As the nights are drawing in and comfy autumn evenings in front of the TV are taking hold across the nation, do you have any idea of what type of gas is keeping you and your family warm? Are you aware of the source, sustainability and impact of the gas that is gently warming your bubbling lentil hot pot? And if the gas you are using to heat the long soak at the end of another busyday is in fact churning out more carbon emissions than you would like, do you know what your government are doing to change that?
Put simply, without a source of gas running through our homes, we would be stripped of some of the small comforts we have come to expect of an Autumn or Winter evening. Will the home your children live in have a gas boiler? Will our government be able to deliver Boris Johnson’s target of blending up to 20% hydrogen into the UK’s gas network from 2023? And what on earth is an electrolyser?
First things first, let us remove any confusion around the electrolyser word straight away. In order to obtain the precious sustainable hydrogen gas our environment is craving; we need to split it up from the oxygen it is attached to. Thanks to the odd chemistry lesson or 2, most will be familiar with the chemical symbol for water: H2O. The symbol represents water’s component parts of 2 hydrogen atoms and 1 oxygen atom. All an electrolyser does is use electricity to split water into its separate hydrogen and oxygen atoms in a process called electrolysis. As a result, we can use the components individually.
Currently, the surplus electricity generated from offshore wind farms is being utilised to perform electrolysis. Meaning the source, procedure and end result of obtaining hydrogen is completely carbon-free. Compare that to the carbon emissions of sourcing and burning coal and you can see why hydrogen is starting to ‘make waves’ in the gas industry. When you consider that here in the UK we stand as a very proud island surrounded by water, it seems inconceivable that much of the natural gas that fills our boilers is currently imported from Europe, Russia and Qatar. We are surrounded by a sustainable, carbon emission-free resource that is waiting to fuel our industry, our aviation and eventually, our homes. A source that when combusted, only gives a by-product of water.
The impact of one of the biggest contributors to global warming, the burning of fossil fuels to create energy, could be dramatically reduced with the introduction of Hydrogen into the National Gas Network. A common misconception about the transition period of replacing natural gas with hydrogen is that our Government needs to depart with large amounts of money to implement the infrastructure required to facilitate hydrogen in our gas network. The fact is the infrastructure already exists – we just need to replace the source.
Even though your current gas boiler cannot simply run on Hydrogen, the infrastructure to get whichever gas is necessary to your home is here already. So, there does not need to be a monumental technological change to start using Hydrogen in our industries and homes. The pipes and groundwork are already laid. As part of the Future Home Mandate, from 2025 all gas boilers will be outlawed. So, in answer to our introductory question, it is unlikely that your children’s home will have a gas boiler if the future home mandate has anything to do with it.
Arguably, as a country we have already been exposed to the numerous potential benefits of reducing carbon emissions throughout our nationwide lockdown. Take yourself back (if you dare) to March and April 2021 when one of the only beacons of light through a very dark time, was the almost instantaneously noticeable improvements in our environment because of the significantly reduced use of transport, travel and heavy industry – across the globe. Air quality improved, there was a marked reduction in noise pollution and lower emissions of greenhouse gases. The use of hydrogen in our national grid would ensure we need not go through a global pandemic to return to this state of environmental harmony; the sort of which we have not seen in years. Busy, bustling everyday life could continue without the concern of contributing to the ever-increasing hole in the ozone layer.
Here at Wiser, we see the rapidly evolving developments within The National Gas framework as an exciting and unmissable opportunity to promote the benefits of introducing hydrogen into the grid. Our passion lies in providing clear and practical guidance to several companies within the industry to ensure optimal performance in their field. We pride ourselves in having a team of highly qualified colleagues who immerse themselves in the knowledge and legislation of current environmental developments, to ensure our clients are up to date with any relevant changes impacting their business. Whilst we may still be a number of years away from introducing Hydrogen into homes (our PM would like to see 20% of the UK’s gas network be hydrogen by 2023), the inevitable benefits of implementing hydrogen as a fuel for the steel, cement and aviation industry are waiting just around the corner.
Perhaps the one hurdle team hydrogen is yet to surmount, is the undeniable fact that the process of obtaining it (electrolysis), is far more expensive than digging for fossil fuels. It is quite understandable that when you are literally sitting on your own reserves of a particular type of fuel (fossil fuels lay deep within layers of soil and sediment under the very chair you are sat on) you are more than likely going to utilize every drop of that source before employing another – especially if it is cheaper. Arguably, this hurdle could be navigated by the option of exporting Hydrogen to other countries. Most electrolyser companies are UK based. So – whilst extracting Hydrogen may come at a cost, there is great potential for that cost to be recouped if it were to also become a commodity to the UK.
However, there is a distinct shift in attitude growing amongst a population who wants to do better than just ‘using what we have.’ The trailblazers in conservation, environmental science, climate change and global warming are gradually educating both the private and public sector in how we can be more sustainable in the gas we use – whether it is cooking dinner, heating your home, running your vehicle or manufacturing steel. The changes we are seeing in the gas network are happening fast. The rapid change, in addition to a unified progressive attitude, is a steadfast combination in implementing further measures to protect our environment.