Bruce Ofori, Sales Development Manager for ESG at Emerson, recently published an article in the February 2023 issue of H2Tech. It is titled “The Hydrogen Economy,” and it describes how hydrogen is rapidly developing as a green energy resource. The article is summarized below:
Hydrogen has played a key role in industry for decades. It enabled Apollo 11 to reach the moon in 1969, and 50 years later it is playing a significant role in the world’s energy policy by decarbonizing supply sources and addressing the pressing challenges of global warming. This article discusses the benefits and challenges posed by H2, and the steps governments and companies are taking to bring the H2 economy to fruition.
The benefits of H2. H2 provides viable solutions to a number of challenges. Its advantages include:
- H2 is well-understood and already used in many industries today, albeit usually not for ESG purposes.
- H2 fuel cells generate electricity and emit only water.
- H2 offers an economic means of storing energy to level the production from variable energy sources, like wind and solar.
- H2 provides enough energy density to handle applications that are difficult to address with battery storage.
- Large amounts of H2 are already being used by many industries. The bulk of this H2 is synthesized from natural gas, but the resulting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions could be eliminated using hydrogen created by electrolyzers.
- The simple act of blending clean H2 with natural gas in existing distribution systems has immediate environmental benefits.
H2 challenges. H2 poses challenges, for example with seal leaks and metallurgical effects, however the gas is commonly used in many industrial processes, so these issues are well understood. The author describes a key issue that remains:
Clean H2’s chief problem has been its cost because it has historically been much cheaper to generate H2 from hydrocarbons, stymieing the growth of alternate green options. This cost differential has been the biggest reason a green H2 economy has been slow to develop.
A changing environment. The worldwide focus on GHG emissions and clean energy alternatives has placed H2 in the spotlight. Numerous researchers are seeking to optimize H2 technologies, and companies are building the infrastructure necessary to safely generate, transport and utilize H2. Figure 1 provides a good overview of the effort required to make a H2 economy a reality.
Ongoing efforts. Both global governments and the private sector are working hard to make the H2 economy a reality. Advances in electrolyzer design and fuel cell technology continue to improve the efficiency and cost position of green H2 production. Companies are moving beyond words and improving H2 production by taking advantage of incentives for targeted industries, financially supporting pivotal organizations, and supplying equipment that enables the latest technologies to be efficiently utilized.
The author concludes:
The most productive efforts will include a mix of short- and long-term strategies. Short-term changes, like green H2/natural gas blending, offer immediate decarbonization benefits that can be implemented now. Longer term improvements in green H2 generation and H2 storage/transport infrastructure will enable significant GHG reduction in the future.
Visit the Accelerating the Transition to a Hydrogen Future section on Emerson.com for more on the technologies and solutions to increase hydrogen’s role in the global energy mix.