Two announcements today take us closer to a hydrogen economy. Energy and Clean Growth Minister, Claire Perry, will visit Swindon’s Hydrogen Hub and Recycling Technologies Centre today, where she is expected to announce plans for a new £20m hydrogen research fund. In addition, a flagship project to build a £900m hydrogen gas heating network took a major step forward today.
The new Hydrogen Supply fund aims to to significantly reduce the cost of producing large volumes of low carbon hydrogen, by supporting several new hydrogen process engineering designs and supply plans and enabling the demonstration of some of the key components in any new hydrogen production process.
Hydrogen can be produced from natural gas in two ways: by Steam Methane Reformation (SMR), a process that still results in greenhouse gas emissions, or emissions free via renewable-powered electrolysis. Advocates of this approach argue that it can provide an ultra-low carbon source of power, energy storage capacity and heat. However, critics have argued the cost of manufacturing green hydrogen will have to fall if the technology is to deployed at scale.
Hydrogen for heat
Gas grid operator, Cadent, today published a major new report on its ambitious, 30-year plan to build a hydrogen network across the north west of England. The report explores the economic impact of the £900m plan and concludes it would support at least 5,000 jobs while providing low carbon hydrogen to power industry and heat two million homes. It also flagged the potential to produce hydrogen for trains, lorries, and buses in the future.
Hydrogen from the site would then be piped to local industrial facilities and potentially blended with the region’s gas network in a move that would significantly lower the carbon footprint of heat generation across the north west.
The hydrogen would be produced from natural gas, but Cadent is proposing to capture the resulting carbon emissions for storage in old gas fields in Liverpool Bay and elsewhere off the north west coast.
The company said it is now “exploring a range of options” to fund HyNet, drawing on funding models from other national infrastructure projects, such as the Thames Tideway in London.