Scrutiny is rising on blue hydrogen, CCS and LNG in the drive to a low carbon economy
Scrutiny is rising on blue hydrogen, CCS and LNG in the drive to a low carbon economy

Blue hydrogen and gas CCS projects ‘are not low carbon’

UK government policies supporting blue hydrogen and gas-power CCS significantly under-estimate upstream LNG gas emissions and risk derailing its Net Zero targets, with emissions consuming 22%-63% of the UK’s Sixth Carbon Budget, according to Carbon Tracker.

The Kind of Blue report calculates the carbon intensity of blue hydrogen and gas power with CCS, factoring in upstream emissions from natural gas extraction, processing, and transport. This is crucial for the UK and Europe, which are increasingly reliant on imported LNG, particularly from the US, following the 2022 energy crisis.

Of particular concern to UK climate targets and the remaining carbon budget, there is great uncertainty on upstream emissions that are often under-reported. For example, independent studies suggest that the carbon intensity of LNG from the US could be 80% to 150% higher than what is reported by the UK’s North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA).

Carbon Tracker Associate Analyst and report author Lorenzo Sani said, “Blue hydrogen and Gas-CCS projects should not be considered low carbon unless, on top of achieving high carbon capture rates, they can guarantee to only utilise natural gas with low upstream emissions. Green hydrogen, produced from renewable electricity, remains the only truly low-emission pathway.”

Blue hydrogen and gas-CCS projects will increase gas demand. If all such projects proposed by the UK’s Net Zero strategy are built, by 2035 they could generate demand double the projected domestic UK gas production.

This, in addition to the inevitable decline of North Sea production and the ongoing expansion of LNG import capacity, will lead to an increase in LNG imports which are associated with high carbon emissions, especially if sourced from the US, Carbon Tracker adds.

Policy uncertainty

None of the major political parties have specific policies in their published manifestos to rationalise CCS use and address current gaps in the UK emissions regime.

Both the Conservative and Labour party pledge support for CCUS in their manifestos with Labour hinting at the use of CCUS in the power sector.

High upstream emissions could more than triple the carbon intensity of blue hydrogen, exceeding UK and EU low-carbon fuel standards.

Even with the best technology, blue hydrogen from imported LNG could emit up to 2.5 times more than the UK’s low carbon hydrogen standard (LCHS).

Similarly, the reported climate benefits of gas-CCS compared to unabated power plants often ignore or underestimate upstream emissions, actual emissions reductions could be 30% to 60% lower than claimed.

Dr. Andrew Boswell, who is taking the UK Government to the High Court in July over the assessment of upstream emissions in recent planning approval of Gas-CCS Projects in Teesside, said:

“UK Ministers promoted and subsidised these new natural gas developments whilst ignoring the very severe climate impacts.  With the Net Zero Teesside project, minister Claire Coutinho even agreed that upstream emissions had significant adverse climate impacts when approving it.”

“This report shows that the decision was made using outdated Government assumptions that do not correctly forecast future emissions, and the minister was only seeing around half the real carbon footprint. An urgent review of CCUS and hydrogen policy is required.”

The UK Supreme Court has ruled that emissions from burning fossil fuels must be considered when approving new drilling sites.

In a column in The Guardian, Former Conservative Energy Minister Chris Skidmore thinks the UK needs a Labour Government, and says Rishi Sunak’s decision ‘to side with the climate deniers’ is costing the country environmentally and economically.

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