Blue hydrogen as an enabler of green hydrogen: the case of Germany
Within this context the gas industry faces an existential issue, as it needs to find a role within an energy economy that is set to decarbonise rapidly in order for the EU to meet its net zero emissions target by 2050. One solution that has been proposed both at an EU-level and also, as this paper describes, within some countries is the development of hydrogen as an alternative method for supplying gas.
However, this concept begs a further question – hydrogen generated from what? In an ideal world the answer would be from surplus electricity generated from renewable sources and used to electrolyse water to create hydrogen and oxygen with zero emissions. This “green” hydrogen could provide energy for industrial processes, for power generation (largely as a back-up to renewables when the wind is not blowing or the sun not shining) and even for residential and commercial use. Unfortunately, although this outcome would be perfect in theory, the practical reality is that it is highly unlikely to provide sufficient energy by 2050 to be a viable solution on its own.
This is the key argument discussed by Ralf Dickel in this paper on Germany’s hydrogen strategy, which he uses as an excellent case study of the potential future role of hydrogen more broadly. He argues that although the production and consumption of green hydrogen should certainly be a long-term goal, there must be a role for “blue” hydrogen (produced by the reforming of methane into hydrogen plus CO2) as an enabler of a future hydrogen economy. The technology is already available, CO2 storage is becoming more viable and the gradual expansion of hydrogen use can allow new infrastructure to be built that can ultimately be used to enable the development of a green hydrogen business. However, without this interim step the aspirations for hydrogen could falter due to unrealistic expectations based on political, rather than commercial and technical, reality.
Ralf Dickel explores the logic behind this debate in a clear and logical fashion in this paper, and we would recommend it to policy-makers, energy companies and interested observers of the European energy market as a thorough and well-argued analysis of the key issues which need to be addressed if hydrogen is to play a major role in the decarbonisation of the European energy economy.
Read publication: Blue hydrogen as an enabler of green hydrogen: the case of Germany by Ralf Dickel, The Oxford Institute for Energy Studies
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