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  • Writer's pictureuday singh

Will hydrogen be the ultimate solution to the climate change problem?

On the one hand, we all recognize that a concerted effort is crucial on a global scale to achieve the COP26 goal for limiting atmospheric temperature rise within a reasonable time. On the other, we must understand the reality on the ground: regardless of the source of carbon emissions, there are significant challenges that must be overcome in every sector producing these emissions.

To begin with, industrial processes producing CO2 emissions are, at their core, for- profit businesses, constantly answering to demanding shareholders and responding to everything from a skeptical public to geo- political pressures. But in concert with forward- thinking governments, many business ventures have publicly committed to making verifiable reductions in their carbon emissions.

Recently, 12 countries have announced national hydrogen strategies, resulting in new hydrogen projects. Most of these are for green hydrogen, produced by the electrolysis of water using renewable energy. The thinking is that green hydrogen will eventually dominate the energy sector. Most hydrogen today is gray, produced by the steam reformation of methane, which releases large quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere. If the bulk of this carbon is captured, however, the hydrogen is termed blue.

Regrettably, commercial electrolyzers are currently few in number, and expensive to build. Experts believe that an adequate number of electrolyzers and meaningful levels of green hydrogen production will simply not happen until 2030 or even later. And climate scientists around the world agree that achieving anything close to COP26 goals will require moving simultaneously (and quickly) on all available tracks.

Given this, does it make sense to vigorously promote blue hydrogen as an interim measure until adequate quantities of green hydrogen are available around the globe? We believe it does: carbon capture for existing hydrogen plants is available now. Some argue that capture costs are prohibitively high, but we contend that innovative and newly available capture technology will provide significant reductions in both capital and operating costs. Even without a viable carbon credit market, business is finding that carbon capture is now more affordable. And because the carbon credit market will in many cases make capture a revenue stream, can we afford to wait for green hydrogen?

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