Manx Gas view: Green, blue, grey? Why are we talking about hydrogen?

Tuesday 1st March 2022 5:10 pm
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Aidan Baglow, managing director of Manx Gas ()

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by Aidan Baglow, managing director of Manx Gas

You might have heard talk of using hydrogen as a fuel - maybe for a bus or to power homes and communities - but why are people talking about it and when might we see it in use in the Isle of Man?

Why hydrogen?

Hydrogen is hitting the headlines as way to store energy. Hydrogen-based fuels could potentially transport energy produced by renewable forms of generation from its place of origin to where it is needed.

Once it arrives, burning hydrogen as a fuel produces only water - so its carbon footprint is only related to the way it is produced.

For an island like the Isle of Man this is of course interesting as importing a low-carbon fuel will help us reduced our overall carbon footprint, while still serving our energy needs and securing long-term supply. It is also possible to see hydrogen as a way to decarbonise many fuel-intensive industries like freight, shipping and aviation.

When hydrogen?

The first thing to note is that not all hydrogen is the same. While governments and industry have acknowledged hydrogen as an important part of a net zero economy there remains work to do before we see its widespread use.

Hydrogen is graded in a colour system.

To be low-carbon, hydrogen must be classed as ’green’, produced using the cleanest method (electrolysis splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen, to be precise) and powered by renewable electricity. Currently other forms of hydrogen are more readily available.

These use more carbon-intensive production methods and are placed on a scale from grey to blue to turquoise.

Clearly the establishment of renewable power and production facilities needs to be scaled up to enable the transition to green hydrogen.

At Manx Gas we are investigating the potential for utilising this form of fuel for our customers in the future.

The move to hydrogen will take some time and will come in three stages.

The first stage will be a hydrogen blend which will blend up to 20% hydrogen into the current gas supply.

A number of projects are already progressing in the UK, where a hydrogen blend is used for heating and cooking.

Stage two is the introduction of ’hydrogen-ready’ boilers: these boilers work on natural gas but can be converted to burn 100% hydrogen without the need to replace your boiler when green hydrogen becomes widely available.

The first hydrogen-ready boilers are expected to be on the market in the next three to five years.

Stage three is the final evolution for boilers to operate on 100% hydrogen; this will require significant investment in infrastructure and the decarbonisation of the electricity supply.

Like blending, there are number of trial projects using 100% hydrogen running in the UK with the first live hydrogen town expected by 2030.

We consider hydrogen has an exciting part to play in the future of energy, particularly how we heat our homes, and will likely play a big part in the transition to net zero by 2050.

While these technologies develop, the focus should be on what we can do today: a ’fabric first’ approach making buildings more efficient, and ensuring that the best of today’s technology (such as ultra-high efficiency appliances and smart controls) are used to save energy and reduce CO2.

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