“Blue” Hydrogen is not Green

Halfway through another week and for the first time in many days I can safely say, I am free of that dreadful head cold that has plagued me. OK, I am still a little weak from its effects but in much better spirits. So looking forward to extensive travelling on bike and bus once more.

Charlie Watts, drummer of the Rolling stones, died at the age of 80, he had a good inning but when I hear of the demise of people that I have lived with all my adult life, it is a reminder that we are not immortal.

One other that has been part of my life, Toyah Wilcox, seems she has produced a new album that will be released on Friday, this week. Do you remember those mad pop videos she made, if you do you are older than you think?

For all the talk about electric vehicles, there are some forms of transport, that will never successfully be electrified. Is hydrogen the answer?

Hydrogen-powered vehicles is now being hailed by The Hydrogen Council as a silver bullet, a group that includes the oil companies BP, Total and Shell in their numbers, (is that an alarm bell I hear?) They predict that “Blue” Hydrogen will account for 18% of all energy demands by 2050. Now hydrogen has been with us for some time in fact, I have been onboard hydrogen-powered buses in Dundee.

“Hydrogen is not a panacea or silver bullet but it could be necessary for decarbonization of hard-to-electrify, sectors such as long-haul heavy trucking, international marine shipping and some parts of heavy industry.” said Mike Fowler, director of advanced energy technology research at the Clean Air Task Force.

At the coal-fired power station at Longanet, now closed, they ran an experiment for Carbon Capture and Storage, (CCS), the idea was to take the carbon from the flue gasses and pipe them out into the North Sea and down the old oil pipe lines to the sea bed, there they would be captured by the pressure at that depth. The experiment ran until the Westminster government pulled the plug on the funding. The biggest problem with the scheme was it used a lot of energy to run the system. So it did work, but who would pay for the clean air in a commercially-run power station?

But what has this got to do with hydrogen power, I hear you cry? Well, bear with me. Some time ago I wrote about a system, down at Leven (Fife) where they were producing hydrogen using electricity to crack water, the brilliant part, it using wind power to produce the electricity required. So successful has it been that they are now proceeding to put the system into practice, by offering it as an alternative to gas in and around Leven.

So what’s my grip with hydrogen?

A large $1 trillion, infrastructure bill passed by the US Senate and hailed by Joe Biden as a key tool to tackle the climate crisis. This bill includes $8 billions of dollars to support, a supposedly clean fuel, (“Blue” hydrogen) that has the potential to pollute even more than burning coal. Whit.

The problem with, so-called, “Blue” hydrogen, being pushed by the fossil fuel industry, and falls under the definition of clean hydrogen in the Senate bill, begs the question, is Blue hydrogen really that Green?

Blue hydrogen involves spitting gas into hydrogen and carbon dioxide and then capturing and storing the CO2, a global warming gas. However during the process, methane, a potent greenhouse gas is also produced, this method also uses a huge amount of energy to separate, then store the carbon dioxide, and some will escape anyway, (all this was understood at the CCS experiments at Longanet Fife.) The production of “Blue” hydrogen actually creates 20 per cent more greenhouse gases than coal, commonly regarded the most polluting fossil fuel. Furthermore it is 60 per cent more polluting than burning diesel, according to a new paper published in the Energy Science and Engineering journal. Help ma boab, is that right?

Robert Howarth, a scientist at Cornell University who authored the paper alongside Mark Jacobson, a Stanford University researcher, said “Blue hydrogen is a nice marketing term that the oil and gas industry is keen to push, but it’s far from carbon-free. I don’t think we should be spending our funds this way, on these sort of false solutions.” Well, that’s you telt, president Biden.

Dozens of gas companies have jumped on the bandwagon, in the US and started producing hydrogen (fill your boots with free dollar handouts from the US Senate) – or at least testing its viability in existing gas pipelines. This is madness, according to climate campaigners, saying it is a step towards entrenching fossil fuel infrastructure at a time when the world needs to rapidly move to net-zero emissions, outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, (IPCC).

“Looking at this Biden bill, you can not fail to see a big giveaway to the fossil fuel infrastructure that is incompatible with serious climate action” according to Carroll Muffett, chief executive of the Center for International Environmental Law. “Congress went out of its way to not specify green hydrogen (hydrogen produced by renewable electricity, such as being produced at Leven Fife), and so this funding just helps prop up the fossil fuel industry. The potential of these technologies are being routinely overstated even as the impact are being understated.”

So why despite all the evidence does the US Senate still pass such a bill? For not only is it decremental to the US but the rest of the world too.

“He who pays the piper calls the tune.”

Now, do you hear those alarm bells more clearly?

As a footnote, the Scottish government in the past have put much funding into the research and development of new green technology, wind, wave, tide, CCS alongside this hydrogen. Scotland has done much to promote such development, but it is Westminster parties, funded by big companies such as oil companies BP, Total and Shell, it is they that call the shots. Scotland has the resources of wind a plenty, strong tides, and endless wave, to power and drive, not only the development of The green revolution, but also the hard-won, and paid for, by the Scottish taxpayers, development, technology and expertise in this new green renewable energy revolution. Sadly Scotland is being held back from becoming the riches, greenest country in the world, by being part of the UK, why can’t Nicol Sturgeon see this?

What do we want – Independence – when do we want it – NOW!

Stay safe.

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