We cannot seem to get away from hydrogen as a solution – this time hydrogen heat. I was reminded of this by a link on Make Wealth History this morning. Apparently an Australian company is working on a new form of hydrogen powered car. Last week the Committee on Climate Change produced a report saying we should replace our methane with hydrogen. This is sort of going backwards to town gas which before the discovery of natural gas was produced from coal and contained amongst other things hydrogen. In fact its going backwards in more ways than one. Bizarrely the one thing this report says is that the hydrogen should not come from electrolysis using renewable electricity. I say bizarrely but given my previous many criticisms of hydrogen its obvious it would be better to make renewable electricity and use straight electric heating. The CCC suggest using reforming natural gas to hydrogen and then piping it to hydrogen heat. The CO2 would captured using carbon capture and storage.
Where to start. As I have said before you don’t have to move hydrogen too far before you have taken more energy to do so than you get back (references provided in this link). To make it practical the country would have to have a lot carbon capture and storage (C&C) facilities so you were as near to one as possible. Added to this C&C is untried on a large scale and will be very very expensive. Its not zero carbon and is a bit like sweeping dirt under the carpet. The whole idea is only temporary since gas is a finite resource in any case. The CCC actually suggest themselves that using hydrogen alone for this purpose is impractical and householders would have to install other technologies alongside the hydrogen boilers such as heat pumps (something we said in our book is almost certainly impractical on a large scale and in most existing houses). There is also a question over whether the existing pipework will leak to much although many in the industry do seem to think its going to be all right.
Changing our heat system from natural gas (or oil) to something sustainable is undoubtedly going to be very difficult. I’m very pro renewables but for heat they do not look great (see our book) but this above idea is cloud cuckoo land.