Shale Oil &Gas
Shale gas is a fossil fuel and therefore threatens our atmosphere with CO2 emissions. However, what are the alternatives? We would all prefer the use of renewal energy sources, but at the present moment, the majority of the population would not support paying the higher fuel bills that would result as witnessed be the recent cutting back of the Green Levy initiative. The UK has coal supplies in abundance, but burning coal produces unacceptably high levels of CO2, but there is a potential solution of carbon capture technology. Most of the country’s gas supply comes from Qatar. Transporting it here increases its CO2 footprint as well as not guaranteeing a continuous supply in times of emergency.
If shale gas is plentiful in the UK transportation costs would be reduced and supplies guaranteed. UK oil and gas assets are owned by the state for which taxation produces around 60% income to government. The government is proposing giving 1% of that back to local communities. Just think of the good that this could do to pay for upgrading access roads such as the Marchwood By-
Shale gas should not be thought of as a permanent source of energy, but as a bridging resource, a temporary measure until sustainable energy can be produced more economically. The Green Levy could be funded by this energy source bringing forward the date that we are using clean energy with absolutely no carbon emissions.
Hydrogen for Heating and Propulsion
Hydrogen is likely to feature more prominently in our future decarbonised world. It seems an ironic misstep that Town Gas with its near 50% hydrogen content was common until the 1960’s, when “Natural gas” was discovered in the North Sea. The entire country was switched over, because natural gas was plentiful, it was in UK waters and had higher energy efficiency than town gas. However as we now know, its main constituent, methane, results in high carbon emissions when burnt. It took 10 years to convert all the country’s gas appliances in a national programme. In 2019, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer put into law that domestic heating boilers could no longer be manufactured after 2025. If gas with high hydrogen content is to replace natural gas, then all gas appliances will have to be converted again. At this stage, it is difficult to know what Government is recommending to replace domestic gas boilers in 2025.
Hydrogen is already being trialled in some trains and HGVs, but since storing it has previously taken up a lot of space, it was not viable for use in cars and airplanes. Now by using “Sorbents” technology, the gas can be stored in much smaller spaces. Cranfield University are carrying out a lot of ground-breaking research in this area. In addition, the HyPER project is looking into the potential for low-carbon compact hydrogen to be the clean fuel of the future.
As recently as November 2020 a light hydrogen powered aircraft successfully took off from Cranfield airfield. Decarbonising aviation is one of the biggest environmental challenges we must overcome, especially as it is one of the most carbon intensive sectors. For hydrogen to be viable in aviation, other than a proving test flight, there must be a commercial infrastructure. Well it appears that there is a company working on that. They are called Universal Hydrogen and have developed 2 metre by 1 metre hydrogen pods that can easily be produced and transported to airfields, much like Nepresso coffee pods are used to make coffee.
Southampton Airport has applied for planning permission to extend its runway by 164 metres. Already, Southampton and Winchester councils acting as consultees have declared their opposition to the application on environmental grounds. Advancements in Hydrogen technology promises to make decarbonised regional aviation a reality very soon.
In addition, the Norwegian state owned Oil Company Equinor is diversifying towards hydrogen and is funding several large-scale projects;-
- H-Vision – As a partner in the first phase of the H-vision project, for production and utilisation of blue hydrogen. This will enable local industry in Rotterdam to reduce substantially its CO2 emissions well before 2030. The programme centres on the production of hydrogen using natural gas and refinery fuel gas. https://www.portofrotterdam.com/en/news-and-press-releases/h-vision-kicks-off-the-hydrogen-economy-in-rotterdam
- H21 North of England – Is a joint effort to understand how 3.7 million homes and 40,000 businesses in the north of England could be converted from natural gas to hydrogen and made emission-free by 2034. https://www.equinor.com/en/news/2018-11-23-hydrogen-northern-england.html%20.html
- NortH2 – A project which aims to produce green hydrogen using renewable electricity from offshore wind off the coast of the Netherlands. https://www.equinor.com/en/news/20201207-hydrogen-project-north2.html
Blue and Green Hydrogen
Some are critical of the use of hydrogen, saying that it is produced from fossil fuels. It is true that it can be made from fossil fuels, but when it is produced in this way, it is known as “Blue” hydrogen. “Green” hydrogen however, produced from sustainable fuel sources is the way forward.
Some resource material;
Navitus Bay Wind Park
The Application is for development consent to construct and operate the proposed Navitus Bay Wind Park, which comprises up to 194 wind turbine generators and associated onshore and offshore infrastructure, with an installed capacity of up to 970 MW (the Project). The Project would be located on the bed of the English Channel approximately 17.3 km off Scratchell’s Bay (south of the Needles on the Isle of Wight) and 14.4 km from Durlston Head (on the Isle of Purbeck). The Turbine Area occupies an area of 153 km2.
Unfortunately, it did not get planning permission at the time, but let us hope that public opinion has now changed.