Blue Hydrogen – What is it, and should natural gas be replaced? – News for the energy sector

Blue hydrogen is considered a low-carbon fuel to generate electricity and store energy, heat cars, trucks and trains and buildings. But according to a new report by researchers at Cornell and Stanford University in the United States, 85% of fossil fuels in the UK currently use fossil fuels may be better for the climate – and perhaps a little worse. About half of all homes in the United States use natural gas for space and water heating.

So what is hydrogen fuel – and what makes blue?

According to the International Energy Agency, 96% of the world’s hydrogen is produced using fossil fuels – coal, oil and natural gas – in a process known as regeneration. This involves combining fossil fuels with steam and heating them to about 800 degrees Celsius. Finally, you get carbon dioxide (CO₂) and hydrogen.

The two gases are separated. CO₂ is usually released into the atmosphere, which contributes to global warming, and hydrogen is used to release water vapor in everything from car engines to heaters.

Hydrogen rainbow

Gray hydrogen is the most common form. The dye shows how easy it is to make, and this type comes from natural gas (mostly methane and ethane), most gas heaters and stoves are energy efficient and have been identified by governments as an important source of carbon emissions. It needs to be removed.

Brown Hydrogen uses linseed coal (also brown coal produced for millions of years by compressed peas) or oil. Black hydrogen is produced by the use of a coal-tar element on the balcony.

Of all these alternatives, the hydrogen extraction process generates CO₂ to varying degrees, so they are not the ideal way to achieve pure zero emissions with hydrogen.

Meanwhile, green hydrogen is produced using zero-carbon electricity — such as wind turbines or solar panels — to divide water into hydrogen and oxygen. The process is carbon-neutral, but green hydrogen is more expensive, and is expected to last until 2030.

But blue hydrogen is a hope, especially in the United States and the United Kingdom. Blue hydrogen is produced using the same modification process to produce gray, brown, and black hydrogen, but the normally released CO₂ is trapped and stored underground. Carbon storage and storage equipment are expensive, which increases the cost of fuel, but at least for low-carbon fuel production costs lower than green hydrogen.

Or does he do it?

From the blue

The process of producing blue hydrogen also requires a lot of energy. At the beginning of the process, for each room in the natural gas, only 70-75% of that potential heat remains in hydrogen production. In other words, if hydrogen is used to heat a building, you will need to use 25% more natural gas to produce blue hydrogen if it is used directly for heating.

And according to the US Environmental Protection Agency, methane – the main component of natural gas and the product used to produce blue hydrogen – is the world’s most potent greenhouse gas in a short period of time. In 100 years, methane has a temperature of 28-36 times higher than CO₂, so one methane molecule in the atmosphere has the same effect as CO₂ in 30 molecules.

In the first study of its kind to examine the environmental impact of blue hydrogen throughout life, it was found that fossil gas emissions are much lower than blue hydrogen. Blue Hydrogen needs to produce a lot of methane, and it has to go through renovations, pipelines and ships, providing many opportunities for leaks – enough, according to the study, to make 20% of blue hydrogen worse than fossil gas.

The new study raises doubts about the role that blue hydrogen can play in cutting greenhouse gas emissions, such as heat and heavy industry.

When these new discoveries are taken by the energy community, it is worth considering how the news will be received by Westminster and Washington. The UK government should publish a delayed hydrogen strategy, which will determine where hydrogen is in the country’s decarbonation strategy. Certainly blue hydrogen may not be as green as it appears.

Tom Buckster is a retired professor of chemical engineering at Stratchide University and a technical director at Genesis Oil and Gas Consultants.

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