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Hydrogen for Net Zero

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Charley Rattan's picture
World Hydrogen Leader Charley Rattan Associates

UK based offshore wind & hydrogen corporate advisor and trainer; Faculty member World Hydrogen Leaders. Delivering global hydrogen and offshore wind corporate investment advice, business...

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  • Dec 9, 2021
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Hydrogen is central to reaching net zero emissions because it can abate 80 gigatons of CO2 by 2050 Hydrogen has a central role in helping the world reach net-zero emissions by 2050 and limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Complementing other decarbonization technologies like renewable power, biofuels, or energy efficiency improvements, clean hydrogen (both renewable and low carbon) offers the only long-term, scalable, and cost-effective option for deep decarbonization in sectors such as steel, maritime, aviation, and ammonia. From now through 2050, hydrogen can avoid 80 gigatons (GT) of cumulative CO2 emissions.

With annual abatement potential of 7 GT in 2050, hydrogen can contribute 20% of the total abatement needed in 2050.a This requires the use of 660 million metric tons (MT) of renewable and lowcarbon hydrogen in 2050, equivalent to 22%b of global final energy demand. Hydrogen is critical in enabling a decarbonized energy system. It facilitates the integration of renewably produced energy because hydrogen can store energy, provide resilience, and transport high volumes of energy over long distances via pipelines and ships. Hydrogen allows energy companies to tap extremely competitive, but otherwise “stranded” renewable energy in remote locations.

This accelerates the energy transition as it allows more renewables to be built. Finally, because hydrogen can be produced from electricity and used as, or converted into, fuels, chemicals, and power, the production of hydrogen from electricity will connect and fundamentally reshape current power, gas, chemicals, and fuel markets. In terms of end uses, hydrogen is critical for decarbonizing industry (e.g., as feedstock for steel and fertilizers), long-range ground mobility (e.g., as fuel in heavy-duty trucks, coaches, longrange passenger vehicles, and trains), international travel (e.g., to produce synthetic fuels for maritime vessels and aviation), heating applications (e.g., as high-grade industrial heat), and power generation (e.g., as dispatchable power generation and backup power). China, followed by Europe and North America, will be the largest hydrogen markets in 2050, together accounting for about 60% of global demand.

Fulfilling this decarbonization role will require a large scale-up of clean hydrogen production in the coming decades. Supplying 660 MT to end-uses will require 3 to 4 terawatts (TW) of electrolysis capacity and about 4.5 to 6.5 TW of renewable generation capacity, as well as 140 to 280 MT of reforming capacity for lowcarbon hydrogen production and associated infrastructure to store about 1 to 2.5 GT of CO2 a year. In such a supply scenario, renewable energy for hydrogen will account for roughly 15% to 25% of the 27 TW of total new renewable energy required by 2050c to reach net zero – a 10x increase over the 2.8 TW installed today.

 

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