28 March 2019

Five lower sixth physics students joined guests for the quarterly meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Engineering Group at the House of Lords. The theme to be discussed was the potential for hydrogen to replace fossil fuels in the quest to decarbonise our energy budget.  We heard from three speakers in the car, train and domestic energy sectors.

Hugo Spowers, founder of River Simple PLC, manufactures the only hydrogen fuel cell car, currently on the public roads. The technology works, but more interesting is his thesis that the current model of selling goods, rather than leasing them, does not incentivise manufacturers to build sustainability into their products.

Mike Muldoon of Alstom is managing a project to convert a fleet of diesel railway locomotives to a combination of hydrogen fuel cell and battery propulsion. The technology is already in use in Germany and will be in the UK by 2022. As trains tend to finish each day in the same location, provision of a hydrogen charging infrastructure is less of a challenge as it is for providing the same for cars.

John Saltmarsh from the Department for Energy and Climate Change, discussed the feasibility of converting the domestic gas infrastructure to hydrogen. As the principal current source of hydrogen is from the conversion of methane, the carbon dioxide can be captured and stored. This project would require the reversal of the conversion of boilers and stoves to burn hydrogen rather than methane.

There was much food for thought and a delicious lunch!

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