A new peer-reviewed study claims that blue hydrogen may not be as climate-friendly as previously thought. The study has caused a heated argument between its authors and different hydrogen and climate change experts on social media.
Study authors Mark Z. Jacobson from Stanford and Robert Howarth from Cornell University focused on the life cycle emissions of blue hydrogen production. According to its findings, the greenhouse gas emissions from burning blue hydrogen for heating to be 20% higher than those from burning natural gas. Something in direct conflict with goals aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The report continues to point out that the production of blue hydrogen also results in higher fugitive methane emissions than traditional ‘grey’ hydrogen. And even with the use of carbon capture technology, the CO2 emissions of blue hydrogen only come down to being 12% lower than that of the ‘grey’ variety.
The New York Times used the study in an article titled “For Many, Hydrogen Is the Fuel of the Future. New Research Raises Doubts” and its circulation immediately prompted proponents of blue hydrogen to come forward and defend its potential (click on tweet to read the whole thread).
Chief among them were David Joffe, Head of Carbon Budgets at the UK’s Climate Change Committee and Michael Liebreich, CEO of Liebrich Associates and founder of Bloomberg NEF.
The pair claim the study is not accurarte, especially in its assumptions about regulation, leakages at different stages of hydrogen production and transportation, as well as CO2 capture rates.
But perhaps the most important point is whether its reasonable to direct investments that are earmarked for reducing carbon emissions. This is something that will perhaps become clearer in the coming years, as countries like Russia and Saudi Arabia invest in bue hydrogen and private oil and energy companies also develop and deploy their own projects.
But it isn’t just major industry players that are already deeply vested in the transition to blue hydrogen as an energy source. Policy makers and entire governments around the world are being called on in this report to redirect their efforts toward the only genuinely clean hydrogen that is net-zero – ‘green’ hydrogen, produced from renewable sources, such as wind and solar power.