According to a report from the Rocky Mountain Institute replacing the fossil fuels used in industrial processes with hydrogen will be essential to achieve the net-zero emissions required by 2050 to keep climate warming to two degrees Celsius.
“The industrial processes used in the production of things like steel, cement, glass, and chemicals all require high temperature heat,” said the report, Hydrogen’s Decarbonisation Impact for Industry, issued today.
“For these hard-to-abate sectors, there is essentially no way to reach net-zero emissions at the scale required without using hydrogen.”
Hydrogen continues to attract attention as a zero-carbon fuel that can power not only industry but electricity generation and transportation.
S&P Global Platts recently launched a suite of daily hydrogen assessments that value different methods of hydrogen production in the United States and Europe.
The key is how hydrogen is produced, given that roughly 96 per cent of hydrogen produced today is from fossil fuels, with the remaining four per cent produced through electrolysis, according to the report.
Carbon capture and storage technology can be deployed to mitigate the carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted from producing hydrogen from fossil fuels, with current CCS technology roughly 90 per cent efficient.
Hydrogen produced via SMR paired with CCS is termed “blue” hydrogen.
Producing hydrogen from fossil fuels, including natural gas, coal and oil, using the traditional steam methane reforming, or SMR, process to break apart hydrocarbon molecules, is generally the lowest cost production route, said the report.
Any kind of electricity can be used, but system-wide or grid electricity will have a different carbon intensity, depending on the fuels used to generate electricity.
A dominant coal-powered grid such as India produces roughly 0.67kg of CO2/KWh, while Sweden, which primarily generates electricity from nuclear and hydroelectric sources, produces 0.02kg of CO2/KWh, said the report.
The global average is 0.48kg CO2/KWh.
“Noticeably, fossil fuel-based production is a rather CO2-effective way of producing hydrogen with the current generation mix in many grids,” said the report.
The report also noted the challenge of producing hydrogen from only electrolysis.
Current global electricity production is roughly 24,000TWh, with another 23,000TWh of demand expected by 2050 as population and wealth increase.
“Successfully growing the green hydrogen economy would add another 20,000TWh to the challenge, effectively requiring us to build additional renewable capacity almost at the scale of the total current global electricity system, just to produce hydrogen.”
The report argues that shifting industry from fossil fuels to hydrogen to meet the two degree Celsius scenario cannot afford to wait until there is enough supply of green hydrogen at scale.
“Regions like the former Soviet Union, with abundant geologic storage and access to low-cost natural gas, are likely to see blue hydrogen as the most economically competitive low-carbon hydrogen supply.”
Platts assessed the cost of hydrogen production, including capital expenditure, via SMR without CCS along the US Gulf Coast at US$0.88/kg.
EcoNews is an independent publication that relies on contributions from its readers.
WE’RE BUILDING A PLATFORM WITH A CLEAR FOCUS ON THE ENVIRONMENT, CULTURAL AND SOCIAL GOOD. CONTRIBUTE AND TOGETHER WE CAN MAKE AN IMPACT.