Claire Coutinho’s first keynote speech as the UK energy minister fell flat with the local hydrogen community.
While mentioning wind, solar, nuclear and oil & gas multiple times, industry was quick to notice the Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero failure to namedrop hydrogen.
“We must have dozed off during the section where she talked about the part hydrogen has to play,” Paul Willacy, managing director of waste-to-hydrogen firm Compact Syngas Solutions said in a statement.
Having missed the boat on battery-materials, there are growing concerns among chemical manufacturers that the UK government will now prevaricate over hydrogen and carbon capture. Britain is seen having a competitive advantage compared to Germany thanks to the North Sea and its depleted oil-and-gas reservoirs.
Substantial investment in infrastructure would be needed to deliver the fuel at a nationwide level. The chemical industry has had to largely watch from the sidelines as the lion share of government support went to the steel industry and its global standing waned after Brexit impacted investment levels.
With hydrogen, the UK wouldn’t be starting from scratch. INEOS is one of the leading protagonists with more than EU2 billion in investment plans. It feels most of its pipeline network could be converted to carry high levels of hydrogen as the infrastructure was originally used for coal gas, which had 40% hydrogen content.
The ears and eyes of the chemical industry will be trained on the political party manifestos and their plans to reach net zero in November.
(Here’s a link to the speech: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/energy-uk-conference-2023-keynote-speech-by-claire-coutinho