The chair of the UK Hydrogen and Fuel Cell association has quit, objecting to the association’s support for blue hydrogen. His outrage was palpable as he claimed it is a quick fix for energy companies and an expensive switch for societies to remain dependent on using gas. The UK government is one of those which has placed blue hydrogen at the center of its energy transition plans, introducing carbon capture storage (CCS) projects in the northern areas of the nation in partnership with oil and gas giants such as Shell and BP.
Jackson resigned from the UK Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association on Monday, saying he could “no longer in good conscience” remain in a role in which he would be expected to hold a neutral stance. “I believe passionately that I would be betraying future generations by remaining silent on the fact that blue hydrogen is at best an expensive distraction, and at worst a lock-in for continued fossil fuel use that guarantees we will fail to meet our decarbonization goals,” he wrote in a post on LinkedIn.
This comes after research released this month by academics at Cornell and Stanford universities warned that the blue hydrogen process could generate 20 percent more emissions over its life cycle than burning the natural gas in the first instance and possibly even more.
The Cornell and Stanford researchers found that the use of blue hydrogen is more harmful than once thought due to the high amounts of natural gas needed to fuel the process, combined with the escape of “fugitive” carbon dioxide and methane emissions produced from extraction.
When compared to the equivalent levels needed to produce the same heat, amounts of these “fugitive” emissions outweigh the emissions produced from burning gas and coal.
The study found that blue hydrogen utilizes inefficient carbon capture and storage technologies (CCS). The practice works through splitting the gas into hydrogen and carbon dioxide, which then stores the CO2 and prevents it from being released into the atmosphere, a measure that has become a key element of net-zero transition strategies for numerous nations.
Oil companies have made use of false claims over the cost of producing fossil fuel hydrogen to win over the Treasury and access billions in taxpayer subsidies, according to the outgoing hydrogen lobby boss.
The government is proposing subsidies. Specifically, it has launched a consultation to fund the difference between what producers can sell hydrogen for and what it costs them to manufacture it – similar to a scheme already used to drive down costs of offshore wind power. However, offshore wind power is 100% renewable.
“The Treasury has been told that blue hydrogen is cheap and will take millions of tonnes of carbon emissions out of the economy, which is all they need to hear. It checks the boxes they’re worrying about,” Jackson said. “If the false claims made by oil companies about the cost of blue hydrogen were true, their projects would make a profit by 2030, after starting up in 2027 or 2028, because carbon prices are forecast to rise to £80 a tonne. “Instead, they’re asking taxpayers for billions in subsidies for the next 25 years. They should tell the government they don’t need it. The fact that they don’t tell you everything you need to know.” Jackson said.
In short, energy companies made the case for “big, bold” multibillion-pound blue hydrogen projects, which proved a draw for ministers who were “trying to find ways to show that they really are doing something” to support the green agenda.
One may well wonder how close the energy companies are with British politicians. Is this an attempt by politicians and energy companies working together to please the public making it seem that the government is acting tough on energy companies to reduce carbon emissions while at the same time protecting them and their own special interests?
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by Impakter.com columnists are their own, not those of Impakter.com. — In the Featured Photo: Fueling Station. Featured Photo Credit: Jean-christophe Gougeon