Explore the Benefits of Hydrogen Energy Production

Mar 26, 2022

Explore the Benefits of Hydrogen Energy Production

Now is the Time to Work with Renewable Energy Consultants to Optimize this Resource

As renewable energy consultants serving Houston, TX and municipalities throughout the United States, we’re always looking for new opportunities for our clients. One many people don’t know about is hydrogen energy production and storage.

Clean hydrogen energy production and storage have the potential to play a significant role in decarbonizing our economy. While currently in its infant stages, a recent Goldman Sachs report found that the clean hydrogen industry could help decarbonize as much as 15% of current global emissions by 2050 and contribute $1 trillion to the global economy. Hydrogen has been attracting investment from both the private and public sectors, as President Biden’s Build Back Better Infrastructure plan is allotting $8 billion towards hydrogen energy research and development.

What is Hydrogen-Derived Energy?

So, what exactly is hydrogen, and how might we incorporate hydrogen-derived energy into our global economy? Hydrogen is the smallest element (just one electron) and is used in the industrial sector today in oil refining and synthetic fertilizer industries. Many processes that currently use natural gas, such as heating, cooking, fuel cells and vehicles, could theoretically switch from natural gas to hydrogen with minimal to no changes in equipment. Natural gas, aka fossil gas, is mostly methane (CH4). When burned, oxygen gets combined with those elements, and the emissions are carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O). But hydrogen (H2) doesn’t have the associated carbon molecule, so when it is burned all that remains is water (H2O), which means hydrogen is a very clean fuel source.

Developing hydrogen as a fossil gas alternative could be one part of realizing a cleaner future. In the United States, the Department of Energy’s $15 million HyBlend project is studying how hydrogen gas might be mixed into (and perhaps ultimately replace) natural gas energy streams. Essentially, instead of having your home stove or heater powered by natural gas, HyBlend is working to introduce a certain percentage of clean hydrogen into the natural gas stream reaching your home while ensuring you experience no change in cost, experience, or safety.

How Are We Incorporating Hydrogen Energy?

The Hyblend project has already begun to test blended hydrogen heating and cooking through its pilot case study in Point Lookout on Long Island, New York. Working in partnership with National Grid, the project will introduce blended hydrogen into 800 homes and will be used in 10 municipal vehicles. Today, green hydrogen makes up about 3% of the case study’s home gas supply, with the ultimate goal to work up to a 20% mix. If successful, the Point Lookout project can serve as a blueprint for green hydrogen heating and cooking rollout across the nation.

Green hydrogen can certainly help reduce emissions, but the color distinction is important. There is a whole rainbow of colors that apply to hydrogen, from green to blue to gray to pink. These colors indicate what energy source was used to create the hydrogen – the hydrogen itself is the same in all instances. Green hydrogen (or clean hydrogen) will help reduce global emissions since this hydrogen is created using renewable energy. Other options (like gray or blue hydrogen) could increase emissions, depending on how they are deployed.

What Are the Biggest Challenges?

Many challenges must be overcome before hydrogen use becomes widespread. However, if these challenges can be successfully navigated, green hydrogen can play an integral part in the global effort to decarbonize our energy economy.

Domestically, the primary limitation is cost. Hydrogen is currently prohibitively expensive in the United States. The hydrogen industry has set a goal to get to $1/kg by 2030. Still, even at that price point, it would be twice as expensive as today’s natural gas in much of the U.S. (However, at $1/kg point, it would be the cheapest option in much of Europe and Asia, so we may see the adoption of hydrogen begin overseas before moving stateside.)

Technology costs often fall quickly, but we are likely a few years out from cost-competitive hydrogen in the U.S. Hopefully, we can use that time wisely to solve issues of appliance and boiler compatibility, pipeline engineering, and further safety analysis associated with the deployment of hydrogen. Do you want to explore your options for a cleaner, more reliable energy solution? Ask our renewable energy consultants all your questions and let them craft a tailormade solution for you. You can schedule a consultation with our team by calling or filling out our contact form.