US hydrogen production gets support from $8 billion H2Hubs programJune 13, 2022
The Department of Energy launched the program this month but treats all forms of H2 the same.
The Department of Energy has launched its new $8 billion H2Hubs program for hydrogen production in the United States for use as a clean fuel.
The plan is controversial, as the fuel is zero-emission, but not all the ways to make it can say the same.
It’s true that carbon emission-free hydrogen production creates a form of H2 that comes with greenhouse gas emissions neither while it’s made nor when it’s used. However, the H2Hubs program is treating many different ways to produce H2 equally, even when their potential for combatting climate change is not the same.
This program involves the development of a network of H2 hubs. The use of the fuel it produces has the potential to substantially reduce carbon emissions from the applications that use it. For example, fuel cell vehicles will be able to replace greenhouse gas emissions from tailpipes with nothing more than water vapor.
To ensure substantial carbon emission reduction, it must also be eliminated from hydrogen production.
With green hydrogen, for instance, renewable energy such as solar and wind are used to power water electrolysis, splitting the H2O molecules into the clean fuel and oxygen. As the electricity powering the electrolyzers is emission-free, this means that greenhouse gases aren’t the outcome of this process.
However, at the moment, renewable electricity powered electrolyzers are neither the most common hydrogen production method now, nor are they slated to become so in the immediate future. Instead, blue H2 is the main focus. It is made using methods using natural gas, which is composed mainly of methane, a greenhouse gas more potent than CO2. Leaks of that gas are more harmful than CO2 emissions. Moreover, the process itself also produces CO2 emissions, which are either released into the atmosphere or must be captured and stored, an expensive process that is also not perfect or leak-proof.
Still, proponents of the H2Hubs say that this is an important step forward. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is funding between six and ten hubs to start. Among them, at least one is meant to use renewable energy for its hydrogen production. The idea is to use methods more readily available to begin making H2 sooner and to encourage earlier adoption. From there, the intention is to transition to green hydrogen using renewable energy on a wider scale, phasing out the low-carbon-emission methods.
Blue is not the main focus; rather, Green Hydrogen remains the lion’s share of global green hydrogen facilities with over 2/3 market share. In the US, developers with detailed grid and gas system knowledge, as well as energy capture technologies, can make Green Hydrogen competitive or cheaper than with Blue. This becomes a no-brainer with $8-9/MMBtu feedstock gas for SMR (blue with CCUS) hydrogen. Moreover, blue exibits certain limitations in economical carbon capture.