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Blue hydrogen 20% worse for GHG emissions than natural gas in heating: study

Highlights

Higher methane emissions from blue H2 production

CO2 emissions only 12% less than for grey H2

Casts doubt on climate viability of blue H2

Burning low-carbon hydrogen for heating is significantly worse for the environment than using natural gas or diesel, a scientific study published Aug. 12 has found.

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Full life cycle greenhouse gas emissions from burning blue hydrogen for heating were more than 20% greater than using conventional natural gas, the report from researchers at Cornell and Stanford Universities said.
Blue hydrogen production, via steam methane reforming of natural gas with carbon capture and storage, also had higher fugitive methane emissions than conventional ‘grey’ hydrogen from fossil fuels because of increased natural gas use in powering the carbon capture operation, the study published in Energy Science & Engineering found.
Even with CCS, CO2 emissions from gas-based hydrogen are only up to 12% lower than for grey hydrogen, the report said. Greenhouse gas emissions from burning blue hydrogen were 60% higher than burning diesel for heat, it said.
“There really is no role for blue hydrogen in a carbon-free future,” the report’s authors said. “We suggest that blue hydrogen is best viewed as a distraction, something that may delay needed action to truly decarbonize the global energy economy.”
The report — the first peer-reviewed study of the life cycle emissions of blue hydrogen production — assumed a CO2 capture rate of 85% for blue hydrogen production and noted that only two blue hydrogen production facilities were in commercial operation in 2021.
Equinor, which is developing one of the world’s first large-scale blue hydrogen projects at H2H Saltend in the UK, said on its website its autothermal reforming technology was expected to produce hydrogen at 80% efficiency with a minimum carbon capture efficiency of 95%.
The company declined to comment on the report ahead of its publication. BP, which is also developing a large blue hydrogen project in the UK at Teesside, did not respond to a request for comment.
S&P Global Platts Analytics Long Term Hydrogen Forecast assumes H2 blending in the gas grid will have reached 6.6% by 2050, potentially reducing CO2 emissions for home heat by 21%.
The Cornell and Stanford paper said hydrogen’s role in heating could be extremely limited from a climate perspective.
Hydrogen is widely used as an industrial feedstock in chemicals processes and refining. The vast majority of hydrogen produced globally is from fossil fuels, with no CO2 abatement.
The hydrogen industry is seeking to decarbonize its operations, while governments, policy makers and industry leaders see low-carbon and renewable hydrogen — made from the electrolysis of water — as key to the energy transition, with…

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2021-08-11 23:01:00

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