With global energy consumption on the rise, nations are looking for cost efficient alternative energy sources with minimal carbon footprint. Is Green Carbon the answer?
The International Energy Agency (IEA) published data at the end of 2019 predicting that the global energy demand would increase by 30% by 2040(1). In our oil and coal based economy, this increase is detrimental to stopping our planet from warming further. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, nations must stop global temperatures from rising 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average temperature baseline of 13.5 degrees Celsius (56.3 F) (2) if we want to avert irreversible change to the environment. One-hundred percent decarbonization by 2050 (2) is the only way to achieve this. This would mean globally eliminating the carbon footprint in the production process and everyday life. Nations must find clean alternatives to fossil fuels to provide energy for our global economy. One clean energy source that has recently made a stir in the news headlines is Green Hydrogen.
What is Green Hydrogen? To answer that question we must first analyze hydrogen. Hydrogen is highly reactive on its own, and because of this it is normally found in stable compounds like water molecules which have two hydrogen atoms bonded with an oxygen atom. To get hydrogen on its own, the atom must be extracted from a preexisting compound model(2). The extraction of hydrogen is an energy intensive process that is done in a few ways and creates a few classifications of hydrogen fuel.
The first type of hydrogen fuel is Brown Hydrogen. Brown Hydrogen accounts for 16% of all hydrogen fuels and is made from coal through a process called gasification(2). The next classification of hydrogen fuel is Grey Hydrogen. Grey Hydrogen accounts for another two thirds of all hydrogen fuels in the world and is made from natural gas through a process called Steam Methane Reforming(2). Both of these processes emit large amounts of carbon dioxide into the environment. Seems counterintuitive! The final classification of hydrogen fuel is Green Hydrogen. Green Hydrogen accounts for just one percent of hydrogen fuels in the world, yet it is on the rise due to its clean status.
Green Hydrogen fuel is created through a process called electrolysis using renewable energy instead of fossil fuels. An electrolyzer splits a compound into its constituent elements (usually water into hydrogen and oxygen) using an electrical current. If the electricity used to power the machine comes from renewable sources such as solar or wind, this fuel is considered ‘green’(2).
The uses of hydrogen are extremely widespread due to the versatility of this energy source. It can be used in liquid or gas form and converted into electricity or fuel. Hydrogen fuel also has a huge variety of applications like manufacturing, transportation, heat for homes, storing renewable electricity for long periods of time and much more. This would greatly impact long haul applications like trucking and shipping which are hard to electrify due to the inefficiency of large batteries. Hydrogen fuel is also highly energy dense. A gallon of gas is about equivalent to a kilogram of hydrogen(2). The best part about Green Hydrogen is that its only byproduct is water!
However, a few hurdles stand in the way of Hydrogen Fuel becoming a global replacement for fossil fuels. Production is expensive, the world lacks infrastructure to produce the compound, and storage has high costs due to hydrogen’s need to be kept at high pressures(2). However, Haim Israel, the Managing Director of Research at Bank of America, tells us that “We actually see a complete dive down of hydrogen production cost, electrolyzer prices are down 50% since five years ago, and renewable energy costs have fallen 50%-60%. We believe both of them will go down another 60 to 70% before the end of the decade.” A drop in the prices of production will encourage investments in new infrastructure from governments and the private sectors alike. New storage facilities cheaper than ever before are currently being developed as well(2). The prospect of widespread use of Green Hydrogen as a replacement for fossil fuels to help cut carbon emissions is extremely exciting.
- (2021). Green Hydrogen: an alternative that reduces emissions and cares for our planet. Iberdrola. Retrieved from: https://www.iberdrola.com/sustainability/green-hydrogen
- Magdalena, M. (2020, December, 4). Green Hydrogen is gaining traction, but still has massive hurdles to overcome. Cnbc LLC. Retrieved from: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/12/04/green-hydrogen-is-gaining-traction-but-it-must-overcome-big-hurdles.html