'Recycled' tools could be key to UK hydrogen transformation

20 November 2023 Consultancy.uk 3 min. read
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The UK’s net zero efforts hang in the balance, according to a recent scientific report. According to Toni Miszewski, a managing director at energy technology consultancy AnTech, boosting hydrogen storage in the UK could be critical to meeting the country’s 2050 targets.

Recent research from The Royal Society suggests that the UK may not be able to meet its legally binding net zero targets by 2050, unless it kick-starts construction for large-scale hydrogen storage facilities. The society is the world’s oldest independent scientific academy, and also warned that in the wake of Brexit, while an electricity system with significant wind and solar contributions offers the lowest cost electricity, it is critical to have large-scale energy stores that can be accessed quickly, ensuring the UK’s energy security and sovereignty.

In the opinion of the researchers, with three hydrogen storage caverns in the UK in use since 1972, more needs to be done to ensure there is sufficient hydrogen stored in the country. As the Royal Society explains, ‘appropriate, novel business models and market structures will be needed to encourage construction of the large number of additional caverns needed.’ This highlights the issue in many of the obstacles currently in the way of the move towards net zero is still cost.

'Recycled' tools could be key to UK hydrogen transformation

However, Toni Miszewski, managing director at AnTech, believes there are already solutions and expertise available that can make the construction and ongoing management of hydrogen and carbon storage sites a reality. According to him, “this is where the companies already operating within the oil and gas sector come in”.

“They are perfectly placed to tackle the issue,” Miszewski explained. “The hazardous area technology used for containing hydrogen for example should be an integral part of these new sites and the technology already exists. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel here, ‘recycling’ current technology that helps in the mining and drilling industries should be playing an important role in the move to net zero. Drilling the new underground storage solutions will also need the expertise and technology that already sit in the oil and gas industry and should be utilised as quickly as possible.”

The report also mentions that carbon capture and storage is another area that will play a role in securing low-carbon sources. Again, Miszewski asserts that while cost is seen as a prohibitive factor, like the drilling for hydrogen storage, specialist drilling technology already exists to significantly reduce the cost of drilling wells for carbon storage – and ‘recycling’ of current equipment takes a significant cost factor away from the decision to build such sites, helping move the process along.

He concluded, “Looking to use existing, innovative technology in order to get us nearer the next stage of the energy transition surely makes sense. The oil and gas industry is not going to disappear. Indeed, even by 2050 as much as 20 percent of current levels of oil and gas will be needed to be part of the energy mix. More than that though, it should be playing an important and prominent role in moving the country towards it net zero goals. Without the sector’s contribution of expertise and existing solutions the hope for a move to hydrogen and carbon storage is a pipe dream.”