Nick Butler: It is time to unlock the potential of hydrogen. The last decade has seen 16 per cent growth in the global consumption of electricity from renewable sources such as solar and wind. The reduction in costs — down 70 per cent for wind and 89 per cent for solar over the past decade — opens the prospect of further significant growth over the next decade. That will help reduce emissions and encourage the replacement of emission-intensive sources of electricity. But wind and solar are not going to solve the challenge of climate change, because the majority of energy use cannot be switched to electricity. Other solutions are necessary. The favourite option for now seems to be hydrogen, which could help oust hydrocarbons (oil, coal and natural gas) in areas that are beyond the reach of electrification, such as the heating sector or the production of iron and steel. How far away is such a possibility, and what are the barriers? We are at the end of Act One in the story of renewables. The sector is no longer dependent on subsidies and can now produce at scale as the latest plants being developed in countries such as the US and China demonstrate. The largest solar facility in the world — the Tengger Desert plant in China — has a capacity of more than 1,500MW and supplies 600,000 homes. Act Two will see the industrialisation over the next decade of both wind and solar and their penetration of markets across the world. According to the International Energy Agency, some 15 per cent of total final energy consumption is likely to come from these two sources by 2030 and falling costs should encourage more electrification, not least in vehicles. That is all to the good, but Dolf Gielen and Emanuele Taibi of the intergovernmental International Renewable Energy Agency say that is not sufficient. Even if half of all final consumption was electrified, the other half — including heavy lorries, much of the heating sector and energy intensive industries such as iron and steel — remains overwhelmingly dependent on fossil fuels. To go further we have to move beyond the first-generation renewables — wind and solar. One much-promoted solution is the use of hydrogen, which could be produced either from non-renewable energy sources such as natural gas, with the carbon captured and stored — “blue” hydrogen — or from electrolysis of renewables, and then used as a direct power source or converted into other fuels such as ammonia or synthetic hydrocarbons — “green” hydrogen. Technically, both are practical possibilities.
FT 3rd Feb 2020 read more »
Investors hit the gas on hydrogen producers. Falling costs boost element’s potential in broader transition away from fossil fuels. Shares in some producers of hydrogen and manufacturers of fuel cells have soared to their highest levels in a decade.
FT 4th Feb 2020 read more »
Close to 80% of the world’s hydrogen production is derived from natural gas (gray hydrogen), 20% from coal or lignite (black or brown hydrogen), the remainder from electrolysis of water (green hydrogen if renewable power is used). Add carbon capture to steam methane reforming or gasification and you get blue hydrogen. In a decarbonized world, the future of hydrogen will be blue or green. Energy companies are racing to commercialize these processes. Its early days and the costs are high, but the potential prize is a material slice of future fuel, chemical and industrial feedstock markets.
Platts 3rd Feb 2020 read more »