In the push to solve climate change, there are few new technologies which present greater opportunity in terms of scale than low-carbon hydrogen. Enabling the decarbonisation of heavy industry, heavy transport – including freight, shipping and aviation – as well as opening up new opportunities for clean power generation, means that hydrogen has understandably captured the imagination of policymakers, businesses and investors alike.
The recent publication of UK’s Hydrogen Strategy demonstrates that the UK Government fully recognises that there are multiple pathways to cleanly produce low-carbon hydrogen. What is essential now, in order to take advantage of the hydrogen opportunity, is to fully model, identify and support the enabling technologies that will unlock its tremendous decarbonisation and economic potential.
In the UK, the distances between the point of hydrogen production and where it is used is an important consideration, that cannot be underestimated. Without a source of locally generated, inexpensive electricity to produce the hydrogen, there is a serious risk of uneconomic operational, transportation and storage costs, which negates the benefits of hydrogen. This means there is a risk that prospective hydrogen users may limit the scope or delay their uptake of the technology, which in turn has negative implications for the transition to cleaner operations. This is why enabling technologies are as essential to unlocking the value of hydrogen, as the hydrogen technology itself.
As noted in the UK’s strategy, one such enabling technology is nuclear power, which given its core aspects of being primarily a heat engine, can create efficiencies for hydrogen production and industrial use of hydrogen. A novel approach to nuclear power can help to enable these efficiencies – a new generation of small, ‘Advanced Modular Reactors’ (AMR), which can be co-located on industrial sites and provide a dedicated source of heat and power.
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