The UK renewable lobby is urging the government to make hydrogen “the central pillar of decarbonisation” and to publish its hydrogen strategy before the year is out. It should also start working on financial support mechanisms for producers.
Germany and the wider EU last summer committed billions to hydrogen investment, but the UK has yet to show its hand. An energy white paper is expected before Christmas.
Renewable UK wants cross-departmental support for hydrogen, commitments to gigawatts of electrolyser capacity and a financial support mechanism for producers, or ‘hydrogen CfDs’. Transport, it suggests, should be the priority for hydrogen growth in the short term.
Most of the world’s hydrogen production is ‘grey’, largely produced using pressurised methane and steam in reformer vessels with a nickel catalyst. It produces high levels of greenhouse gases.
‘Blue’ hydrogen adds carbon capture to the steam reformation production process. Gas producers and grid operators are keen to build out carbon capture and storage infrastructure to enable a blue hydrogen economy. But CCS infrastructure does not come cheap and the carbon has to stay stored.
‘Green’ hydrogen is produced via electrolysis using power from sources such as wind and solar. As such, it is genuinely clean gas, though costs are currently high due to lack of scale. However, it does provide a natural buffer to weather-dependent power generation. Using excess renewables to produce hydrogen would also help smooth power prices and reduce system balancing costs.
According to Renewable UK’s report, hydrogen produced via renewable power currently costs about £8/kg.
The cost of electrolysers themselves are also high, around £800/kW at 10MW scale (around £8m for a 10MW electrolyser).
However, ITM Power with partners including Ørsted and Linde are building a manufacturing base in Sheffield that aims to produce a gigawatt of electrolysis capacity every year. The ‘Gigastack’ project is expected to cut costs by 50 per cent.
“Further innovation in the energy efficiency of electrolysers and innovation means that overall costs will fall from £8 per kilogram of renewable hydrogen today to £2/kg by 2030 and less than £1.50/kg by 2050,” states the report.
Renewable UK wants government to commit to targets of 5GW electrolyser capacity by 2030 and 10GW by 2035.
Pointing to the cost reductions in offshore wind financial support, from £120/MWh to around £40/MWh within four years via the CfD mechanism, Renewable UK said government should consider a similar approach for hydrogen.
See the report here.
CCS that you mention is not zero carbon as the absorption is only up to 95% and as you say, the storage part is costly. Refineries and petrochemicals need to be weaned off steam methane (CH4) reforming: why use steam to separate the hydrogen from the carbon, better to crack it directly to hydrogen and carbon as in the Hazer process? The Germans are ahead of the game as usual, and are building a massive electrolyser for the Shell refinery in Wesseling https://refhyne.eu/
Hydrogen is the energy vector of the universe, but its production must start with electrolysis of water using green electricity. In 2018 the UK only produced 7% of its energy demand from renewables and nuclear power which needs to be increased to 100% by 2050. There should be 2 pillars of Government energy policy: all primary energy must be green electricity (2,226 TWh in 2018) by 2050 and hydrogen should be the packaged form for transport.
Great article Brendan! UK definitely seems to be lagging behind when it comes to hydrogen energy. Netherlands has already discussed a public private partnership for a national hydrogen pipeline. Whereas, UK is still preparing a white paper.