Report revealed that the production of “clean” hydrogen generates tons of CO2

Isbel Lázaro.

producción de hidrógeno genera co2

Inspenet, December 27, 2023.

It appears that adequate progress is not being made in the development of clean hydrogen, since 99% generated in 2022 did not meet ecological or low emissions criteria.

To produce 95 million tons of hydrogen, 900 million tons of CO₂ were generated. This is the main conclusion of the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Global Hydrogen Review 2023 report: virtually all hydrogen production comes from “dirty” sources, produced from fossil fuels.

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Although hydrogen is the most abundant element on Earth, it is not found in isolation, but is present in chemical compounds along with other elements. To use it as a source of clean energy , it is necessary to extract it through production processes that are usually highly polluting or entail a high energy cost.

About hydrogen production

Gray hydrogen, obtained from methane, is the most common method. Less common variants include green hydrogen, produced by electrolysis of water using renewable energy, and blue hydrogen, generated from natural gas with CO₂ capture. Last year, only 0.6% of the 95 million tons of hydrogen produced was considered clean hydrogen .

Thus, the production of 95 million tons of hydrogen has resulted in the emission of 900 million tons of CO₂. Although the production of a ton of hydrogen generates more pollution than the burning of a ton of coal (9.47 and 2.88 tons of CO₂, respectively), it is also highlighted that the associated energy production is significantly higher: 40 kWh/ kg versus 7.25 kWh/kg.

The IEA report

The International Energy Agency (IEA) report analyzes the difficulties in consolidating clean hydrogen and the barriers related to its production remain a significant challenge. The first difficulty is that it is still expensive to produce.

Currently, in the market, it has a price almost eight times higher than gas, reaching 230.53 euros/MWh according to the newly introduced Hydrix index. The IEA estimates that by 2030, the production cost of green hydrogen will be around 1.5 dollars per kilogram, a figure that is still perceived as distant.

The data indicate that a change in this situation is not expected in the short term. Although more than 40 countries have hydrogen strategies, only 4% of green or clean hydrogen projects have received a firm investment decision. This implies that, at least for the moment, green hydrogen cannot be considered a real alternative.

This lack of investment affects the demand for clean hydrogen, which is even lower than production. Although current commitments establish a production of 35 million tons of low-emission hydrogen (blue or green), demand does not exceed 14 million tons.

The third major outstanding concern is the insufficiency of infrastructure. According to the IEA, there are currently only 5,000 km of active hydrogen pipelines, located mainly in Europe and the US. These facilities are mostly small, with diameters less than 45 cm, all on the surface (not underwater) and mostly intended to connect refineries with chemical complexes.

Approximately 30,000 km of hydrogen pipelines are in the planning phase, such as the proposed corridor to link the ports of Algeciras with Rotterdam, with a projected investment of 3,000 million euros. However, according to the IEA, only 100 km of these hydrogen pipelines have confirmed investments.

In this context, the IEA considers it crucial to increase the demand for hydrogen, especially the clean type, and for this demand to extend beyond the main consumer sectors, such as industry, refining and pharmaceuticals. Achieving this will require greater commitment from both businesses and governments.

Furthermore, it is expected that the completion of investments will be complicated given the persistent crisis and the increase in inflation. All this while keeping in mind the ambitious European goal of each EU member country producing 10 million tons per year of green hydrogen by 2030, just seven years away.

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