‘Expensive distraction’: Hydrogen chief quits over government's blue hydrogen drive

The chair of a leading hydrogen industry association has stepped down in order to freely criticise the focus on blue hydrogen in the UK’s energy transition.

Prior to the release of the government’s much anticipated Hydrogen Strategy on Tuesday, Chris Jackson, chair of the UK Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association, said that he could not remain in his role while it required him to be neutral on the topic of blue hydrogen.

Blue hydrogen is produced from natural gas, with manufacturers installing carbon capture systems alongside to strip out the carbon emissions from the production process.

“The energy transition cannot be achieved by one silver bullet”, said Jackson in his resignation post on LinkedIn, “and green hydrogen alone cannot solve all the world’s challenges. But while there might not be a single ‘right’ answer, there are answers that are wrong. And as many of you will be aware, it remains my deep personal conviction that one of those wrong answers is blue hydrogen”. 

He continued to say he believed he would be “betraying future generations by remaining silent on the 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”.

Blue hydrogen is a key pillar of the UK’s industrial decarbonisation plans, with six winners of the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy’s Industrial Decarbonisation Challenge - who will receive a portion of £171m of match-funding from BEIS - set to develop blue hydrogen projects.  

However, a report from the US universities Cornell and Stanford published last week claimed that blue hydrogen could have a footprint 20% greater than natural gas, and found that huge public investment in the sector over the coming years “appears difficult to justify on climate grounds”. The findings of the report have been fiercely debated. 

READ MORE: Fact checker: Are emissions from blue hydrogen worse than gas?

Jackson is also chief executive of Protium Green Solutions, a company which develops green hydrogen projects, making hydrogen from electrolysis using renewable electricity.

He told the Daily Telegraph that he had not intended his resignation to coincide with the government’s Hydrogen Strategy published on Tuesday. 

He said in his resignation post that focusing on “building UK green hydrogen projects” is the primary reason for his decision to step down, adding that he believes without it, “we are guaranteeing that the world will fail in its efforts to prevent temperature rises above 1.5 degrees by 2050”.

The Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association is made up of dozens of members including BP, which is developing a blue hydrogen project in Teesside, and ITM Power, which makes electrolysis equipment.

Jackson was elected as the group’s chairman last July and will stay on its board despite his resignation.

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