Blue hydrogen – which could form a key part of the government’s plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – may be up to 20% worse for the environment than burning natural gas, researchers have claimed.
Scientists at Cornell and Stanford Universities found blue hydrogen causes more pollution than burning coal because it requires huge amounts of natural gas to produce.
Extracted from natural gas, blue hydrogen captures the CO2 emissions for placement underground but a “significant amount” of the CO2 and methane emissions won’t be caught even in the best-case scenario scale-up of this technology, researchers warned.
The authors of the study concluded: “There really is no role for blue hydrogen in a carbon-free future.
“We suggest that blue hydrogen is best viewed as a distraction, something that may delay needed action to truly decarbonize the global energy economy.”
Boris Johnson is expected to announce a new hydrogen strategy this year.
Experts believe the majority of investment will go towards polluting “blue” hydrogen, rather than “green” hydrogen made from wind and solar power.
David Cebon, a professor at the University of Cambridge, said: “The calculation method is rigorous, the assumptions are all solid and the results are stark.
“Blue hydrogen cannot be considered ‘low-carbon’ or a ‘clean’ solution. In fact, this paper shows that producing blue hydrogen is significantly worse than burning fossil fuels for heat, such as gas or coal, in the first place.”
In July, the all-party parliamentary group on hydrogen published a report urging the government to deliver beyond its existing net zero commitments and set ambitious hydrogen targets in forthcoming strategies to reach net zero by 2050.
Jacob Young MP, chair of the APPG, said at the time: “With COP26 later this year, and the Hydrogen Strategy, Heat and Buildings Strategy and Net-Zero Strategy expected to be published shortly, there has never been more exciting opportunities for the government to expand beyond its existing commitments for 5GW Hydrogen production.”
Robert Howarth, co-author of the study, said the research was “a warning signal to governments that the only ‘clean’ hydrogen they should invest public funds in is truly net-zero, green hydrogen made from wind and solar energy”.
It comes as analysis from the World Wildlife Fund claimed the latest budget “does not add up to the UK government delivering on its climate promises”.
Figures from WWF, published today, reveal climate change mitigation policies set out in the March 2021 Budget equate to just £145 million, while policies that will drive up emissions – like the fuel duty freeze – equate to over £40 billion.
Research from think tank Policy Connect found the government has only fully met, or partially met, 61 out of 135 policies recommended by the Climate Change Committee.
The department for business, energy and industrial strategy has been contacted for comment.
Sky News has launched the first daily prime time news show dedicated to climate change.
The Daily Climate Show is broadcast at 6.30pm and 9.30pm Monday to Friday on Sky News, the Sky News website and app, on YouTube and Twitter.
Hosted by Anna Jones, it follows Sky News correspondents as they investigate how global warming is changing our landscape and how we all live our lives.
The show also highlights solutions to the crisis and how small changes can make a big difference.