Bottom line: the path to net-zero needs hydrogen. And the natural gas infrastructure of large and small pipelines, compressors, production capacity, utilities, capital, and last-mile delivery are the essential future of hydrogen.
The constellation of current and future applications for hydrogen is the most importantly and most crucially, the cornerstone of decarbonization for hard-to-electrify-or-abate sectors such as steelmaking and shipping and will be used in others, such as transport, industry, petrochemicals, and more — that cannot cut out fossil fuels using renewable electricity alone.
While there is a rainbow of hydrogen colors, this hydrogen push has led to the growing interest in replacing current ‘grey’ supplies of hydrogen — produced using traditional carbon-intensive processes — with low-carbon or clean production pathways. The two most promising of these are a ‘blue’ version of the gas, where steam methane reforming emissions are captured using carbon capture and storage (CCS), or ‘green’ hydrogen, made from the electrolysis of water using renewable energy.
During the early stages of this energy transition, the use of BLUE HYDROGEN is key to facilitating the growth of a hydrogen market and is being actively pursued by Pacific Northwest natural gas utilities. Around three-quarters of hydrogen is currently produced from natural gas. Retrofitting with CCS would allow the continued use of existing assets while still achieving lower GHG emissions. This is an option to produce hydrogen with lower GHG emissions while reducing pressure on the renewable energy capacity installation rate to produce green hydrogen.
Notably, industrial processes like steel production may require a continuous flow of hydrogen; blue hydrogen could be an initial solution while green hydrogen ramps up production and storage capacity to meet the continuous flow requirement. The carbon emissions from hydrogen generation could be reduced by CCS but not eliminated, but it is key to transitioning to a hydrogen economy.
GREEN HYDROGEN, produced from renewable energy, is key for a fully sustainable energy transition. The most established technology option for producing green hydrogen is water electrolysis fueled by renewable electricity. Green hydrogen production through electrolysis will be a long-term component of the net-zero route, allowing for the exploitation of synergies from sector coupling, thus decreasing technology costs and providing flexibility to the power system. Low VRE costs and technological improvement are decreasing the cost of production of green hydrogen. For these reasons, green hydrogen from water electrolysis has been gaining increased interest.