In this article, we’ll take a look at the role of clean on-site hydrogen generation in the US economy. We’ll also explore the benefits associated with carbon-negative hydrogen production.
A good starting point would be to recognize the clear distinction between the role of hydrogen gas in the US economy and its potential as a fuel and feedstock in a decarbonized system.
While it may appear logical from an environmental perspective, like retrofitting facilities with the latest carbon capture or green hydrogen technologies (hydrogen produced using renewable electricity), other cheaper forms of clean hydrogen (including turquoise hydrogen) will likely become more mainstream.
As a first step, the goal is to minimize carbon dioxide emissions. Later the focus will be to eliminate emissions and, if possible, to become carbon negative.
The Case For On-Site Clean Hydrogen Production
We have established three primary roles for clean hydrogen:
- energy storage and balancing
- usage as a feedstock
- usage as a fuel
While other fuels are capable of fulfilling these roles, they aren’t as scalable or versatile as clean hydrogen. This is why hydrogen is seen as a game-changer for many countries on the path to decarbonizing.
Studies show that solar and wind currently dominate new technology growth in the electrical system. This will continue to prevail as part of the effort to decarbonize and with the need to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions.
The share of renewables on the grid will also continue to increase. However, reliance on solar and wind raises problems that are yet to be solved at scale. The main problems are energy storage and the new power lines needed to meet the fluctuating demands placed on any grid.
Hydrogen has the potential to be one of the few technologies that can help to ensure that the electrical grid performs optimally all year round. Wind and solar-generated electricity can power the generation of clean hydrogen, which is an excellent way of storing energy long-term.
For instance, a small commercial fueling station can generate clean hydrogen for sale onsite.
No carbon dioxide would be produced by using natural gas and a clean turquoise hydrogen process. The hydrogen can then be sold to customers. Additionally, the fueling station can use the same hydrogen to generate electricity if the power goes out. This way,, the hydrogen can serve as a clean store of energy that will continue to meet demand both for the station and fuel cell electric vehicles.
Besides energy storage, hydrogen gas can also be used as feedstock and fuel in numerous sectors. It is a key feedstock for producing synthetic fuels and clean electricity. Synthetic fuels are already a growing subset of clean transportation fuels and are mandatory if we are to meet net-zero emissions by the middle of this century (2050).
Clean hydrogen gas will also serve as an essential feedstock for many large-scale industrial processes, including the production of steel, chemicals, and other metals like iron.
Hydrogen makes an excellent fuel option that’s even safer and more reliable when produced onsite. Onsite clean hydrogen production will make it possible to ensure that vehicles and industries can decarbonize and continue to function normally. Without hydrogen, these industries will have to invest heavily in infrastructure and transportation.
Hydrogen in fuel cells offers more promise in heavy-duty vehicles and shipping than in personal vehicles. Hydrogen gas is one of the few low-carbon options that can provide high temperatures when required for industrial processes like manufacturing various chemicals and providing heat for products such as cement.
However, it is worth bearing in mind that hydrogen used as fuel for specific processes can yield pollutants like NOx (nitrogen oxide). The small pollution from burning hydrogen is much less than the pollution from burning natural gas. But can still have an adverse impact on local communities in concentrated amounts.
It is possible to mitigate the impact of NOx pollution. With the right technology and the right policies, pollution can be minimized to a fraction of what we release today. Other renewable energy solutions can also pitch in to make these processes more eco-friendly.
Hydrogen has a pivotal role across many of the non-polluting and green energy systems that are coming online. However, the key is to produce clean hydrogen onsite. This does away with the cost and transportation risks associated with gas.
It also makes it more practical and economical for use across a myriad of industries. Current estimates suggest that the US could need around 133 million tons of hydrogen by 2050, which is more than 15 times what we are currently producing.
The Need To Start Establishing On-Site Units
While RD&D is an ongoing process, clean hydrogen technologies must be rolled out at scale. This must also be done quickly to help drive down manufacturing costs, especially for technologies that require biomass processing or electrolyzers.
The federal government can help by supporting early-stage deployments via grant programs and cost shares. The DOE is one of the best examples of this with the launch of its Hydrogen Earth shot goal, with the claim of bringing down the cost of producing clean hydrogen to $1 per KG within the next ten years. That,, coupled with a carbon capture process, can help the US eventually become carbon negative.
The long-term Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the recent Inflation Reduction Act can foster the creation of hydrogen hub developments that support initial commercial deployments across various technologies.
While the programs will require annual funding, they will ensure that the US meets its clean energy goals by 2050. In other words, more hydrogen-generating units mean the fuel becomes cheaper and more viable for various uses.
The US Needs To Lead Clean The Way To Negative Carbon Hydrogen Projects
The best way for us to lead in clean hydrogen technology and its production is to leverage all the RD&D investments and deploy new incentives for producing and using clean hydrogen. These steps can go a long way toward cementing our leadership and commitment to domestic energy and the environment and making us a world leader.
At Modern Electron, we have embraced this challenge. We have launched our ME-H series of distributed hydrogen generators, delivering precision clean hydrogen where needed.
By utilizing natural gas and existing infrastructure to carry hydrogen atoms to the point where clean energy is required, Modern Electron eliminates the need for delivery trucks, compression, and pipeline overhauls. No site storage is required, and no new pipe infrastructure is needed.
Our proprietary processes remove carbon before use, capturing carbon for reliable, low-cost sequestration.