Hydrogen could replace natural gas in some otherwise hard-to-decarbonise areas, according to a new report from the UK Committee on Climate Change (CCC) published on November 22, 2018.  The largest potential for hydrogen to cut emissions is as a low-carbon fuel for heat in buildings and industrial processes, the CCC says, and progress towards deployment at scale “must begin now”, if it is to play a role. However, it is “not prudent” to rely solely on hydrogen to replace gas, it says. This would mean increased gas imports to produce the hydrogen and could mean greenhouse gas emissions remain too high, it says. It also states that “there are several major caveats, as the CCC concludes that the potential to produce hydrogen from “surplus” low-carbon electricity at times of low power demand is limited in the UK and “an awful lot of renewable electricity is needed in order to produce that hydrogen, which then creates huge challenges about whether we can build enough by 2050.”

The report highlights four key areas
1. Decarbonising heat in buildings is one area where the “challenge in achieving deep emissions reductions by 2050 is greatest”, the CCC says. The biggest infrastructure question regarding hydrogen is whether to repurpose existing gas supply pipelines to carry it. The CCC’s key recommendations here are for the roll-out of “hybrid heat pump” systems, where hydrogen boilers would provide backup for electric heat pumps to meet peak demands on the coldest winter days.
2. Hydrogen also has a part to play in reducing industrial heat emissions, the CCC says, especially in situations where the flame needs to come into direct contact with the material being produced, such as in furnaces.

On November 20, 2018 on a UK  industry plan was released to switch to hydrogen in a number of UK cities, including Leeds, Newcastle and Manchester. The scheme, led by gas distributors Northern Gas Networks and Cadent, and gas supplier Equinor, would see 3.7m homes and 40,000 businesses converted to hydrogen over seven years from 2028, costing an average customer £50 pounds extra per year.

Photo: Nottingham hydrogen station