Colorado is emerging as a leader in the production of clean hydrogen fuel, a promising alternative to fossil fuels. With the recent signing of a bill by Governor Polis, the state aims to define clean hydrogen and provide incentives and approval exclusively for environmentally friendly projects.
However, understanding the different colors associated with hydrogen and determining its practical applications are key challenges. In this article, we will explore the technology, potential impact, and challenges surrounding hydrogen fuel, with a focus on Colorado.
Hydrogen can serve as a high-heat source, similar to natural gas, coal, or gasoline. It can also replace natural gas as a feedstock in industries like fertilizer production. However, hydrogen is typically combined with other elements, such as oxygen, and needs to be separated to be useful. Splitting water, H2O, is the cleanest method for producing hydrogen.
Understanding the Hydrogen Color System
The color system associated with hydrogen indicates its production and usage methods, as well as its environmental impact. Green hydrogen is produced by splitting water using clean electricity from renewable sources like solar, wind, or hydroelectric power. It is considered the cleanest form of hydrogen. Gray hydrogen, on the other hand, is produced from methane (natural gas) and results in significant carbon dioxide emissions. Blue hydrogen is an intermediate option that relies on natural gas but captures and sequesters the resulting carbon dioxide. Pink hydrogen, generated using electricity from nuclear power plants, is theoretically possible but faces practical challenges and is unlikely to be implemented outside of Europe.
Colorado’s House Bill 1281 aims to establish a tax credit system for clean hydrogen production. The bill requires that the tax credits only apply to projects meeting specific criteria, including clean electricity production, minimal transport leaks, and prioritization of applications where other clean fuels are not feasible. Additionally, the bill empowers the Public Utilities Commission to review hydrogen projects proposed by investor-owned utilities and assess their funding and impact on affected communities. This legislation is seen as a potential model for other states.
Potential Large-Scale Applications in Colorado
Colorado envisions becoming a designated “hydrogen hub” in collaboration with other southwestern states, which would facilitate research, development, and funding for significant hydrogen projects. Industries that require high-temperature heat, such as steel and cement production, pose challenges for renewable energy adoption. Hydrogen could provide a viable solution in these hard-to-decarbonize sectors. Furthermore, hydrogen can play a crucial role in reducing carbon emissions in the production of fertilizer and serve as peak or backup power for utilities, leveraging excess renewable energy.
While hydrogen presents great opportunities, it also carries risks if not implemented properly. The high costs and storage requirements make it more suitable for heavy-duty transportation, such as trucks, trains, and ships. However, some experts caution against overinvesting in hydrogen and recommend further exploration of electric vehicle electrification. Consumer applications like hydrogen-powered cars are still experimental, with limited infrastructure and support from car manufacturers.