New research points to the need to use green hydrogen in industries such as shipping that will be hard to electrify, while focusing on hydrogen in domestic and automotive use risk keeping prices high and stall decarbonisation
New research indicates that governments should focus their hydrogen economies on heavy and hard to decarbonise industries such as shipping rather than on home heating and even cars. Published in the Nature Climate Change Journal the work from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany says that while electro-fuels offer great promise their potential is countered by availability uncertainty and relative effectiveness.
The research points to the need to seek large scale deployment of green hydrogen in industries such as many industrial land-based processes and shipping and aviation.
“ e-fuels’ versatility is counterbalanced by their fragile climate effectiveness, high costs and uncertain availability. E-fuel mitigation costs are €800–1,200 per tCO2. Large-scale deployment could reduce costs to €20–270 per tCO2 until 2050, yet it is unlikely that e-fuels will become cheap and abundant early enough” the research summary states.
The report authors say there is concern that if “hydrogen available” systems are installed in homes for heating or in cars for green use, they could increase the long-term dependency on fossil fuels while costs remain high. They point that many domestic decarbonisation strategies can also be met with direct electrification rather than using renewable electricity to create hydrogen, whereas industries such as shipping cannot directly using electrification at scale.
Therefore, using green hydrogen for such heavy industries would be a better use of renewable hydrogen production. The Guardian Newspaper quotes the papers lead author Professor Falko Euckerdt at PIK saying that ‘precious hydrogen-based fuels should be prioritised for applications and industries where they will be indispensable’.
Producing hydrogen from electricity requires five times more electricity than is needed for directly charging a battery-powered car.
The paper comes as shipping faces pressure to speed up its decarbonisation efforts, having already agreed to targets for 2030 and 2050. While some experts argue that a switch to green fuels can be made fairly quickly, others argue the opposite saying that shipping needs to look for other fuels in the medium term, such as a further investment in LNG. This argument points to a subsequent move to e-methanol or ethane, although even this shift would also rely on the industry’s fuel suppliers having rapid access to affordable renewable electricity for their fuel production.