Engineering as a profession is one that demands a changemaker attitude. The whole reason I wanted to work in energy is because of just how critical it is – everybody needs it. Be that in power generation or gas and electricity infrastructure, being in the energy sector means playing a role in keeping homes, hospitals, workplaces - everything - alive.
Energy is in transition as we look for alternatives to fossil-based fuels. The heating sector is an incredibly challenging sector to decarbonise, with over 80% of homes in the UK currently heated via natural gas. Moving away from the norm seems overwhelming. But my role is to show that there are pathways to solutions and, for me, this means putting hydrogen centre stage.
Unlike natural gas, which releases carbon dioxide when it’s burned, hydrogen, when combusted or used in a fuel cell, produces no carbon emissions. That means it has the potential to be a zero-carbon fuel, and the ability to decarbonise multiple sectors.
Exploring how we will transition to a future where hydrogen is used, to meet society’s needs, is an immersive and fascinating process – especially during early stages of a project which can often entail mapping out potential future demand across the sectors.
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I’m working on a feasibility study for a hydrogen ‘super-hub’ in Southampton. Today, the area generates over 3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year from industrial activities and customers connected to the gas network for heat. Hydrogen is part of the roadmap to driving this figure down.
At this point in my career I don’t have all the answers, but I know how to get them. While I do everything in my power to research and understand the challenge at hand, it’s by reaching out to our family of experts, be that in the UK or globally, that I can chart out the best possible solutions – after all it is simpler to edit than create.
Projects like Southampton and Hynet North West, which my team has worked on, are the reason that you go into engineering. These big picture, groundbreaking projects, are about creating a better and cleaner future; and potentially improving people’s lives. Not everyone gets the chance to have an impact in something ‘big’ in this way, and I’m driven to make the most of every opportunity I have.
The UK is in a good position to lead the way on the international stage. But we must embrace the challenges facing the energy sector and help our clients to do the same.
We need to stand up for cleaner energy, today.