‘Blue’ hydrogen may not be a very ‘green’ energy source after all | Smart News

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Pictured: A hydrogen gas station sign in Osnabrück, Lower Saxony in Germany.
Photo by Friso Gentsch / picture alliance via Getty Images

Hydrogen is often considered the fuel of the future. Scientists initially predicted that it would be clean, renewable and efficient. Getting it to work, however, could be a problem. Some of the current technologies, including a process known as “blue” hydrogen, can pollute more than traditional fossil fuels.

Blue hydrogen is derived from the methane in natural gas. It has already been presented as a better alternative because the production emissions are captured and stored deep underground. However, new research indicates that this energy alternative may in fact be worse than burning coal.

A peer-reviewed study published in Energy Science & Engineering, an open source journal, concludes that “the greenhouse gas footprint of blue hydrogen is more than 20% larger than that of natural gas combustion. or coal for heating and about 60% to that of diesel combustion. for the heat, “according to the newspaper.

In addition, carbon dioxide is a by-product of the production of blue hydrogen. While the plan is to capture and store the gas, the question remains what to do with this supply in the future. There are also concerns about the long-term viability of keeping it underground, reports Loz Blain of New Atlas.

Climatologists Robert Howarth and Mark Jacobson, authors of the new study, point out that this storage process is probably not as “clean” as previously thought. Cornell and Stanford researchers, respectively, report that considerable amounts of methane escape into the atmosphere when natural gas is extracted from the Earth. Based on industry standards, they estimate the leak rate to be 3.5% of consumption for these “fugitive emissions” or unintentional gas leaks.

In just 20 years, a ton of methane emissions can heat the air 86 times more than carbon dioxide, reports show Tim De Chant Ars Technica.

“Our analysis assumes that the captured carbon dioxide can be stored indefinitely, an optimistic and unproven hypothesis,” the study authors write in the article. “Even if this is true, the use of blue hydrogen seems difficult to justify for climatic reasons.”

Oil and gas companies hope to switch to hydrogen in the near future. However, producing hydrogen is expensive and likely will remain so for decades to come.

The $ 1 trillion infrastructure package just approved in the US Senate aims to make hydrogen a more accessible resource. The bill includes $ 8 billion to develop four regional “clean hydrogen” centers to provide a low-emission fuel source for transportation and home heating, reports Oliver Millman of the Guardian.

As a palliative, energy producers are proposing to use “gray” hydrogen processes, less expensive but producing more methane and carbon dioxide. This process involves exposing natural gas to high heat, pressure and vapor, which releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, reports Ars Technica.

“The combined emissions of carbon dioxide and methane are greater for gray hydrogen and blue hydrogen (whether or not the flue gases are treated to capture carbon) than for any fossil fuel,” write the study authors in the article. “Methane emissions are a big contributor, and gray and blue hydrogen methane emissions are greater than any fossil fuel. “

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