We’re launching this blog series to help readers keep pace with the fast-moving world of clean hydrogen. Each week or so we’ll post an article on different legal, regulatory, and technical opportunities and challenges facing companies who are developing or exploring clean hydrogen projects.
We need a comprehensive approach to tackling climate change, one that targets all sectors of the economy. Wind, solar, and electric vehicles are undoubtedly important, but they will only take us so far. We’ll need other solutions to fill in the gaps.
Clean hydrogen could be one of those solutions. It could reduce net carbon emissions for many industries that use or could use hydrogen as a direct or indirect energy source:
- Fertilizer – Ammonium nitrate manufacturers are among the biggest hydrogen consumers today. But the hydrogen they use is produced mainly by extracting hydrogen from methane via carbon-intensive means. The fertilizer industry could significantly reduce its carbon footprint by switching to a clean hydrogen feedstock.
- Steel – Steelmakers use coal to make steel, but they could use clean hydrogen-based fuels instead. The switch to cleaner-burning fuels for steelmaking is critical, because we’re going to need vast amounts of steel to keep building, among other things, wind turbines and other infrastructure that is essential to the clean energy transition.
- Heavy-duty trucking, maritime shipping, and aviation – Trucks, ships, and airplanes emit a lot of carbon. Hydrogen fuel cells could replace combustion engines in trucks, ships, and some airplanes. Biofuels producers could also use clean hydrogen as a feedstock to make lower-carbon liquid fuels, such as sustainable aviation fuel.
Developers are considering combining hydrogen production with renewable energy projects, such as onshore and offshore wind and solar. Some are discussing combination offshore wind and hydrogen projects for the two new Wind Energy Areas BOEM has delineated in the Gulf of Mexico. Countries in Asia, South America, Africa, and Europe are also considering projects pairing renewable energy and hydrogen production. We’ll explore these projects and more in upcoming posts.
The message we’ve been hearing from developers is clear: clean hydrogen is coming. But challenges remain. The biggest challenge is cost. The Department of Energy estimates that clean hydrogen costs about $5 to $7 per kilogram. Those costs must fall for companies to abandon carbon-intensive hydrogen, which today costs only about $1 to $2 per kilogram. The other significant challenge is infrastructure for producing, storing, and shipping hydrogen from where it is made to where it needs to go. While the many federal investments in hydrogen in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act will help address these challenges, more innovation, and thus more investment, will likely be needed.
Our next post dives deeper into how hydrogen (both clean and dirty) is produced and how zero- or low-carbon hydrogen could decarbonize large swaths of the national and global economy.