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Futurist, Writer and Researcher, now retired, former freelance writer for new technology ventures. Former President & CEO of Len Rosen Marketing Inc., a marketing consulting firm focused on...

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  • Jun 4, 2020

The European Union has a plan to get to net-zero emissions by 2050 and sees hydrogen as a critical component to achieve that goal. Nineteen companies within the EU have already formed a coalition to pursue producing hydrogen from coal and natural gas. But this is not a net-zero emissions solution unless the facilities are also sequestering the carbon emitted. In 2018 only 4% of the hydrogen produced came from net-zero emission sources, electrolysis. This is changing as new investments are being made in hydrogen electrolysis capacity by companies and governments across the globe.

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jun 4, 2020

Currently, 19 companies within the EU have formed a coalition to produce millions of tons of hydrogen annually but mostly through coal and natural gas conversion. They are calling this the low-carbon hydrogen option. In the case of coal conversion, they are including sequestration and carbon capture in the mix. In the case of using natural gas, they are describing the technology and fuel as a low-carbon option and natural transition to a carbon-free energy future.

Is this just trying to set up the hydrogen infrastructure so later on green hydrogen can come along? Because for now burning coal for hydrogen isn't low carbon at all-- but is this the similar pathway EVs had to take where early on some grid areas actually saw more emissions per mile for EVs because of dirty grids, but it was important to set up the infrastructure so later on decarbonization can take hold? 

If that's the case, I'd hope that's made clear. Until then, calling natural gas a transition to a carbon free future is a message we've heard before and is a tough one to believe. But coal for hydrogen seems hard to defend in any low-carbon plans. 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jun 4, 2020

When it's far cheaper and far more profitable to make hydrogen from methane, Matt

"Is this just trying to set up the hydrogen infrastructure so later on green hydrogen can come along? Because for now burning coal for hydrogen isn't low carbon at all..."

More accurately, this is trying to set up a hydrogen infrastrucure to maintain the illusion green hydrogen can come along, when infrastucture has never been intended for anything other than building a new market for brown hydrogen / methane.

Interesting that you compare hydrogen to EVs, The natural gas/oil industry has been attempting to continue its domination of transportation by generating "green" hydrogen for fuel cell vehicles and "green" electricity to power EVs for over two decades.

"...calling natural gas a transition to a carbon free future is a message we've heard before and is a tough one to believe."


Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Jun 8, 2020

In the first decade of this century, similar comments were made about wind and solar. Now wind and solar deliver >40% in a substantial number of countries.
NL targets >70% for wind in 2030, etc.
Green hydrogen wil expand faster as the original article states:

... in 2018, only 4% of hydrogen produced came from electrolysis. But this is changing as electrolysis moves to the forefront to help develop a future hydrogen infrastructure.

Here are just some of the countries and projects currently in planning or underway.

In the EU, The Netherlands plans to produce 500 Megawatts of hydrogen electrolysis by 2025 and grow it to 4,000 Megawatts by 2030. The industrial gas maker Air Liquide SA in France, and the steel company, ThyssenKrupp, in Germany are also in the process of building electrolysis capacity.

Japan, through the efforts of companies like Toyota and Honda, has implemented an action plan for 10,000 hydrogen fueling stations across the country to be completed in this decade..

In Australia, Siemens is developing a 5 Gigawatt solar and wind project for hydrogen electrolysis.

The United Kingdom has unveiled a 4 Gigawatt offshore wind project for hydrogen electrolysis.

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Bob Meinetz on Jun 9, 2020

"500 Megawatts of hydrogen electrolysis" makes no sense.

First of all, if the source electricity is coming from wind turbines, multiply by .4 capacity factor = 200 MW of power.

Then, multiply by the efficiency of electrolysis (.6) = 120 MW.

Then, we need to change that hydrogen back to electricity. The maximum efficiency of a PEM fuel cell is (.5) = 60 MW net power.

Average Dutch electricity consumption, in 2019, was 12,300 MW. So assuming the Dutch don't use more electricity in 2030 your expensive wind turbine -> hydrogen -> electricity setup will provide one half of one percent (.4%) of Dutch electricity, maybe, ten years from now.

For venture capitalists, hydrogen offers real opportunity for profit. But for fighting climate change, hydrogen is less than useless.

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