On the climate impacts of blue hydrogen production
Natural gas based hydrogen production with carbon capture and storage is referred to as blue hydrogen. If substantial amounts of CO2 from natural gas reforming are captured and permanently stored, such hydrogen could be a low-carbon energy carrier. However, recent research raises questions about the effective climate impacts of blue hydrogen from a life cycle perspective. Our analysis sheds light on the relevant issues and provides a balanced perspective on the impacts on climate change associated with blue hydrogen. We show that such impacts may indeed vary over large ranges and depend on only a few key parameters: the methane emission rate of the natural gas supply chain, the CO2 removal rate at the hydrogen production plant, and the global warming metric applied. State-of-the-art reforming with high CO2 capture rates combined with natural gas supply featuring low methane emissions does indeed allow for substantial reduction of greenhouse gas emissions compared to both conventional natural gas reforming and direct combustion of natural gas. Under such conditions, blue hydrogen is compatible with low-carbon economies and exhibits climate change impacts at the upper end of the range of those caused by hydrogen production from renewable-based electricity. However, neither current blue nor green hydrogen production pathways render fully “net-zero” hydrogen without additional CO2 removal.
- This article is part of the themed collections: Recent Open Access Articles, Energy Frontiers: Hydrogen and SDG13: Climate Action - Technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions