Research shows natural gas better for environment than blue hydrogen
“Blue” hydrogen plays no role in achieving g a carbon-neutral future. All the more so, it has a more negative effect on the environment than using a fossil fuel -these were the observations of researchers from Cornell and Stanford Universities in the United States.

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The authors of the research, Robert Howarth of Cornell and Mark Jacobson of Stanford, published their findings in Energy Science and Engineering.

     “Blue” hydrogen is created from natural gas, using the technique of carbon capture and storage. And its use is an important element in the decarbonisation strategy of many countries. According to the research, emissions of carbon dioxide are 20 % higher in production of blue hydrogen  than in simply burning gas or coal and 60 % higher than burning diesel fuel for heating.

     The academics explain this through the large quantity of natural gas needed for producing hydrogen, said Valery Bessel, professor of thermodynamics and thermal engines at the Gubkin Russian State Oil and Gas University. “Gas accounts for 48 % of global hydrogen production and fossil fuels as a whole – 96 %,” Bessel said    Producing “blue” hydrogen involves fewer carbon emissions than producing “grey” hydrogen, using the steam reforming process without CO2 capture, the authors of the report said. But methane emissions are considerably greater.

    “Our analysis assumes that captured carbon dioxide can be stored indefinitely, an optimistic and unproven assumption,” the researchers wrote in their paper. “Even if true though, the use of blue hydrogen appears difficult to justify on climate grounds.”

      The scientists suggest that “blue” hydrogen truly had little to do with a carbon-free future. “We undertake the first effort in a peer-reviewed paper to examine the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of blue hydrogen accounting for emissions of both carbon dioxide and unburned fugitive methane,” Howarth wrote. “This is a warning signal to governments that the only ‘clean’ hydrogen they should invest public funds in is truly net zero, green hydrogen made from wind and solar energy.”

   The authors therefore recommend concentrating on “green” hydrogen produced from renewable energy sources.

    Bessel said green hydrogen will not be in wide use for the foreseeable future, but, rather, be used for local purposes. “Hydrogen isotopes have been very effective in the development of thermonuclear energy and production represents progress,” he said. “For instance, in recent days, a Chinese experimentaltokamak (thermonuclear synthesis reactor) set a new record, working in high-confinement mode for 110 seconds (in the 1980s, the record stood at 0.015 seconds).”

    Bessel said the most economical way of producing hydrogen would be by using surplus capacity at hydroelectric stations. “For example, if one of the eastern Siberian stations has excess capacity, it would be logical to put it to use to produce hydrogen and, subsequently, to fuel vehicles. And that would reduce the carbon footprint,” he said. “But that is a local decision that does not alter the big picture.”


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August 2021