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Suitability of hydrogen as a catalyst for clean growth

Author: Gerard Shore, Sector Director, Oil and Gas

Reducing carbon emissions from the energy and transportation markets is vital in the fight against increased global temperatures and the resulting effects of climate change.

A drop in the amount of carbon produced by electricity generation, achieved by burning less coal and more gas, and an increase in renewables, has contributed to a 42% reduction in carbon emissions from 1990. But there is a long way to go; the UK aims to achieve at least an 80% reduction by 2050. But tweaking the existing system will only get us so far. We need new, disruptive technologies that will fundamentally change the energy market if we are to make a real impact on climate change.

At Costain, we believe one of the most practical options for clean energy growth is hydrogen. We are working with industrial, academic and governmental partners to propose safe, cost effective approaches to the use of hydrogen across the energy market, for industrial and domestic power and heat as well as an alternative fuel for transport.

Why hydrogen?

The reason hydrogen is so attractive as a clean energy source is that when it burns, it produces only water.
However, although hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, it does not occur naturally in its pure form, so it has to be produced.
Hydrogen can be produced from natural gas, which means we can take advantage of the existing gas supply network. The down-side of this method is that carbon dioxide is produced alongside the hydrogen, which means effective methods of capture and disposal are required to make hydrogen a clean alternative to natural gas.

Hydrogen in North West England

At Costain, we are committed to using our engineering expertise to support the UK’s clean growth strategy. We believe the North West of England is one of the ideal locations within the UK for the development of a decarbonised, hydrogen-based energy market. The region has the necessary industries, innovation, skills and natural assets to allow the production, transportation and use of hydrogen as well as the safe underground storage of carbon.

We are working to promote and develop the hydrogen economy in the North West, and together with Cadent Gas Ltd, Peel Energy, Atkins, BOC and the University of Chester, Costain is a founder member of the North West Hydrogen Alliance (NWHA). The aim of the alliance is to bring together the relevant organisations to make the hydrogen economy in the North West a reality. We are also sponsoring University of Chester PhD student Reace Edwards to conduct research into the concept of a Liverpool to Manchester hydrogen cluster, and an associated carbon capture and storage infrastructure in the East Irish Sea.