero conditions.
Finally we are disappointed that there is still so much emphasis on CCUS throughout the paper. Undoubtedly CCUS could be useful in the short term to sequester the delta of CO2 produced between now and a carbon-free future point. But the very idea of the technology appears in our view to promote the continued use of fossil fuels, as if capture and storage can solve the CO2 conundrum. It cannot. It won’t. We need to move our thinking on and increasingly focus on innovation that will eradicate the need for fossil fuels, not make us feel better about using them.
There’s a lot to agree with in the Hydrogen Champion’s report, and attention to Hydrogen, a market the UK could be a major player in, given its renewable energy profile is always welcome. But there’s also much to think about. There are better, more efficient ways to use H2 quickly and effectively. We need to think more about eliminating grey H2 from the energy mix and we really need to stop this idea that CCUS is going to be anything but a sticking plaster. Rather than build technologies that mean we perpetuate our hydrocarbon addiction lets find ways to eliminating the need for them altogether.