Jump to main content
Jump to site search

Issue 11, 2020
Previous Article Next Article

What is needed to deliver carbon-neutral heat using hydrogen and CCS?

Author affiliations


In comparison with the power sector, large scale decarbonisation of heat has received relatively little attention at the infrastructural scale despite its importance in the global CO2 emissions landscape. In this study we focus on the regional transition of a heating sector from natural gas-based infrastructure to H2 using mathematical optimisation. A discrete spatio-temporal description of the geographical region of Great Britain was used in addition to a detailed description of all network elements for illustrating the key factors in the design of nation-wide H2 and CO2 infrastructure. We have found that the synergistic deployment of H2 production technologies such as autothermal reforming of methane, and biomass gasification with CO2 abatement technologies such as carbon capture and storage (CCS) are critical in achieving cost-effective decarbonisation. We show that both large scale underground H2 storage and water electrolysis provide resilience and flexibility to the heating system, competing on cost and deployment rates. The optimal regions for siting H2 production infrastructure are characterised by proximity to: (1) underground H2 storage, (2) high demands for H2, (3) geological storage for CO2. Furthermore, cost-effective transitions based on a methane reforming pathway may necessitate regional expansions in the supply of natural gas with profound implications for security of supply in nations that are already highly reliant, potentially creating an infrastructure lock-in during the near term. We found that the total system cost, comprising both investment and operational elements, is mostly influenced by the natural gas price, followed by biomass price and CapEx of underground caverns. Under a hybrid Regulated Asset Base (RAB) commercial framework, with private enterprises delivering production infrastructure, the total cost of heat supply over the infrastructure lifetime is estimated as 5.2–8.6 pence per kW h. Due to the higher cost relative to natural gas, a Contract for Difference payment between £20 per MW h and £53 per MW h will be necessary for H2-derived heat to be competitive in the market.

Graphical abstract: What is needed to deliver carbon-neutral heat using hydrogen and CCS?

Back to tab navigation

Supplementary files

Article information

24 Jun 2020
22 Sep 2020
First published
22 Sep 2020

This article is Open Access

Energy Environ. Sci., 2020,13, 4204-4224
Article type

What is needed to deliver carbon-neutral heat using hydrogen and CCS?

N. Sunny, N. Mac Dowell and N. Shah, Energy Environ. Sci., 2020, 13, 4204
DOI: 10.1039/D0EE02016H

This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported Licence. Material from this article can be used in other publications provided that the correct acknowledgement is given with the reproduced material.

Reproduced material should be attributed as follows:

  • For reproduction of material from NJC:
    [Original citation] - Published by The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) on behalf of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) and the RSC.
  • For reproduction of material from PCCP:
    [Original citation] - Published by the PCCP Owner Societies.
  • For reproduction of material from PPS:
    [Original citation] - Published by The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) on behalf of the European Society for Photobiology, the European Photochemistry Association, and RSC.
  • For reproduction of material from all other RSC journals:
    [Original citation] - Published by The Royal Society of Chemistry.

Information about reproducing material from RSC articles with different licences is available on our Permission Requests page.

Social activity

Search articles by author