The United States aspires to be a global leader in hydrogen production

The United States aspires to be a global leader in hydrogen production

Increased manufacturing of hydrogen fuel is now a top focus for the Biden administration as it attempts to halt the fossil fuel pollution that is driving climate change. According to a draught National Clean Hydrogen Strategy and Roadmap unveiled yesterday, the Department of Energy plans to create 10 million metric tonnes of “clean” hydrogen by 2030.

Every year, around 10 million metric tonnes of hydrogen are generated in the United States, although the majority of this hydrogen is “grey” hydrogen created using unclean natural gas. The transition would be to combine that natural gas with contentious technologies that trap carbon dioxide emissions and produce additional hydrogen using renewable and nuclear energy sources.

In a news conference yesterday, Deputy Secretary of Energy David Turk said that clean hydrogen is a “high priority technology for this administration.” “There is one reason for this, and that is adaptability.”

Hydrogen is seen as a viable replacement for fossil fuels. It might be a more environmentally friendly fuel for aircraft or ships, for example. There is also optimism that utilizing hydrogen as fuel might possibly cut greenhouse gas emissions from industrial operations that need very high temperatures, which renewables like wind and solar find difficult to achieve. When hydrogen is produced from surplus wind and solar energy, it also functions as “energy storage,” comparable to a battery, ensuring that copious renewable energy does not go to waste when electricity demand is low.

When hydrogen is burnt, it emits water vapor, which is why it is marketed as a clean fuel. The important caveat is that hydrogen is only as pure as the energy source utilized to make it. Electrolysis, which employs electricity to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen, is one method of producing hydrogen. By splitting water molecules using renewable energy, “green” hydrogen may be produced. There’s also “pink” hydrogen, which is created by nuclear-powered electrolysis.

However, the vast majority of hydrogen generated today is “grey” and emits greenhouse gases. Methane gas combines with high-temperature steam at high pressure to produce grey hydrogen, releasing carbon dioxide in the process. Now, the Biden administration intends to depend on technology that removes CO2 from smokestack emissions to purify grey hydrogen.

This is a problematic idea because detractors believe that it would extend, rather than phase out, the rule of fossil fuels. Furthermore, trapping CO2 does not address methane leaks, which are a major issue for natural gas infrastructure. There are also concerns that a new hydrogen sector would produce its own set of issues. Several environmental organizations lobbied US Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm earlier this week to eliminate hydrogen projects from the Biden administration’s environmental justice efforts, citing safety concerns about leakage from hydrogen pipelines and storage facilities.

Nonetheless, the Biden administration seems set to pursue its hydrogen goals. The strategy released yesterday includes clean hydrogen production targets that increase over time: 20 million metric tonnes by 2040 and 50 million metric tonnes by 2050. According to the Department of Energy, this may cut US greenhouse gas emissions by 10% by 2050. However, the plan is still in draught form, and the DOE says it is seeking comments before completing the approach.

The Biden administration has already begun planning for up to ten regional centers for hydrogen production throughout the United States. According to the DOE, at least one of the hubs should utilize renewable energy to produce hydrogen fuel, while another is expected to use nuclear energy. However, the DOE is also seeking at least two hubs in areas with “ample natural gas supplies.” The DOE announced $7 billion in financing possibilities for the development of these centers yesterday, calling it “one of the greatest expenditures in DOE history.”

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