Our need for a climate-friendly energy source

We need to find a climate-friendly energy source that overcomes those current end-use sectors that are hard to electrify as they need to require high-intensity heat levels than coal and natural gas provides. These high-grade industry heat sectors, known as hard-to-abate, such as steel and chemicals, some heavy transport, aviation, shipping, agriculture, and industrial feedstocks, need to put in place a clean energy carrier.

Enter Hydrogen, reinvigorated and repurposed based on Renewables and new Technology designs

Presently Hydrogen is the only feasible route for at-scale decarbonization. It is a highly versatile, clean, and flexible energy vector. So many have evaluated the potential of hydrogen sector by sector that ramping up Hydrogen is needed to achieve any energy transition in an efficient and economically attractive way.

The problem today is that Hydrogen is simply not (yet) fit for large-scale deployment. The accepted wisdom is Hydrogen is a really good solution as a clean energy carrier, feedstock, and fuel. It can facilitate the extensive scale integration of renewables through conversion from H2O to pure Hydrogen (H2).

The potential to store Hydrogen as renewable Hydrogen can decarbonize the gas grid and can progressively convert incumbent natural gas and coal to this needed low-carbon through working in concert with gas reformation with carbon capture, utilization, and storage solutions (CCUS).

Hydrogen can tackle transport, heating, and cooling in the present energy-intensive industries and is relatively compatible with end-users and offering convenience in any replacement to the existing end-user application.

Hydrogen has been around for years.

It is part of the industrial process today. Arguable it is regarded as a mature business. Today there is a hydrogen market well established, currently estimated at US$135b per year, growing 6 to 8% annually. It is 95% based on fossil fuel extraction due to the intensity of heat required. It is used in the hard-to-abate sectors of chemical refining, iron and steel production, and high-temperature heat applications, including melting, gasifying, drying, and mobilizing a wide array of chemical reactions.

Natural gas is the primary source of hydrogen today, then coal, then oil. In processes through steam methane reforming, it is for producing ammonia and methanol. It is within industries where CO2 is emitted in the atmosphere, significantly contributing to global warming.  Although there is limited carbon capture for such products as urea fertilizer, these hard-to-abate industries are being forced to change to the use of clean resource energy. That is likely to be hydrogen due to its heat-generating properties.

Many Industries today do know a lot about the properties of hydrogen and has been “handling” it for decades. Can they change and what level of investment and system re-design does this incur to accelerate its adoption? The challenge is a big one to turn the present reliance on fossil fuels alongside present limited use of hydrogen, into processes where it is hydrogen as the central energy source produced from clean energy or renewables. Hydrogen solutions will need to be radically different.

The push today and in the future is Hydrogen will be based on clean energy sources, renewables.

Today predictions are suggesting an ambitious scenario for hydrogen deployment that Hydrogen could provide up to 24% of total energy demand alone by 2050 (BNEF analysis) and a similar share in one recent estimate provided by Hydrogen Europe for Europe.

The challenge is to balance the seeking of low-carbon electricity through fossil fuels with carbon capture, utilization, and storage with replacing it with green Hydrogen, all generated by renewables.

The essential need, no easy task, is to achieve in any replacement of existing fuels or process a minimize disruption and replacement, the same or better return, or provide a compelling logic to make the necessary change such as a clear need to switch to clean energy for competitive or societal pressures.

Yet this logic offers a market-driven one, will this energy transition become a socially-driven one, compelling the existing market structures to change. Possible but it needs a very focused effort

Author: @paul4innovating

A transition advocate for innovation, ecosystems, and digitalization for the energy and IIoT systems

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