First Hydrogen-Fired Electrical Generator Planned for Scotland.

The proposed H2-fired station will produce enough electricity to power the equivalent of a quarter of a million UK homes. Involved parties include BP, ConocoPhillips, Shell and Scottish and Southern Energy. The design plan is to place a natural gas reformer unit alongside the existing gas-fired Peterhead power plant, where it would convert natural gas to hydrogen and carbon dioxide. The hydrogen would fuel the turbines for electricity production, and the carbon dioxide would be pumped into the nearly-depleted offshore oil fields [shown in graphic]to extend oil production for several more years. News sources do not mention where the natural gas will originate from, something presumably known to the Lord.Lord Browne, the chief executive of BP, said "if just 5 per cent of the world's electricity generating capacity was based on the new technology then by 2050 global carbon dioxide emissions could be reduced by one billion tonnes a year".

From the press release: "The partners will proceed with design work with the aim of confirming the economic feasibility of the scheme. This work would be expected to be complete in the second half of 2006. This will allow a final investment decision to be taken next year, subject to which the project would then be expected to commence operation in 2009.

The full project would require total capital investment of some $600million. It would also require an appropriate policy and regulatory framework which encourages the capture of carbon from fossil fuel-based electricity generation and its long-term storage".

Interesting insights emerge from this story. The first is that the sorry state of North Sea oil fields, as exemplified by the graphic, makes it clear why UK energy companies are so hip to alternative technologies. Corrolary: nothing drives technology shifting like self interest. This post is not intended to deride natural gas reformation and H2 use as proposed: the Peterhead Plant is already natural gas fired, and introduction of this reformer technology diverts C02 emissions from the stacks and shoves it down a hole in the ocean floor. That's a win win plan as it is; but it also proves the worth of innovation around hydrogen in the broadest sense.