According to a University of Alberta expert in hydrogen energy, using a combination of natural gas and hydrogen to heat houses might reduce carbon emissions by as much as 5% without requiring changes to the current infrastructure.
According to Amit Kumar, who provided guidance to the province government in the creation of its hydrogen road map, the blended fuel, known as hythane, could also represent a significant advancement in the switch to clean energy.
“You can transport it in current pipelines, you can use it in your appliances and you can use it for heating purposes with current equipment,” says Kumar, NSERC/Alberta Innovates/Cenovus Associate Industrial Research Chair in Energy and Environmental Systems Engineering.
In Kumar’s own research, different energy paths are modeled utilizing a combination of renewable and non-renewable energy to reduce overall carbon emissions over the coming decades in an affordable manner.
In his most recent study, which was just published in Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Kumar and a team led by engineering PhD student Matthew Davis examined 576 long-term scenarios for global jurisdictions between 2026 and 2050, with each scenario differing in the amount of hydrogen blending, the carbon policy, and the development of the hydrogen infrastructure.
Hythane is inexpensive, so adding it to natural gas networks presents a “near-term opportunity for capacity building, technical learning, and developing consumer confidence,” according to Kumar and his team.
Hydrogen is one of the cleanest energy sources since when it is burned or used in a fuel cell, all that is left over is water.
By converting natural gas to carbon dioxide and hydrogen, the process of producing so-called “grey hydrogen” does release greenhouse gases. However, when that process is combined with carbon capture and storage, another field in which Alberta is a global leader, cleaner “blue hydrogen” is produced.
There will be a chain-wide “well-to-combustion” reduction if at least 42% of the carbon emissions are captured. Especially when carbon prices are over $300 per tonne, he continues, the more carbon emissions are cut, the cheaper the gasoline becomes due to carbon tax savings.
According to Kumar, the Alberta Carbon Trunk Line has “a vast potential to move more” because it is now only using one to two million tonnes of its 14.5 million-tonne capacity.
The task at hand is to move toward “green hydrogen” using energy from wind, solar, and biomass sources. However, compared to blue hydrogen, the price of hydrogen from these sources is high.
According to Kumar, there is a huge market for exporting hydrogen outside of Alberta coupled with our manufacturing and carbon capture know-how, particularly to the rapidly industrializing nations of the Asia-Pacific. But for the time being, employing a mixture of hydrogen and natural gas is the easiest way to move toward a clean energy economy.
Key markets identified in Alberta’s Hydrogen Roadmap, a crucial component of the province’s economic recovery plan, including transportation, power generation and storage, chemical processing, and residential and commercial heating. Hydrogen is used to make fertilizer, ammonia, and other compounds in addition to clean fuel.
According to Kumar, the roadmap includes recommendations that the government is now reviewing, one of which is blending hydrogen with natural gas.