State-of-the-art modelling of hydrogen infrastructure development for the UK: Geographical, temporal and technological optimisation modelling

Funded by: Department for Transport


September 2006 to January 2008

PSI researchers:

Background, summary and aims

Background and Aims

The UK government has identified hydrogen (H 2) as having the potential to play a major role in achieving long-term CO 2 emissions reductions targets. However, significant uptake of H 2 as an energy carrier entails a range of energy system interactions. One critical issue is the use of existing, or development of new, energy transmission and distribution infrastructures for hydrogen. Optimal H 2 infrastructure solutions will likely vary in different regions, according to the availability and cost of resources and the scale and density of demand.

The UK MARKAL model gives a consistent and powerful analytical approach to such complex interactions within an E4 (energy-economic-environmental-engineering) approach. One of the major strengths of this integrated E4 modelling approach is that it allows different sectors to compete for finite primary energy resources, for supply vs. demand side improvements and between technological vs. behavioural responses.

This modelling project will address two major limitations of current energy system modelling of hydrogen infrastructure development. Firstly, MARKAL is a non-geographical optimisation model, which therefore does not consider directly the locations of demand or resources in its representation of the future energy system. Secondly, the current model has only limited depiction of seasonal and daily demand changes and the resultant need to balance supply and demand. Understanding temporal aspects is especially critical considering the potential requirement to store significant amounts of H 2, especially if it were required to provide a balancing mechanism in electricity provision.

Project Design

This project will develop a Geographical Information Systems (GIS) based spatial model for the optimisation of H 2 infrastructure for the UK, to allow the explicit consideration of H 2 distribution. This spatial model will have an integrated two-way linkage and interaction with the UK MARKAL model, ensuring that MARKAL incorporates a realistic representation of H 2 infrastructure development within the UK energy system. Secondly, this work will extensively improve the temporal representation of demands in the MARKAL model, allowing explicit consideration of daily load duration curves as well as peak seasonal supply and demand periods, thereby enabling the explicit consideration of the role of H 2 in energy storage.

The final stage in the project is to run the improved temporal MARKAL model linked with the spatial GIS model for a range of potential H 2 transition pathways, which will help to identify switching points and technology cost thresholds. This will be generated from earlier PSI work on hydrogen visions developed under the UKSHEC scenario work, and via consultation with DfT and other stakeholders.

Importance of Research

To our knowledge this is the first time that an integrated E4 energy model has been linked to detailed spatial and temporal components. However, this research topic has been discussed within energy modelling forum and conferences for some time, including the publication of proposals and methodologies on linking energy models and GIS frameworks. This innovative modelling project will deliver new insights into the technical feasibility, potential pathways, cost, and contribution to UK energy policy goals of the evolution of a hydrogen infrastructure.



project report:

executive summary [pdf]

full report [pdf]