What is green hydrogen? and Why do we need it by 2050?

Green Hydrogen - H2 produced through electrolysis with renewable power such as wind or solar
Green Hydrogen - H2 produced through electrolysis with renewable power such as wind or solar Image Source: Copyright: Quelle: Windwärts Energie GmbH, Fotograf: Mark Mühlhaus/attenzione

Hydrogen is a light element; however, one kilogram of it carries an equivalent energy of 1 gallon of gasoline which makes it a thriving candidate as an energy carrier and a storage medium. Further, a series of unique chemical and physical properties of this light, flammable, odourless and non-toxic gas make it an essential feedstock for industrial and individual causes. The annual global production of hydrogen has reached 94 million tonnes in 2021 as per the published data by International Energy Agency (IEA). Predominantly, hydrogen is used in the chemical and petrochemical industry, however, it has been projected to create new avenues in industries such as steel, shipping, aviation, long-haul transport, and light vehicles. This creates a rapid growth of global demand for Hydrogen which has been predicted to reach 610 million tonnes per year by 2050 according to McKinsey & Company’s unmatched analysis. As per present norms, Steam Methane Reforming (SMR) and Coal Gasification are the main methods of hydrogen production. In both options, carbon dioxide is emitted in unimaginable quantities. In 2020 alone SMR and Coal gasification together emitted 900 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere and this value is equal to the collective CO2 emissions of a few industrial nations. CO2 emission from SMR and Coal gasification is a huge burden, especially for nations committed to the Paris Agreement of reaching net zero by 2050.

Hydrogen is a colourless gas even its flame at complete combustion is invisible. However, a colour code for Hydrogen has been established according to its production method and the coping mechanism for CO2 emission. Coal gasification, which is considered the most polluted method of hydrogen production, is classified as brown. SMR which is the largest method of hydrogen production in today's norms and the second most polluted production process is classified as grey. As both Grey and Brown hydrogen possesses serious impacts on the environment, a novel class of hydrogen can be seen emerging. It is Green Hydrogen.

What is meant or defined by Green hydrogen? Green Hydrogen is defined as hydrogen produced by electrolysis (electrosplitting) of water into hydrogen and oxygen using renewable electricity.
Cummins HyLYZER is one of the best electrolyzers in today's market
Cummins HyLYZER is one of the best electrolyzers in today's market Image Credit: Cummins.com

Green Hydrogen is defined as hydrogen produced by the electrolysis of water into hydrogen and oxygen using renewable electricity. In this method, both the stoichiometric reaction and the utility systems comply with net-zero targets. Electrolysis is a technique that uses direct electric current to drive an otherwise non-spontaneous chemical reaction. The electrolyser is the apparatus that facilitates electrolysis. Electrolysers can range in power ratings from kW to GW. Green Hydrogen holds a significant promise to meet the complex energy needs of the modern world while helping to meet climate action goals. Green hydrogen has significantly lower carbon emissions than grey hydrogen which is produced by steam methane reforming or coal gasification fulfilling 98% of the present hydrogen market. Since hydrogen is an excellent energy carrier, green hydrogen is growing as a promising way of multilevel energy storage which can deploy to mitigate imbalances that occurred in the grids due to intermittent renewable sources. Further, Green Hydrogen contributes to bridging sectors which are difficult to connect with renewable energy such as steel, chemicals, long-haul transport, shipping and aviation (Power-to-X or P2X approach).

The Levelised Cost of Hydrogen (LCOH)
Figure 01: The Levelised Cost of Hydrogen (LCOH) - Source:https://home.kpmg/xx/en/home/insights/2020/11/the-hydrogen-trajectory.html

Green Hydrogen Economy is unique. The success formula in it lies behind the knowledge, capital, potential of renewable energy and strategic location of the nation. The unit price of Green Hydrogen is driven by the right scaling-up strategy, innovations and availability of renewable electricity at a competitive price. With current development, Green Hydrogen price is predicted to reach a scale of 1 to 3 USD per kilogram by 2050 (Figure 01). The nations which reached the bottom of this scale will be a winner and the race has already begun. Many developing nations such as Namibia, Kenya, Mauritania, COP27 host Egypt, Tunisia, Kazakhstan and India have already committed to billions of dollars of investments with financial and technical support from developed nations such as Japan, Germany, France, Norway and renewable energy companies such as Masdar, BP, Shell, ITM Power, Linde, Nel, Cummings and Fortescue Future Industries. It is worth noting that African nations are ambitiously focusing on capturing 10% of the world’s Green Hydrogen by 2050. They are targeting to secure an additional 60 to 120 billion dollars in GDP with Green Hydrogen-related investments. So any nation which has ample potential in wind and solar energy and is blessed with its strategic location in logistics, do they want to be left out of in race? So it is not just about supporting the net-zero pledge, it is about capturing the rightful portion of an upcoming economy and securing the position of a nation or a company.

Read what experts have to say about Green Hydrogen:

What is green hydrogen and why do we need it? An expert explains
Current momentum on green hydrogen is unprecedented. Green hydrogen derived from water electrolysis using renewable electricity can help us achieve net zero emissions
Dr Emanuele Taibi, Head of the Power Sector Transformation Strategies, International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) explains what green hydrogen is and how it could pave the way towards net zero emissions.
Green Hydrogen: A key investment for the energy transition
Given the significant growth in demand and the parallels of the hydrogen value chain to the fossil fuel value chain, the green hydrogen industry should attract investments. Blending public and private capital can make hydrogen projects bankable and commercially viable.