Global Hydrogen production: The positives of end use v’s the negatives in production.

By October 27, 2022 No Comments

Hydrogen has now been globally recognised as one of the ways in which the heavy-duty, off-highway, agriculture, marine & aviation sectors are able to decarbonise. However, there are still concerns being raised about the production of Hydrogen & the negative environmental impact this can have.

Obviously the most environmentally positive Hydrogen is Green Hydrogen. Green Hydrogen is currently being sought by developers globally as an alternative fuel, as the only by-product of it being burnt is water.

China is currently the largest producer of hydrogen today at about 25 million tons (Mt), or roughly a quarter of the global total. However, most of the Hydrogen volume generated in China is currently produced from fossil fuels (60% from coal, & 25% from natural gas) as feedstocks in refineries or chemical facilities. (1)

With China recognising the potential for Hydrogen in the transportation sector, particularly trucks & buses; they also acknowledge the positive’s of hydrogen being used in industrial sectors too.

China’s 2060 carbon neutrality commitment made in 2020 is a major policy-oriented development that could aid the shift in hydrogen production away from fossil fuels to renewables, greater deployment of FCVs, & the use of hydrogen in harder-to-abate sectors.

With the cost of hydrogen production from coal remaining very low in China, producing coal-based hydrogen costs roughly half as much as renewable-based hydrogen. The cost disadvantage hampers green hydrogen development, which currently accounts for 1.5 percent of the total national hydrogen supply. (1)

Despite this, Chinese companies have begun investing in & manufacturing electrolyzers & by the end of 2022, the Chinese electrolyzer capacity is expected to be five times greater than in 2021, accounting for more than 60% of the global total in 2022. The China Hydrogen Alliance is therefore calling for 100 GW electrolyzer capacity by 2030 to produce green hydrogen. (1)

If China are producing roughly a quarter of the global Hydrogen & are forging forwards with electrolyzer technologies to make the shift to producing green Hydrogen easier; where is the rest of the global Hydrogen being produced & how are countries mitigating the negative environmental impact of its production?

The United States is currently the second largest producer & consumer of Hydrogen after China, accounting for 13% of global production.

But it is not just China & the US who are raising the stakes in their bid to boost their Hydrogen economies.

The United Arab Emirates new hydrogen strategy aims to control a quarter of the global low-carbon hydrogen market by 2030.

Japan, being the first country in the world to formulate a national hydrogen strategy as part of its ambition to become the world’s first “hydrogen society”, (2017) recently announced it will invest $3.4 billion from its green innovation fund to accelerate research & development & promotion of hydrogen use over the next 10 years. (2)

In Europe, The European Commission has adopted a set of legislative proposals to decarbonize the EU gas market by enabling the uptake of renewable & low carbon gases, which includes hydrogen, pledging, in the face of current global energy uncertainty, to ensure energy security for all citizens in Europe.

Furthermore, The Green Hydrogen Catapult, a United Nations initiative to bring down the cost of green hydrogen announced that it will almost double its goal for green electrolysers from 25 gigawatts set last year, to 45 gigawatts by 2027. (2)

Across the globe countries are seeking to harness their production of Hydrogen as a way to support the decarbonisation of the transport sector & boost energy capacity.

However, with the production of grey, blue, pink, yellow or turquoise being heavily reliant on carbon dense production; there is a real need for the global Hydrogen markets to find ways of producing more green Hydrogen, as green hydrogen is the only Hydrogen produced in a climate-neutral manner making it a crucial component of reaching net zero by 2050.

Therefore, how can we as a planet ensure that we are striving towards a carbon neutral way of producing enough green Hydrogen to fulfil global needs?

The International Renewable Energy Agency’s (IRENA) 2021 World Energy Transitions Outlook has estimated that hydrogen & its by-products could account for 12% of final energy consumption by 2050, with two-thirds coming from green hydrogen (made with clean electricity) & one-third from blue hydrogen (made from fossil fuels & using carbon capture). (3)

Despite the positives of Hydrogen use in the heavy-duty, off-highway, agriculture, marine & aviation sectors as a way of decarbonising tailpipe emissions & the shift to a green Hydrogen economy, supported by a blue Hydrogen economy with CCS; there are still some negative hurdles to overcome in the negative impact of Hydrogen production.

According to the World Economic Forum in 2020 the world produced around 90 million tonnes (Mt) of hydrogen, generating 900Mt of CO2, around twice the UK’s 2020 emissions, with the vast majority of this hydrogen being used by the refining & chemicals industries.

If we were to replace our existing consumption of grey hydrogen with green hydrogen, we would require a lot of extra clean electricity (double the amount of renewable electricity that had been installed by 2020 globally). (3)

Written & cited by Katy-Jane Mason for & on behalf of Dolphin N2

  1. https://www.csis.org/analysis/chinas-hydrogen-industrial-strategy
  2. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/12/what-is-green-hydrogen-expert-explains-benefits
  3. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2022/05/action-clean-hydrogen-net-zero-2050/