The Anonymous Widower

The Times Had A Hydrogen Saturday

The Times had a feature on Saturday about converting our gas grid to hydrogen and especially about using hydrogen boilers in our homes.

I believe that perhaps in ten years, our gas grid will be full of hydrogen and our central heating boilers will be powered by hydrogen.

The carbon emissions saved with be massive

I don’t know about cooking, but my Michelin-starred Scottish friend and chef, says that we’ll all cook on an electric induction hob.

A Large Collateral Benefit?

I think there will be a large collateral benefit.

At present there are only two feasible methods to power a vehicle without producing carbon emissions; battery or hydrogen.

  • Battery vehicles need to be recharged and we need an enormous number of charging stations.
  • Hydrogen vehicles need to be filled up from a hydrogen filling station.

It should be noted that the current Hyundai ix35 FCEV has a range of 369 miles on hydrogen.

But as you have a hydrogen gas supply to your house, could you fit a compressor in your garage to pump up your car’s hydrogen tank, when it needs it?

The technology is well-proven.

The only problem, that I can see, is that how will the Government tax it?

The future’s not orange it’s hydrogen.



January 6, 2020 - Posted by | Transport, World | , , ,


  1. The scheme has a few problems. Hydrogen doesn’t come without a cost, it requires more energy to produce it than the potential energy it holds. This energy can’t come from fossil fuels, so that leaves wind, sun, or waves. Producing all the power to heat, light, and cool all our buildings, as well as powering our vehicles, seems to be unattainable with current technologies. Even if we could, the cost of changeover to hydrogen for all buildings, and the associated logistics, might stretch our resources beyond our capabilities. I suspect that the future for heating lies in high levels of insulation and air source heat pumps. ASHPs offer a CoP of 4, giving out 4 times the heat energy of the electrical energy consumed. They are easily installed requiring less time and fewer skills, and don’t need any changes to the energy supply infrastructure. Rollout is also easy. How do you maintain a gas supply to those properties not yet switched over while supplying hydrogen to those that are. I think we need to involve engineers to look at the options rather than politicians .

    Comment by John | January 6, 2020 | Reply

  2. Hydrogen has quite a few safety issues, as it is more highly explosive/reactive than petrol or propane/methane (LPG/CNG). Impact of any leaks is a much bigger issue. Risk is manageable with small robust tanks (newly built for vehicles and in fuelling stations, especially when H2 is locally generated in the station from electrolysis), less managable as a risk in a piped network, including needing refurbishment of interior piping and replacement/reworking of boilers. And delivery by vehicle (like heating oil) would be a retrograde step.

    An issue with automotive uses is by the time you factor in the weight of the tanks (which need to be very solid), hydrogen is not energy dense, much less dense than petrol like for like including tanking (with LPG/CNG somewhere in the middle). This results in bigger, heavier vehicles generating more particulates from braking, tyre wear, which is also a significant factor in urban pollution. Yes it kind of works, better than EV and more convenient for refill, but less well than petrol.

    I think there is also scope for hybrid LPG/EV (LPG generated by biodigestion, for limited range extension use.)

    Comment by MilesT | January 6, 2020 | Reply

    • I used to work in a hydrogen factory and have recently had conversations with a guy designing hydrogen buses. I can assure you that the safety issues with hydrogen are well covered these days. Although, I wouldn’t use it in a balloon or airship.

      Comment by AnonW | January 6, 2020 | Reply

  3. Was this in the print edition on Saturday (which section/page). I flicked through at the Saturday print edition (all of it) and didn’t spot the article. I wonder if the feature was website only or published on the web on Saturday but was in print in the Sunday Times?

    (Wanted to read the article to understand the proposal in more detail before commenting further. I don’t subscribe and didn’t buy on Sunday, usually get a free copy in Waitrose on Saturdays mainly for the Latin crossword which my wife enjoys).

    My concerns around hydrogen would be whether the existing street piping would be used and would it cope? Several times in my life I have smelled gas while walking around city streets (and always reported it) and I have seen TV documentaries of a major building explosion (in the US) due to an undetected gas leak in the mains piping in the street leaking into a basement of a large building until the conditions were right. With hydrogen being more reactive, would either of these situations resulted in more explosions or bigger explosions, sooner?

    And the occasional exploding manhole (not always down to gas).

    Gunshots rupturing hydrogen tanks in vehicles is also a concern (not so much in the UK, admittedly), have seen some videos of this on the internet (which I know may not be truthful or appropriate to actual contexts in use).

    Comment by MilesT | January 7, 2020 | Reply

    • Not sure where it was, but I got it on-line.

      I think that most street piping is now plastic, which should be OK! As to gunshots, surely they play havoc with petrol and diesel.

      Comment by AnonW | January 7, 2020 | Reply

      • I’m not sure that all the gas piping has been replaced with plastic, yet. There is a lot buried below ground that has been there for decades and because it is below ground it isn’t replaced quickly, both the major trunk mains (which I think have been more of a priority for replacement, as they tend to run under streets, better recordkeeping, easier to “find”, so that’s “easy”) but also individual pipes for buildings (less likely to have been changed, people aren’t too keen on gardens and driveways being dug up if there isn’t a leak, yet).

        The old pipes in some cases will work well enough for bigger methane molecules at lower pressure, but maybe not for smaller H2 potentially at higher pressure.

        And there are still cases where gas piping is exposed; have seen occasionally on sides of buildings, although that’s not current practice I think there isn’t a mandatory replacement programme yet. Break one of those carrying H2 and that will ignite quickly or worse.

        In any case I would expect that central heating boiler burners/controls would need to be modified, or whole boiler replaced (gas central heating is soon to be banned or already banned from new build housing anyway, so unlikely to get a later installation of hydrogen unless payback was fairly small number of years). A tricky mass changeover project unless duplicate H2 pipes were laid.

        Probably would not be allowed gas cookers anymore or they would be much more complex to ensure H2 can not exit to atmosphere without ignition as a controlled flame.

        Holes in petrol tanks don’t tend to lead to explosion (certainly not quickly), although will ignite to flame fairly quickly if there is an ignition source. Diesel is harder to ignite and less likely to explode. Lots of videos debunking the way that car explosions are represented in films as near instantaneous.

        Comment by MilesT | January 7, 2020

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