Chair of UK hydrogen body quits over support for fossil-fuel dependent ‘blue hydrogen’ championed by Tories

‘Blue hydrogen is at best an expensive distraction, and at worst a lock-in for continued fossil fuel use,’ says Chris Jackson

Harry Cockburn
Environment Correspondent
Thursday 19 August 2021 20:48 BST

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The chair of the UK Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association (UK HFCA) has quit, saying he cannot support the body’s support for so-called “blue hydrogen”, which scientists have warned could not only boost emissions of greenhouse gases but also “lock in” dependency on them.

He described the technology as “an expensive distraction” which could ultimately serve to undermine critical climate targets.

Chris Jackson’s resignation came hours before the UK government unveiled its new “Hydrogen Strategy”, which said it would take a “twin track” approach to the fuel, and use both “green hydrogen” made with energy from renewable resources, and “blue carbon”, which is made from gas.

In a statement to trade publication H2 View, Mr Jackson said: “I believe passionately that I would be betraying future generations by remaining silent on that fact that blue hydrogen is at best an expensive distraction, and at worst a lock-in for continued fossil fuel use that guarantees we will fail to meet our decarbonisation goals.”

His comments come after research released this month by academics at Cornell and Stanford universities warned that the blue hydrogen process could generate 20 per cent more emissions over its life cycle than burning the natural gas in the first instance – and possibly even more.

Following the government’s announcement Greenpeace was also among the organisations warning that the blue hydrogen part of its plan “looks like a bad idea both environmentally and economically”.

Mr Jackson said: “Our industry is at a very important crossroads, one where the decisions we make will have long-lasting effects.

“I fully appreciate the energy transition cannot be achieved by one silver bullet, and green hydrogen alone cannot solve all the world’s challenges.

“Equally, I cannot ignore or make arguments for blue hydrogen being a viable and ‘green’ energy solution (a fact also validated by external studies).

“As chair of the UK HFCA, my role has been to represent the interests of all, even when I disagree. However, I feel I can no longer do this in good conscience.”

In a statement, UK HFCA chief executive Celia Greaves said: “We would like to thank Chris for his hard work on behalf of the association over the past 10 months and welcome his continued involvement on our executive committee.

“As the oldest and largest pan UK association, dedicated to the hydrogen sector and the fuel cell industry, our duty is to support stakeholders across the entire value chain and across all hydrogen production methods.”

The UK HFCA has welcomed the government’s strategy, but said it did not go far enough, and suggested “a 20GW mix of green and blue hydrogen power could be deployed by 2030. That is four times more than the government has planned for”.

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