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UK government to develop green and blue hydrogen in parallel

Published August 24, 2021

UK government to develop green and blue hydrogen in parallel

The UK government has launched a 10-point Hydrogen Strategy which sets out the way to the production of 5GW of hydrogen by 2030. The strategy was launched just a week after the IPCC’s report on climate change said a 1.5 degree rise in global temperatures is likely to breach 1.5C by 2040.

The announcement has attracted praise and criticism, with commentary in particular about proposals for the “twin-track” development of hydrogen production from ‘green’ electrolytic methods on one hand and ‘blue’ methods ie. extracting hydrogen from natural gas and in some cases, sequestering the remaining carbon in CCS schemes.

For instance, Environmental Audit Committee Chairman Philip Dunne MP said: “While the twin track approach proposed, supporting both green and blue hydrogen production, is positive, it is also important that substantial capacity for carbon capture is developed, so as to avert release of damaging emissions currently created in blue hydrogen production. At present 95% of hydrogen produced worldwide uses fossil fuel feedstocks.”

Meanwhile, Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) analyst Jess Ralston said: “The government should be alive to the risk of gas industry lobbying causing it to commit too heavily to blue hydrogen… Instead, focussing on green hydrogen could unlock our full industrial potential, bringing with it lifelong jobs in places like the North East, supporting both the government’s climate goals and its levelling up ambitions.”

Jeremy Nicholson, Alfa Energy’s corporate affairs officer commented: “The longer-term intention is to either substitute blue for green hydrogen or to sequester the carbon emissions from blue in CCS projects. The question is how you get there: purists say you shouldn’t promote hydrogen until green hydrogen is available at scale. But this looks​​​​ unrealistic: it’ll take time to get up to scale in green production. Blue hydrogen is not a low carbon fuel, but as sources of green hydrogen come on-stream, having blue hydrogen in place beforehand​​​​ means you’ll be equipped to make use of it, which is what’s being trialled at various low carbon industrial clusters.”

Other measures in the Hydrogen Strategy include:

  • a public consultation on a preferred hydrogen business model, designed to bring down the cost of hydrogen
  • consultation on a £240 million Net Zero Hydrogen Fund to support the commercial deployment of hydrogen production plants
  • developing a UK standard which provides certainty to producers and users that hydrogen produced in the UK is consistent with net zero
  • a review to support the development of network and storage infrastructure
  • an assessment of the safety, technical feasibility, and cost effectiveness of mixing 20% hydrogen into the existing gas supply
  • a 2022 hydrogen sector development action plan setting out government support for hydrogen supply chain companies and jobs