After decades of trying, hydrogen has failed to meet the ambitions of those who bet on it as a source or carrier of energy. This despite continuing to play a fundamental role as a raw material in different sectors, such as crude oil processing, methanol production in the plastics industry or the production of ammonia, which is the main ingredient in the fertilizer industry.
The world currently produces 90 million tons of hydrogen per year, all from fossil fuels, which emit emissions into the air. The hydrogen industry now consumes 5% of natural gas production and 2% of coal production. It generates around 800 million tonnes of emissions per year, equivalent to the annual emissions of Europe’s largest economy, Germany.
But with global concerns about the effects of climate change rising, it appears that the historic moment for hydrogen in the energy field is imminent.
Hydrogen gas burns in clean way, leaving water without emitting carbon dioxide and has a high energy density.
When one kilogram of hydrogen is burned, 2.6 times more energy is provided than when one kilogram of natural gas is burned. Today, there are more than 350 major hydrogen projects in construction in Worldwide. The total investment is expected in it will reach approximately $ 500 billion by 2030.
According to one studio of Morgan Stanley, annual hydrogen sales could increase from the current $ 150 billion to $ 600 billion by 2050.
But reach these expectations in A climate-neutral way will first require either capturing carbon emissions from hydrogen production from fossil fuels or producing it using renewable energy.
Hydrogen is in able to help the world fight climate change through three applications: the first concerns heavy industries that require very high temperatures, such as the steel industry, which is currently responsible for about 8% of global emissions.
The second application concerns commercial transport operations, in particularly those that require long distances beyond the capacity of electric vehicle batteries. Like trucks or even ships and planes.
The third application is the storage market, as hydrogen can be used as an energy storage and transmission material. Where renewable energies in excess can be converted, for example, in hydrogen, stored at relatively low cost and then used in electricity generation when needed.
This energy can be exported without the need for an electrical connection, but through pipelines as gas or by converting it in ammonia and sending it to ships. All of the above inevitably requires a significant increase in the scale and technology of the hydrogen industry, and this will only happen quickly through a competitive cost structure.
For comparison, today the production of gray hydrogen from gas without carbon sequestration costs about $ 1 per kilogram and the main determining factor here is the price of natural gas.
As for the production of blue hydrogen, whose production is still very limited today, its cost could fall to about two dollars per kilogram, double the cost of gray, while the production of green hydrogen in America and in Europe now exceeds 5 dollars per kilogram.
The global production capacity of green hydrogen through what exists today from water electrolysis devices is three gigawatts. But consulting firm McKinsey predicts that capacity will reach 100 gigawatts by 2030, and that this will be accompanied by a corresponding decrease in the cost of each gigawatt of electricity, produced from green hydrogen, at rates ranging from 65 to 75 percent.
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