People believe that energy created from hydrogen generates no atmosphere-warming carbon dioxide, making it one of many potential energy sources that could help reduce carbon emissions and slow global warming. But they overlook the fact that creating hydrogen and transforming it into a useful format requires energy.
And that energy is not necessarily renewable. The process is also “inefficient and expensive” compared with other forms of energy. Critics see the hydrogen industry as a way for oil and gas giants to stall the adoption of purely renewable energy sources like solar and wind. This gives it a “green cover”.
John Kerry, the special presidential envoy for climate at the Department of Energy’s Hydrogen Shot Summit last August, says he can’t name a country that hasn’t expressed excitement about hydrogen. “From Saudi Arabia to India to Germany to Japan, we are setting up hydrogen partnerships around the world to advance this critical technology that every country understands has the opportunity to play a vital role in the clean energy transition.”
Kerry believes that hydrogen may grow into a multitrillion-dollar global market. Experts say hydrogen is a clean fuel that when consumed in a fuel cell, produces only water. Hydrogen can be produced from a variety of domestic resources, such as natural gas, nuclear power, biomass and renewable power like solar and wind. These qualities make it an attractive fuel option for transportation and electricity generation applications.
There are various types of hydrogen, with the common ones being green and blue. Green hydrogen is when the energy used to power electrolysis comes from renewable sources like wind, water and solar. Blue hydrogen is produced from natural gas with a process of steam methane reforming. A chemical reaction occurs creating hydrogen and carbon monoxide. Water is added to the mixture. This turns the carbon monoxide into carbon dioxide and more hydrogen.
If the carbon dioxide emissions are then captured and stored underground, the process is seen as carbon-neutral, whereby the resulting hydrogen is called blue hydrogen. And this is not considered as efficient and green because methane is much more potent as a greenhouse gas.
But Jake Stones from Independent Commodity Intelligence Services (ICIS) argues that making clean hydrogen to use in industrial processes is critical to reducing carbon emissions. Hydrogen is a key component of chemical industrial processes and in the steel industry. Stones said clean hydrogen would be useful in decarbonizing industrial heavy transportation like trucking, big industrial boats and planes.