Report for BEIS predicts fugitive hydrogen emissions

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A Frazer-Nash report for government predicts how much hydrogen could leak into the atmosphere in a future 2050 energy system.

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The report, published on the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) website, identifies and quantifies the different mechanisms for fugitive hydrogen emissions, where hydrogen might be released into the atmosphere through unintended leaks (such as from joints, pipework or storage), plus deliberate purging and venting.

According to the report, there is increasing evidence showing hydrogen to be an indirect greenhouse gas that inhibits the breakdown of methane in the atmosphere. Understanding potential fugitive hydrogen emissions will help inform BEIS policy development in relation to future hydrogen energy systems.

In a statement Frazer-Nash’s Stephen Livermore, who led the study, said: “As the report notes, hydrogen is likely to play a significant role in the decarbonisation of the UK’s future energy system. By understanding where and how much hydrogen may be emitted government can explore technologies to reduce these emissions and consider their potential implications in relation to Net Zero 2050 decarbonisation goals.

“We based our illustrative framework for fugitive hydrogen emissions on National Grid’s Future Energy Scenario, ‘System Transformation’. This scenario pictures an ambitious deployment of hydrogen in a future energy system, which would require significant hydrogen transport and storage infrastructure.

“Our analysis examined hydrogen production, both electrolytic and carbon capture utilisation and storage (CCUS) enabled; transport and storage, through pipelines and road trailering; and end users, including industry, fuel cells, hydrogen refuelling stations, gas turbines and heating.”

The report makes recommendations for further activities that could inform the hydrogen emission predictions, including better quantifying emissions from the process industry and identifying technologies to reduce hydrogen emissions from electrolysers and fuel cells by recombining back into water.

A spokesperson for BEIS said: “The government wishes to explore all aspects of the implications of the hydrogen economy on the Net Zero by 2050 target and this work gives valuable insights on where gas, that could have atmospheric implications, may leak from the production, transport and use of hydrogen.”