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18th Ezra Memorial Lecture, Worshipful Company of Fuellers, City & Guilds Building, Imperial College London

The 18th Ezra Memorial Lecture was given by the Lord Mayor of the City of London, Professor Michael Mainelli.  The audience included academics and students, members of the Fuellers’ Company and other Livery Companies.

Professor Michael Mainelli started by observing that, for a colourless gas, hydrogen generates a lot of colourful prose, from blue to grey, green, black, brown, yellow, turquoise, white, and pink, if not purple.  He observed that the profusion of hydrogen colours is due more to the optics of economics than science and engineering. 64% of oil, 17% of coal and 155 of gas is traded internationally.

He then examined various energy economic aspects from production, to transportation, to storage, to use. Increasingly these economic considerations led the hydrogen markets to interact with the carbon markets.  He also touched on market gaps, particularly the lack of baseload markets for electricity and financial tools for long-term government policy commitment. He concluded with some observations on how the economics of hydrogen are analysed.

Further discussion on the topic was then conducted between members of a panel, who answered a few questions from the audience.  The panel comprised Jon Clark, Partner at EY and Chair of the Fuellers’ Industry Group, Stephen Skinner, Professor of Electrochemical Devices for a zero-carbon economy at Imperial, and Dr Angela Needle, Strategy Director at Cadent and Vice President of Hydrogen UK.

My challenge was the comparison between producing electricity, storing it and using it at an efficiency of over 80% compared with using the electricity to produce hydrogen, compressing it, storing it, decompressing it, transporting it and converting it to electricity or heat at an efficiency of 20%.  Despite the popularity of the question it was not put to the speakers – it should have produced some interesting answers.  What was apparent from discussion was the scepticism as to the future of domestic hydrogen gas distribution and consumption.

It was a fascinating evening and thanks to the Fuellers for organising it.

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