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The UK vision and strategy for low-carbon hydrogen

Thursday, 19 August 2021

The UK Government released its hydrogen strategy on 17 August 2021, which highlights the development of the low-carbon hydrogen heading towards 2030 and beyond.

Hydrogen was a key plank in the Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution launched last year, the vision for building back after the Coronavirus pandemic and accelerating progress towards net-zero emissions.

A target of 5 GW electrolyser capacity has been set for 2030, touted as being able to provide enough hydrogen to replace natural gas consumption in over three million households annually (By comparison, the European Commission hydrogen strategy announced in August 2020 targeted 40 GW capacity).

The versatility of hydrogen was stressed, for power, heat and transport sectors, with the latter being currently one of the more difficult areas to decarbonise. Non energy usage as a feedstock for key chemicals such as ammonia was also noted.

While hydrogen is currently produced in the UK, amounting to between 10-27 TWh per year, almost all this hydrogen is derived from fossil fuels ('grey' hydrogen) via a process known as steam methane reformation. The challenge moving forward is to encourage hydrogen production via electrolysis using green energy, in lieu of steam methane reforming, or to employ carbon capture on the traditional fossil process.

It is expected that much of the electrolyser capacity will be powered by offshore wind farms, with the ambition for 40 GW capacity by 2030 mentioned in the Energy White Paper released late last year.

Analysis suggested that the UK hydrogen economy could be worth just under one billion pounds and support over 9000 jobs in 2030, potentially scaling to more than ten times these figures by 2050. The Government will provide support, including a 240 million pound Net Zero Hydrogen Fund.

Also mentioned in the strategy is the feasibility of transporting hydrogen in the current gas grid - with studies and cooperation with industry required to determine safe limits for blending, as well as the ongoing Iron Mains Risk Reduction Program which replaces iron mains with plastic components, which are coincidentally better suited to transporting hydrogen.



GOV.UK hydrogen strategy