Feb 25, 2021 05:47 · 608 words · 3 minute read
51 billion is how many tons of greenhouses gases the world typically adds to the atmosphere every year. Zero is what we need to aim for. To stop the warming and to avoid the worst effects of climate change humans need to stop adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.
We believe we can contribute to the world’s ambition by deploying hydrogen on a large scale within the United Kingdom, Europe and beyond.
A fuel for the 21st century
Like natural gas, hydrogen can be used to heat buildings and power vehicles. Unlike natural gas or petrol, when hydrogen is burned there are no CO2 emissions. The only by-products are water vapour and heat. Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, not freely available as a gas on Earth but bound into many common substances including water and fossil fuels.
Hydrogen was first formally presented as a credible alternative energy source in the early 1970s but never proved competitive at scale as an energy source – until now. We find that the worldwide demand for hydrogen is set to increase substantially over coming decades. Production costs are falling, technologies are progressing and the push for non-nuclear, low-emissions fuels is building momentum.
Green hydrogen is produced by splitting water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen through a process called electrolysis, powered by solar, wind or hydro electricity. Our vision is to build as many hydrogen farms as possible; primarily through wind to start, but over time may add solar as technologies and costs improve.
Offshore wind hydrogen
Offshore wind (OSW) with green hydrogen is a major UK opportunity. The UK has outstanding OSW resource, with the potential for over 600GW in UK waters, and potentially up to 1000GW, well above the figure of 75-100GW likely to be needed for UK electricity generation by 2050. This opens up the possibility of growing the OSW industry beyond electricity requirements, with the producing green hydrogen for export if OSW costs continue to fall.
By 2050 green hydrogen can be cheaper than blue hydrogen. With accelerated deployment, green hydrogen costs can be competitive with blue hydrogen by the early 2030s. The main elements of cost for green hydrogen from electrolysis and OSW are electricity cost, equipment costs and electrolyser efficiency. With OSW wind costs continuing to decline, electrolyser efficiency increasing and electrolyser costs falling with experience, the time is right to follow an approach akin to that which has been so successful for OSW deployment and cost reduction.
Action is urgent: developing green hydrogen in the next 5 years will be critical to achieving cost reduction and growing a significant manufacturing and export industry, based on UK technology. From an emissions perspective a green hydrogen industry can be safely kick-started without waiting for operational CCS in the UK.
And generate significant economic impact: one study estimates a cumulative gross value added (GVA) of £320bn between now and 2050. This global market for equipment and hydrogen includes £250bn of electrolyser exports. A further potential £48bn from green hydrogen exports to Europe, would need an additional 240GW of OSW. These figures are for OSW and electrolysers only, they do not include significant other original equipment and supply chain opportunities in both the supply and demand areas. Opportunities for further inward investment to create jobs have already been demonstrated in ITM Power and Ceres Power, and Siemens interest in investing in an electrolyser giga-factory here.
We’re working on building a proof-of-concept farm in the North Sea. We are aiming for a 20 MW installation, which would be capable of producing 3,000 tons of green hydrogen per year. Keep checking back for updates.