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Gearing Up For The Expansion of Hydrogen in North America
July 21, 2021
| Kelly Moir

Producing low or zero-emission hydrogen is crucial to ensure its potential as a clean form of energy. Most of the hydrogen available today is produced using energy from hydrocarbons, particularly natural gas. Hydrogen produced in this way is known as “grey” hydrogen.

While this process generates significant carbon emissions, it can be made almost emission-free by using carbon capture and storage to store any carbon emissions that are produced safely back underground. The product is then known as “blue” hydrogen.

Hydrogen can also be made via electrolysis, by splitting water into oxygen and hydrogen using electricity from renewable sources. When produced like this, the process is also almost emission-free, and the hydrogen is known as “green” hydrogen.

“The biggest roadblock for clean hydrogen (green or blue) has been the high production cost, which is nearly 4-6 times more expensive than fossil-based hydrogen.”

Which Countries Currently Lead In Hydrogen Usage?

The European Union (EU) is currently leading the world in the development of hydrogen technology [3]. With the current priority really being on decarbonizing heavy industries, especially refineries and petrochemicals, the push for the hydrogen and electric economy is huge. However, they have learned that electrifying everything isn’t the answer as the electricity sector has impacts of its own, as well as a higher energy density, is needed to truly decarbonize these heavy industries.[3]

As of December 2020, Europe had begun the process of creating a financing framework for hydrogen. A report from the Hydrogen Council published July 15, 2021 suggests that globally 131 large-scale projects have been announced through to 2030 [4]. Many of these projects focus on hydrogen pipelines.

“[The EU] has learned that electrifying everything isn’t the answer as the electricity sector has impacts of its own, as well as a higher energy density, is needed to truly decarbonize these heavy industries.”

How Are We Seeing the Hydrogen Economy Emerge In North America? 

For a while now, the hydrogen economy has been emerging in the United States. There are a handful of countries that we can look to model the transition to hydrogen, as they have been leading the way for years now, including European countries (as previously mentioned and some Asian nations (Japan, China, South Korea) [1]. The United States is moving towards broad commercialization of fuel cells and hydrogen energy, as it is home to several leading fuel cell, electrolyzer and hydrogen component and system manufacturers, as well as large multinational hydrogen companies with liquid and compressed hydrogen production and distribution equipment [2]. 

A handful of executives from oil & gas, power, automotive, fuel cell and hydrogen companies collaborated to create a Roadmap to a US Hydrogen Economy, a detailed report looking at how the United States can expand in its efforts to evolve the hydrogen economy and scale up activity. One of the major potential roadblocks is the initial investment required to transition to hydrogen solutions. In addition to cost, regulatory barriers and appropriate standards need to be assessed and adapted to this field, as each state or region will likely have their own approach and priorities to implement. [2]

Therefore, the first steps we need to be taking include:

  • Educating policymakers on the differences between green, blue, and grey hydrogen 
  • Directing capital to the hydrogen economy in America
  • Developing standards and regulations that fit the new hydrogen economy’s needs

What are your thoughts on the expansion of hydrogen in the United States? Let us know in the comments section.

Sources: 
[1] https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/10-countries-moving-towards-a-green-hydrogen-economy
[2]
https://cafcp.org/sites/default/files/Road+Map+to+a+US+Hydrogen+Economy+Full+Report.pdf
[3] https://www.brinknews.com/can-the-eu-successfully-build-a-hydrogen-economy/
[4] https://www.h2-view.com/story/hydrogen-investment-pipeline-has-grown-to-500bn-says-new-hydrogen-council-report/

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Kelly Moir
Kelly Moir