The Biden administration’s decision to join the Paris Agreement is likely to spur the creation of a strong hydrogen industry in the United States, with the potential to provide an abundant supply of carbon-free fuel for a variety of applications, including power generation, vehicles. transportation and manufacturing, as well as a reliable source of energy storage.
Although hydrogen is the most common element in the universe, and its potential as a fuel source has been well understood for decades, significant challenges have long prevented the development of a thriving hydrogen industry. . However, as global governments seek ways to decarbonize their economies and investors turn away from traditional fossil fuel companies, energy experts see hydrogen as an important part of the low-carbon future of the Americas. .
One of the advantages of hydrogen is its ability to provide benefits for all applications and industries, said Sunita Satyapal, director of the office of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies at the U.S. Department of energy, in an interview.
There is a real opportunity in clean energy enabling emission-free transport and a clean grid, energy storage and industrial applications. She said that if hydrogen provides a tremendous opportunity for the United States to meet its climate change goals, we need to focus on reducing costs.
The Paris climate agreement, which President Biden officially joined on Friday, sets the goal of limiting global warming to well below 2, preferably 1.5 degrees Celsius, above pre-industrial levels. By re-engaging the deal, which former President Trump rejected, the United States, along with nearly 200 other participating countries, agreed to restructure their economies to achieve zero net greenhouse gas emissions by now. 2050.
According to a report by the journal Nature last August, Europe is already much further along in its drive to establish a booming hydrogen industry than the United States.
In his energy plan campaigns, then-candidate Biden had promised to promote the production of renewable hydrogen, as well as other clean energy technologies, including battery storage, negative emissions technologies and advanced nuclear power.
He also pledged to ensure that the market can access green hydrogen at the same cost as conventional hydrogen within a decade, providing a new source of clean fuel for some existing power plants.
Different colors of hydrogen
The last statement is significant, in that it distinguishes green hydrogen from conventional hydrogen. Hydrogen is generally characterized by colors, depending on how it is produced. The United States already has a significant annual hydrogen production capacity, around 10 million metric tonnes, according to the US Department of Energy, most of which is used in refineries and other industrial processes.
About 95% of the hydrogen currently produced in the United States is gray hydrogen, so called because it is produced from natural gas, in a process that produces about nine parts of CO for every part of hydrogen. . In order to create a low carbon fuel, blue hydrogen, gas producers have to deal with unwanted volumes of CO through Carbon Capture, Use and Storage (CCUS).
Green hydrogen, results from the use of renewable energy sources to generate electricity, which is then used to separate water, HO, by electrolysis into its components, hydrogen and oxygen. Due to the added expense of removing unwanted carbon through CCUS, it is more expensive to produce blue hydrogen than gray, while green hydrogen involves the most expensive process of all.
DOE’s office of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies is working with industry and academia to develop new technologies on a commercial scale to make carbon-free hydrogen production more economical, Satyapal said. . Its H2 @ Scale program explores the potential for large-scale hydrogen production and use in the United States to enable the resilience of the electricity generation and transmission sectors.
For example, last October, as part of the H2 @ Scale program, the office launched two consortia, the Million Mile Fuel Cell Truck (M2FCT) and the H2NEW, to advance research on fuel cell truck technology. and methods of hydrogen production respectively.
Through our funding, we have helped secure 1,100 US patents, which has resulted in the development of approximately 30 commercial hydrogen production and fuel cell technologies, Satyapal said. At least 60 DOE-funded projects could achieve commercial development in the next few years, she said.
The hydrogen industry will involve various groups of actors
The emerging hydrogen fuel industry is likely to include many players, from established oil and gas giants, such as Shell, ExxonMobil, Chevron and BP, to industrial gas companies, such as Air Liquide and Linde, to players in industrial manufacturing and technology, such as GE. and Siemens.
There are several small emerging technology companies, but the companies that will boost this industry will be established energy infrastructure companies, said Brian Weeks, senior director of business development at the Gas Technology Institute, in an interview.
Because hydrogen can be produced and transported using existing energy infrastructure already above and below ground, we can reuse, extend and modify existing infrastructure to create a more integrated energy system. But it’s going to take vast resources, and not just physical resources, but people as well, Weeks said.
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