A group of experts has warned that federally funded hydrogen hubs have the potential to reduce emissions, but without proper control can be as dirty as coal.
The Infrastructure Act of 2021 provides funding hubswhich will produce hydrogen for a variety of purposes, including to power commercial trucks and industrial equipment and possibly trains. But the United States Department of Energy (DOE) needs to carefully consider how hydrogen is produced and used, according to a recent blog post by a nonprofit RMI.
Hydrogen can be produced with minimal carbon emissions through electrolysis, with electricity generated from renewable sources, RMI noted. But other methods – such as producing hydrogen from natural gas – could be as dirty as coal, the organization said.
Toyota Mirai XLE 2022
This week, the economy ministry will open a competition for $ 8 billion in funding for hydrogen hubs, so now is an important time to consider what exactly is “pure” hydrogen, according to RMI.
This process is likely to involve more clearly defined standards. Ideally, these standards would reduce the carbon intensity of the full hydrogen production cycle by at least 80% compared to the most common modern process (which uses methane) and would include the calculation of carbon intensity beyond emissions at the production site, the group said.
The ability to transition hydrogen from very clean to very dirty has made hubs controversial since their offering. Even the early version of the infrastructure bill discussed coal as a potential source.
Hyundai Xcient fuel cell
Easy rules can also lead to the proliferation of “blue hydrogen,” which is considered a cleaner alternative to current production methods but can still be very carbon. Obtaining blue hydrogen produces carbon dioxide, which is captured, which theoretically ensures that it never enters the atmosphere. But 2021 study found that emissions from this process are actually 20% higher than when burning coal.
Cleaner alternatives exist. One company offered to feed garbage trucks on fuel cells with hydrogen from the very rubbish they carry. In 2021, the hydrogen company SG H2 Energy announced the creation of a facility in California, which was claimed to be lower carbon emissions than electrolysis.