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Geoscience and the hydrogen economy

12 April 2021

Geoscience and the hydrogen economy

The decarbonisation of electricity production, industry, transport and heating to meet both UK and international climate change targets is a major challenge, and geoscience has an important role to play. Geological skills and knowledge are particularly relevant to the use of hydrogen, which offers an attractive alternative fuel to hydrocarbons, with the potential to reduce emissions from heavy industry, domestic heating, and transportation. 

front page of the policy briefing note on the role of geoscience in a hydrogen economy The UK Government recognises the importance of hydrogen in achieving Net-Zero, and acknowledges its pivotal role in its Energy White Paper (November 2020). In particular, the Ten Point Plan (December 2020) sets out an intention to ensure there is capacity to generate 5GW of low-carbon energy from hydrogen by 2030, as well as developing a town that is heated entirely by hydrogen by the end of the decade.
Through the UKRI Industrial Decarbonisation Challenge Fund (March 2021), the Government has directed £171 million to research and development that supports the UK’s drive for clean growth through technologies such as hydrogen fuel switching and carbon capture and storage.
Hydrogen is also integral to two of the four recommendations made by the Committee on Climate Change’s 6th Carbon Budget (December 2020), which advises ministers on the volume of greenhouse gases the UK can emit under the Climate Change Act (2008).

Hydrogen is an important component of the UK's decarbonisation strategy because it can deliver or store large amounts of energy. It can be used in fuel cells to generate electricity and it can be combusted to provide domestic and industrial heat. Whereas carbon based fuels release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere when they are burned (contributing to anthropogenic global warming), hydrogen produces water and some nitrogen oxides. Hydrogen can replace carbon-based fuels (e.g. oil, gas and coal) to decarbonise parts of our economy such as transport, power generation, chemical production, refineries, and heat.

Our latest policy and technology explainer was reviewed for content and scientific accuracy by our Decarbonisation Working Group. We are working to understand and raise awareness of the various ways that geoscience will underpin the energy transition, particularly with decision makers and stakeholders outside the field. Find out more about our work in this area.

Hydrogen storage: the state of play in 2021

References, resources and further reading

In collaboration with the European Federation of Geologists we have produced a number of translations of this policy document which are available to download here:

Spanish    French
 Hydrogen note Spanish translation    Hydrogen note French translation

The role of geoscience in decarbonisation

Decarbonisation, or the reduction of carbon emission intensity across the industry, power generation, transport and heat sectors is essential for meeting both UK and international climate change targets. Our briefing note highlights the important role of geoscience in achieving this goal, whilst considering the barriers that need to be removed to unlock opportunities in this area.

The Role of Geoscience in Decarbonisation