“Hydrogen no justification for oil and gas expansion” – new paper

By Ruth Hayhurst on November 16, 2020 • ( 7 Comments ) from DRILL OR DROP? shared with thanks

Independent journalism on UK fracking, onshore oil and gas and the reactions to it

The use of hydrogen to help meet UK carbon targets does not justify an expansion of the onshore oil and gas industry, campaigners said today.

IGas shale gas site at Misson, Nottinghamshire. Photo: Eric Walton

A briefing paper by the Weald Action Group, a network opposing hydrocarbon developments in southern England, argued there was no need to make hydrogen from fossil fuels.

The paper was a response to recent comments by some onshore oil and gas companies that they were contributing to the UK’s net zero target by providing gas that could be used to make hydrogen.

The Weald Action Group has accepted that some parts of the economy would be difficult to decarbonise and using hydrogen as a clean fuel was a possible option.

But it argued in the paper that production of hydrogen from methane, known as grey hydrogen, produced large amounts of pollution emissions and contributed to climate change.

Production from methane using carbon capture and storage (CCS), called blue hydrogen by the industry, had lower emissions. But the briefing paper said progress to commercial-scale CCS had been “painfully slow” and:

“there are serious doubts it will be a viable option for mitigating emissions from fossil fuel hydrogen production in the next few decades.” 

The paper said green hydrogen, produced from water using renewable electricity, had very low carbon emissions and costs were falling rapidly.

The author of the paper, Ann Stewart, said:

“Hydrogen is likely to be a key piece of the jigsaw for decarbonising energy-intensive sectors such as steel and chemicals and for HGV transport, aviation and shipping – but only if it is produced from sustainable, renewable energy sources. 

“Instead of using yet more fossil fuels with their devastating impact on the climate, hydrogen can be made from water, with very low emissions. There is absolutely no justification for producing more fossil gas, in the Weald or elsewhere.”

Industry interests in hydrogen

In June last year, the fracking company, Cuadrilla, said it was “engaging in a number of existing initiatives” to use shale gas as a source of “emission-free UK energy” by 2050.

IGas announced last month that it planned to turn methane extracted at some of its sites in south east England into, initially grey hydrogen, and perhaps later into blue hydrogen.

In June 2020, Stephen Sanderson, the chief executive of UK Oil & Gas, told Surrey County Council:

“We believe that well-regulated and safely produced indigenous gas, such as Loxley [Dunsfold], represents a vital opportunity to help meet net zero targets by providing the most cost-effective solution for the future UK production of clean hydrogen fuel.”  

“Misleading claims”

The Weald Action Group’s paper said of Mr Sanderson’s comment on hydrogen:

“Such claims are misleading. At the point of use, hydrogen is a clean fuel. However, it is not freely available and has to be manufactured, either from fossil fuels or water – with very differing climate impacts.”

The paper said grey hydrogen was more carbon intensive than burning methane directly.

It described blue hydrogen, using CCS, as “still a pipe dream”. It said the UK was unlikely to have sufficient CCS capacity in the coming decades to reach net zero by 2050.

CCS would also not reduce emissions to zero, the paper said. Two flagship projects in north America removed just over 30%, it said, while an academic study of blue hydrogen production found that CCS plants captured between 53%-90% of carbon dioxide.

CCS itself was carbon intensive, the paper added, requiring additional energy.

“The higher the CO2 capture rate the greater the cost as more energy is required. The additional fossil fuels required for the capture process will, when burned, also produce other pollutants such as sulphur dioxide (SO2) and particulates.”

DrillOrDrop invited UK Oil & Gas to comment on the paper.

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