Blue hydrogen, the kind that involves fossil fuels combined with carbon capture, could be worse for the environment than natural gas or even coal, a new study has suggested.
The study, conducted by researchers from Cornell University and Stanford, also suggested that the carbon footprint of blue hydrogen is as much as 60% higher than that of burning diesel for heating, Energy Live News reported.
“Politicians around the world, from the UK and Canada to Australia and Japan, are placing expensive bets on blue hydrogen as a leading solution in the energy transition,” one of the authors, ecology and environmental biology professor Robert Howarth from Cornell University, said in a statement.
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“Our research is the first in a peer-reviewed journal to lay out the significant lifecycle emissions intensity of blue hydrogen. This is a warning signal to governments that the only 'clean' hydrogen they should invest public funds in is truly net zero, green hydrogen made from wind and solar energy,” Howarth also said.
The study's authors have suggested that because of the enormous amounts of natural gas that blue hydrogen requires, its emission footprint is bigger than gray hydrogen, which does not use carbon capture at all. The emission footprint also does not depend on the specific carbon capture and storage technology used.
“There really is no role for blue hydrogen in a carbon-free future,” the 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.”
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Hydrogen is considered to be a big part of the future net-zero energy system. The cleanest kind is green hydrogen, which, rather than produced from renewables, is produced from water, electrolyzed using electricity from wind and solar farms. However, the cleanest hydrogen is also the most expensive, although forecasts see a fast decline in costs.
Currently, gray hydrogen is the most widely produced and the cheapest. It is produced from natural gas through a process called steam methane reformatting, where the methane in the gas is heated with steam – a process that yields hydrogen and carbon monoxide.