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Hydrogen, can we unlock the full potential?
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Alan Mortimer
Director of Innovation, Renewables

The most abundant element in the universe, hydrogen has very strong clean energy credentials.

Hydrogen has the highest energy content(1) of any fuel we use today and importantly it produces zero emissions or pollutants during the combustion process. This offers significant potential to help decarbonise several sectors. An International Energy Agency report(2) highlights that recent developments have resulted in unprecedented momentum behind hydrogen solutions to help achieve a clean, secure and affordable energy future. As part of the future energy mix hydrogen could help us meet the Paris Agreement’s commitment of reducing CO2 emissions by 60% by 2050.

Hydrogen can help wind, solar and other sources in the energy mix work together to smooth out the supply/demand gaps that many clean energy sources suffer from. Some countries and industries have already embraced the potential; next year in Japan, the 2020 Olympic Games are being called ‘the hydrogen games’ due to the hydrogen providing the entire energy supply. Australia has developed a national hydrogen strategy to become a major player by 2020. The US Space Program, NASA, has used liquid hydrogen to propel the space shuttle and other rockets into orbit while using hydrogen fuel cells to power the shuttles’ electrical systems which in turn produces pure water that hydrates the crew.

We are on a quest to see how we can harness new technologies that support global decarbonisation efforts through clean hydrogen. Our experience in the opportunities and challenges of hydrogen is decades long. Our process technology team are global market leaders and, for over 60 years, have been supplying hydrogen production units based on steam reforming processes. The environmental impact and efficiency of hydrogen depends on how it is produced: electricity or heat can power the process, but if the source of power is fossil fuel then the environmental benefits will only be realised if emissions are captured and stored. With this in mind we are at the forefront of developing reforming and carbon capture technologies as well as exploring reforming of bio derived feedstocks and the integration of renewables.

More recently there has been a real step change in thinking and a move towards energy transition. As an example, one area of focus around the world is decarbonising transport. Hydrogen-powered buses have been operating in multiple global locations for a few years now, and in 2018, Germany unveiled its first hydrogen-powered trains. Hydrogen power isn’t just for land-based transport. We recently led a study looking at the opportunity to power Scottish ferries with hydrogen. We are also working on projects to generate renewably sourced hydrogen for use in gas networks and distribution to homes and businesses. We are dedicated to providing innovative solutions to meet industry and societal needs through a range of hydrogen projects worldwide.

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