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China aims high in the global green hydrogen race

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The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a study this week warning that unless greenhouse gas emissions are cut in half this decade, global warming would reach hazardous levels. This will require a significant effort from China, the world’s largest emitter.

According to the IPCC, controlling global warming would need a significant reduction in fossil fuel consumption as well as the deployment of alternative fuels such as hydrogen.

China accounts for over a third of world emissions each year. It’s committed to becoming carbon-neutral by 2060, and green hydrogen production is a vital part of that strategy.

Millions of dollars are also being invested in green hydrogen technologies in Australia. However, China’s new strategy may put an end to Australia’s ambition to become a worldwide hydrogen giant.

The competition is fierce

As the globe races to decarbonize, much has been said about hydrogen’s varied functions in the global economy.

Hydrogen is an energy carrier, which means it stores the energy that was used to extract it. Solar and wind energy, nuclear power, and hydropower may all be used to make “green hydrogen” with no emissions. It’s also possible to make it from fossil fuels like gas and coal.

Hydrogen is a versatile substance. It may be utilized for both energy and vehicular power. It can also aid in the manufacture of ammonia, chemicals, and petrochemicals, as well as glass and metals.

Due to its abundant solar and wind resources, Australia is ideally positioned to manufacture green hydrogen. Furthermore, because of our proximity to Asia, we are well-positioned to export hydrogen there.

The Australian government aims to transport hydrogen across the world, establishing an export business to replace coal and gas, which will be in short supply as global climate action increases.

China has been highlighted as a key potential export market for future Australian hydrogen in recent years, owing to a predicted increase in the country’s usage of hydrogen fuel cell-powered cars.

The placement of onshore wind and solar power capacity in western China, distant from much of the country’s energy consumption in the east and on the coast, contributed to the idea that the country’s potential to create green hydrogen was limited. China’s hydrogen situation, on the other hand, is rapidly changing.

The gauntlet is thrown down by China

China unveiled its first national strategy to create a domestic hydrogen sector through 2035 late last month.

Mastering technologies and manufacturing processes, as well as coordinating the building of hydrogen energy infrastructure and enhancing legislation and industry standards, are all part of the plan.

It also calls for a gradual rollout across industry sectors by 2035, as well as a ban on hydrogen produced from fossil fuels.

By 2025, China’s green hydrogen generation is predicted to reach 200,000 tonnes per year, saving up to two million tonnes of CO2.

China is more likely to stop importing Australia’s green hydrogen and instead compete as a green hydrogen exporter.

Cleaning up the manufacturing industry

According to the IPCC study, the industry is responsible for around a quarter of world emissions. It warned that attaining net-zero in the industry would be difficult and would need new manufacturing technologies, including hydrogen.

China’s industrial sector, notably energy-intensive cement and steel production, is a substantial contributor to the country’s emissions.

Steel is made by eliminating oxygen from iron ore in order to obtain pure iron. Historically, this has been accomplished by burning coal or natural gas, both of which emit a significant amount of CO2.

However, hydrogen may be utilized to substitute fossil fuels in the steelmaking process.

The advantages of green steel produced in China are twofold. It would lessen China’s reliance on imported coking coal and iron ore from countries like Australia, as well as lowering national emissions.

How is China going to make hydrogen?

Almost all of China’s current hydrogen generation comes from fossil sources.

If CO2 from the process is caught and stored, coal-based hydrogen can theoretically be created cleanly. In China, this is being studied as a possible hydrogen manufacturing method.

However, the technology is notoriously difficult and costly, and it does not catch all CO2 released.

Even if some emissions are absorbed, a market for coal-based hydrogen cannot be guaranteed as countries attempt to cut their emissions.

China would most likely combine nuclear and hydropower — the country’s two cheapest non-fossil fuel energy sources – to make green hydrogen.

Many Chinese coastal regions are engaging in green hydrogen production using excess nuclear energy. There are also plans to use nuclear power to generate hydrogen for steel production.

In China, hydroelectricity is another way to generate hydrogen. It is a low-cost energy source that is frequently generated in excess in the provinces of Sichuan and Yunnan.

However, in China, as everywhere, the increase of nuclear and hydroelectric capacity comes with hazards and societal consequences.

Dams producing hydropower, for example, can deprive local populations of their livelihoods. And the Fukushima tragedy in Japan – as well as Russian threats to nuclear plants in Ukraine – demonstrate the dangers of nuclear disasters.

Arnes Biogradlija
Creative Content Director at EnergyNews.Biz

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