Making hydrogen power a reality


A carbon-neutral future has long been envisioned with hydrogen fuel as a potentially important element. Industry professionals will discuss plans to build it at scale at the MIT Energy Initiative Spring Symposium in 2022.

Government and businesses have been eyeing hydrogen as a potentially game-changing instrument in the search for sustainable energy for decades. Energy industry watchers and public policy specialists have lauded the benefits of hydrogen since the early Clinton administration, to the point that some have quipped that it is the energy of the future and “always will be.”

Hydrogen has lagged behind other energy sources due to its high cost and other issues, even as wind and solar power have become more prevalent recently. However, the fuel could be prepared for its big moment at last. Experts reviewed hydrogen production methods, hydrogen consumption markets, the road to a strong hydrogen infrastructure, and legislative reforms required to realize a “hydrogen future” at the MIT Energy Initiative Spring Symposium, which was themed “Hydrogen’s role in a decarbonized energy system.”

In a panel discussion titled “Options for producing low-carbon hydrogen at scale,” four experts outlined current and future initiatives to use hydrogen to reduce carbon emissions.

The race has begun

The Director of HydroGEN, a collaboration of several U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratories, is a senior scientist and group manager Huyen N. Dinh from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). HydroGEN advances research and development of cutting-edge water splitting materials and technologies for clean, sustainable, and affordable hydrogen production.

Dinh has been working on fuel cells and hydrogen generation for NREL for the previous 14 years. The decade of hydrogen, according to us, in the 2020s, she stated. Dinh thinks the energy source is about to take off in the coming years, citing a number of domestic and international initiatives involving the fuel as well as a report from the Hydrogen Council that predicted the fuel’s future effects, including 30 million jobs and $2.5 trillion in global revenue by 2050.

The worldwide race to develop hydrogen has begun, she said.

Dinh also went through the details of the Hydrogen Shot, the first of the DOE’s “Energy Earthshots,” which aims to hasten the development of cost-effective and dependable sustainable energy alternatives. The Hydrogen Shot’s declared objective is to reduce the cost of producing hydrogen fuel from the present $5 per kilogram level to $1 per kilogram in ten years.

In addition to considerable research and development, manufacturing, and recycling from last year’s bipartisan infrastructure package, The Hydrogen Shot will be made possible by $9.5 billion in financing for at least four clean hydrogen hubs situated in various regions of the United States. Dinh pointed out that while it took the solar and wind industries more than 40 years to become cost-competitive, leaders in the business, government, national labs, and academia are currently working to bring down the price of hydrogen fuel in much less time. Stakeholders will need to increase electrolysis’s effectiveness, longevity, and cost in the near future by utilizing nuclear and renewable energy sources. Electrolysis is the process of splitting water using electricity. Long-term attention may move to more direct water splitting using heat or solar energy, she added.

A concerted effort is essential for domestic competitiveness because of the limited time available and the fierce rivalry, according to Dinh.

spanning continents, hydrogen

Hydrogen is a crucial part of Equinor’s plans to be carbon-neutral by 2050, according to Wambui Mutoru, principal engineer for worldwide commercial development, exploration, and production at the Norwegian global energy corporation. Mutoru described the company’s Hydrogen to Humber project in Northern England, as one of many hydrogen projects it is working on with partners. The Humber area now produces 50% more carbon dioxide than the next-largest emitter, making it the most industrialized region in the United Kingdom.

The goal is to establish the first at-scale hydrogen value chain in the world in order to decarbonize the Humber industrial cluster, according to Mutoru.

The project consists of three parts: a clean hydrogen production plant, an onshore network for transmitting hydrogen and carbon dioxide, and offshore activities for moving and storing carbon dioxide. In producing hydrogen, Mutoru emphasized the need for carbon capture and storage. She claimed that for more than 25 years, Equinor had captured and stored carbon offshore, storing more than 25 million tons of carbon dioxide.

In addition, Mutoru discussed Equinor’s initiatives to create a decarbonized energy center in the Appalachian area of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio. She stated that the goal of the corporation is to store 30 million tons of carbon dioxide in addition to producing 1.5 million tons of pure hydrogen annually in the area by 2040, which is about comparable to 6.8 gigawatts of power.

The absence of feasible business models at the moment, according to Mutoru, is the main obstacle facing potential hydrogen producers. In order to create and sustain the hydrogen market over the long run, she stated, “cross-industry collaboration and supporting legislative frameworks are required to address that problem.”

overcoming obstacles

The corporation currently creates hydrogen in a number of methods, according to Gretchen Baier, chief external strategy and communications leader for Dow. For starters, Dow runs the biggest ethane cracker in the world, in Texas. A hydrogen byproduct of the ethane cracking process, which involves heating ethane to break chemical bonds and create ethylene, is hydrogen. A slide of the 1891 patent for the electrolysis of brine water, which also yields hydrogen, was also displayed by Baier. The business continues to accomplish this, but Dow lacks a practical method of using the produced hydrogen for its own fuel.

Just pause and consider it, Baier said. “We’ve been discussing the cost of producing hydrogen, and this is essentially free hydrogen. To some extent recycling that and utilizing it for ourselves is still too difficult. It is obvious that the climate is changing, and we do have plans for it, but I believe that this also sets up some of the obstacles that the industry here must overcome.

However, Baier said that as Dow works to decarbonize by 2050, hydrogen is anticipated to play a big part in the company’s future. She stated that the business intended to acquire clean hydrogen, modify turbines for hydrogen fuelling, and optimize hydrogen allocation and production. More than 60% of Dow’s locations are anticipated to be hydrogen-ready by 2040.

In the coming decades, as the industry works to cut or completely get rid of carbon emissions, Baier noted that hydrogen fuel is not a “panacea” but rather one of many potential contributors. She remarked, “Hydrogen has a role, but it’s not the entire solution.

This is actual

For Constellation, which recently split from Exelon Corporation, Colleen Wright is vice president of corporate strategy. (Exelon currently controls the regulated utilities of the previous corporation, such as Commonwealth Edison and Baltimore Gas and Electric, while Constellation is in charge of the supply and generation of the company’s competitive energy.) Wright emphasized the benefits of nuclear power for producing hydrogen, citing its better economics, ease of installation, and scalability.

“Hard-to-decarbonize sectors” including the industrial sector, steel production, heavy-duty transportation, and aviation now account for around 25% of global emissions, she added. “These are incredibly difficult decarbonization industries, and we’re going to require additional supply as we grow and electrify. Additionally, clean hydrogen production utilizing emission-free electricity will be necessary.

Wright continued, “The size of nuclear power plants is ideally suited to be able to grow hydrogen generation.” She cited the DOE grant for a pilot program that would see a proton exchange membrane electrolyzer erected at the Constellation Nine Mile Point location in the State of New York.

The transition of hydrogen from a [research and development] dialogue to a commercial conversation, she added, “has us quite enthused.” We’ve been jokingly referring to it as a “middle-school dance.” Everyone is waiting around the circle to see whether someone is ready to risk something. But this is actuality. We are not skirting the issue. Today, there are a number of large players that are prepared to risk their own money.


Arnes Biogradlija
Creative Content Director at EnergyNews.Biz

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