If Orkney is not actually in the lead in developing hydrogen energy production then we are firmly positioned on the cutting edge. This was but one of the memes coming out of the seminar held at the Old Academy in Stromness last Thursday 6th July.
The main speaker was the Scottish Government’s Policy officer for Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Gordon Paterson. He works for the Scottish Governments Directorate for Energy and Climate change.
One of the main drivers is to “decarbonise” Transport and Heating fuel thus reducing CO2 emissions. Reduction of CO2 emissions is particularly vital to Orkney residents as the inevitable sea level rise that will occur if Global Warming is unchecked would cause Sanday for example to virtually disappear and our other islands to be significantly reduced in size. Global warming has a double whammy on sea level rise as not only will we have the sea level rise due to melting polar and glacial ice but the world’s oceans will expand due to thermal warming.
The integrated system being built on Eday and Shapinsay is the first of its kind globally. (BIG HIT builds on foundations laid by the Orkney Surf ‘n’ Turf initiative, which will see production of hydrogen on the islands of Eday and Shapinsay using wind and tidal energy.) An early objective of the scheme is to power our ferries with H2 (hydrogen) made in Orkney.
Orkney is by no means alone in Scotland with innovative H2 work. Scotland is one of the World Leaders in this area. One Scottish city has 10 H2 buses and has ordered another 10. Refueling with H2 is no different to filling up with petrol or diesel. The filling device even looks like a petrol pump. In terms of road traffic safety H2 is possibly safer than petrol/diesel/LPG because being lighter than air in the event of a tank rupture the H2 will rapidly go upwards and not spill onto the ground and spread.
Current H2 cars were said to be a dream to drive and have a range of around 300 miles.
In another example we were told that FIFE are running diesel/H2 hybrid vans and trucks using up to 50% H2. The amount of retro fitting for an H2 hybrid would be expected to be similar to that for retro fitting a diesel for LPG and those have been around for a decade or more so not Rocket Science. The Hybrid route is particularly exciting as I can see no reason why it can’t be applied to ALL existing diesel vehicles. Further these Hybrids make an instant impact on CO2 emissions an electric vehicle will only have a positive effect after a few years due to the CO2 being emitted in its specialised battery production.
Scottish Gas are looking to build a pilot specialised pipe system for domestic supply. It is likely that in the case of gas stoves only the burners will need replacing but many boilers will probably need replacing.
Meanwhile H2 can be added to LNG at up to 10%. 10% of Scottish Gas’s annual use is a huge market for Orkney. Some of the transport systems for this are already on Orkney.
It doesn’t stop with H2. When you split water by hydrolysis you get oxygen as well.There is a market for oxygen on the islands. It can also be reacted with nitrogen from the air to produce ammonia (Fritz Haber process developed before the 1st World War, again established technology). Once you have ammonia it can be oxidised to Nitric acid (We are about to have oxygen as a by product) that has its own market but could be used locally to make agricultural fertiliser. It doesn’t stop there H2 can also be reacted with CO2 to make hydrocarbons.
Orkney is about to get at least one saleable product which is not dependent on the Westminster controlled Electricity Grid to get it off the islands. Exciting times!
Reporter: Nick Morrison
The Scottish Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association (SHFCA) promotes and develops Scottish expertise in fuel cells and hydrogen technologies.
“SHFCA brings together Scotland’s specialised fuel cell companies, power generation companies, academic institutions, research and development bodies, energy consultants, Scottish Enterprise and local enterprise companies and councils with an interest in Hydrogen & Fuel Cells. Membership is open to all-comers.”
The Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Developments are part of the Scottish Government’s draft paper which you can view here (n.b.the consultation period is over) ” Energy Strategy: The Future of Energy in Scotland”