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Len Rosen 10451
Principal Author and Editor 21st Century Tech Blog

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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  • Dec 27, 2021
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Australia's Northern Territory is planning to harvest water from the air and electrolyze it to produce hydrogen in a $10 billion US project called Desert Bloom. Meanwhile, Rolls-Royce unveiled a modular hydrogen fuel solution at the recent COP-26 meeting in Glasgow. And the price of green hydrogen is forecast to continue to drop and become cost-competitive with fossil fuel energy by the end of the decade.

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Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Dec 27, 2021

Len, "green" hydrogen is snake oil, a quack remedy for climate change designed to ensure continuing dependence on natural gas - the fossil fuel from which 95% of hydrogen is made. 

Who is supporting green hydrogen as a solution to climate change? Not physicists or climatologists, but marketers, attorneys, and venture capitalists - professionals who recognize selling the perception of a solution to climate change is immensely more profitable than selling a solution.

Who is supporting green hydrogen as a business? Not economists or policy experts, but the largest, multinational oil companies in the world. At the website of trade group The Hydrogen Council, you'll find names like Chevron, Saudi Aramco, BP, and Shell - companies with teams of analysts who understand writing off $trillions invested in extraction infrastructure to gamble on an exorbitantly expensive, impractical fuel is a fool's errand.

They recognize the future of their industry is on the line, that with gasoline on life-support their only salvation lies in resurrecting re-processed natural gas. With evident desperation, caps-lock messaging on the group's homepage screams:

"GREENER, FASTER, CHEAPER: A COMBINATION OF BATTERY & FUEL-CELL ELECTRIC TECHNOLOGY IS KEY TO SUCCESSFULLY DECARBONIZING GLOBAL TRANSPORT",

"HYDROGEN TO CONTRIBUTE OVER 20% OF GLOBAL  CARBON ABATEMENT BY 2050 - STRONG PUBLIC-PRIVATE COLLABORATION REQUIRED",

"HYDROGEN INVESTMENT PIPELINE GROWS TO $500 BILLION IN RESPONSE TO GOVERNMENT COMMITMENTS TO DEEP DECARBONISATION", and

"CLEAN HYDROGEN SCALE-UP IS FEASIBLE AND CAN GREATLY REDUCE GREENHOUSE GAS (GHG) EMISSIONS".

The title of your article is a perfect example of how successful a well-funded, hard-sell marketing campaign can be - even if it's marketing snake oil.

Peter Farley's picture
Peter Farley on Dec 27, 2021

While you are right that green hydrogen for natural gas replacement in furnaces and for most transport applications is ridiculous, green hydrogen for metals reduction, ammonia for industrial applications and fertilisers and possibly for shipping is economical at a carbon price of around $40/tonne of CO2. If Australia used renewable electricity + green hydrogen to upgrade 70% of its export ores to primary metals, the saving in transport cost, (2.4 tonnes of iron ore and coal to one tonne of sponge iron, 4 tonnes of bauxite to 1 tonne of Aluminium etc  can justify a price of around US$4/kg if the destination country has a carbon price of even $10/tonne.  With high productivity solar in Northern Australia and particularly on the West Coast where combined wind and solar will enable electrolyzer utilisation of 70-80% without storage $4/kg at or near ore deposits is quite feasible within the next 5 years.

Nadim Chaudhry's picture
Nadim Chaudhry on Jan 7, 2022

I think you are confusing green hydrogen from the electrolysis of water powered by renewable electricity and the usage of CCS with steam methane reforming of natural gas (so called blue hydrogen route). Both can produce a clean gas that could be used in hard to abate sectors. Blue hydrogen can technically be produced with low emissions. 

Green hydrogen is being supported by 100's of different businesses from across the renewable energy value chain. Blue hydrogen is being supported by the Oil and Gas companies (and their investors) who want to avoid their gas reserves becoming stranded assets. I think both routes are possible, both routes have different investors who should be utilised to reduce emissions and help scale clean hydrogen as a solution to the hard to abate sectors that clean electricity cannot reach. It is likely that green hydrogen will prove the most cost efficient for reasons of technology scale and modularisation than blue hydrogen over the next decade (or even by 2025). I agree there has been some impressive marketing on the part of the Hydrogen Council to push hydrogen as a panacea for many end use cases that will in all likelihood go directly electric. In my experience of working on accelerating the clean energy transition for 20 years, economics will always win.

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