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Comment: Hydrogen is a clean energy source everyone seems to like, so why not use it more to combat climate change?


Tehran, 1943: Joseph Stalin, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill—Directed by the young Shah Reza Pahlavi – agreed on plans for a two-front attack on Hitler while outlining Europe’s east-west divide. There is nothing wrong with holding the meeting in Iran, in separate consultations with the pope. Gulf oil was an important resource to the Allied war effort. Oil has been flowing under the surface of political conflicts ever since.

Fast-forward to the present day, political opponents and energy players are again creating a messy path forward, this time focusing on the long-term energy transition when different nations try to slow down and ultimately stop climate change.

2015 Paris Agreement is a groundbreaking diplomatic effort – 196 countries pledged to prevent average temperatures from rising more than 2 C (3.6 F), with targets lower than 1.5 C (2.7 F). To achieve that goal, scientists say use fossil fuels will have to be achieved no net emissions by mid-century.

The special feature of the Paris climate agreement is that it has made all major parties agree – especially major greenhouse gas emitters including Russia, China, India, Brazil and members of OPEC, Petroleum Exporting Countries.


Like electricity companies’ transition from coal to natural gas, hydrogen can be easily converted to cleaner energy with enough investment.

Now, the challenge is implementing many of the solutions needed to bend the global warming curve. The Paris Agreement is not a treaty – states set their own goals and define their own strategies for achieving them. Each signatory has its own political background, economic structure, energy resources and climate exposure.

Commitments from countries are still missing when President Joe Biden holds a virtual climate summit with international leaders on Earth Day, April 22, 2021 and perform difficult diplomacy with Russia, China and other countries to develop workable solutions.

Hot news: Biden pledges to cut U.S. greenhouse gases by 50% by 2030 – with major implications for the oil and gas industry

As an energy economist, I am familiar with the growing responses of countries to climate change and investment shifts of companies and different visions for the future. One technology that has drawn attention from groups on all sides is hydrogen.

Different visions for the future of energy

As the world’s population and economy develop, energy demand is expected increased up to 50% for the next 30 years, so the right long-term investment is crucial.

Energy companies and policymakers have many different visions of that future. Their long-term scenarios suggest most expect fossil fuel demand to remain stable for decades and possibly decline. However, many people also increase of them Invest in cleaner technology.


Oil has been flowing under the surface of political conflicts ever since.

The International Energy Agency – which states often look for future scenarios, but have a history of underestimating demand and clean energy –forecast that renewable energy will meet about a third of global energy demand by 2040 under the most optimistic scenario. That would be a world with a higher carbon tax and more wind, solar, electric vehicles, and carbon capture and storage. Greener technologies can help keep warm below 2 degrees Celsius, but not entirely.

Exxon
XOM,
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on the other hand, forecasts one Road depends on fossil fuel-based economy, with a slower transition to electric vehicles, stable oil and gas demand and a warmer world. Exxon is also investing in capturing and storing carbon and hydrogen, but they believe oil and gas will provide half of the global energy supply by 2040 and renewable energy will be less than a fifth.

Exxon launched the idea of ​​a $ 100 billion private and public carbon capture center, the largest of its kind.

OPEC, whose members are among the countries most affected by climate change and dependent on oil and gas, also see oil and gas dominating in the future. However, some Gulf countries are also investing heavily in alternative technologies – including nuclear, solar, wind, and hydrogen – and trying to switch away from oil.

BP
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suggests a more focused shift to cleaner energy. That is “quick script“Constant energy demand forecast and stronger shift to renewables combined with a growing hydrogen economy. The company expects its own renewables to grow from 2.5 gigawatts in 2019 to 50 gigawatts by 2030, and its oil output will drop 40 percent.

From Barron’s: Investors were skeptical of the European oil giants’ push to decarburize, the analyst said.

Others are exploring the potential of hydrogen as well. Like electricity companies’ transition from coal to natural gas, hydrogen can be easily converted to cleaner energy with enough investment.

Since this fuel is getting so much industry attention, let’s take a closer look at its potential.

How is hydrogen practical as a climate solution?

Hydrogen potential to fuel cars, buses and planes, heat buildings and act as the primary source of energy to balance wind and solar energy in our grid. Germany sees it as a potential alternative for hard coking coal in steelmaking. It also gives energy companies a future market using processes they know about. It can be liquefied, stored and transported over existing pipes and LNG vessels, with some modifications.

However, so far, hydrogen is not widely used as a clean energy solution. First, it requires an upfront investment – including carbon capture capacity, pipeline modification, industrial boilers to generate heat rather than gas and fuel cells for traffic – plus policies. support the transition.

Second, for hydrogen to be “green”, the grid must be zero emissions.

Most of the hydrogen today is made from natural gas and is called “gray hydrogen.” It is produced using high temperature water vapor to separate hydrogen from carbon atoms into methane. Unless the extracted carbon dioxide is stored or used, the gray hydrogen will produce the same amount of CO2 that warms the climate as natural gas.

“Blue hydrogen” uses the same process but captures carbon dioxide and stores it just to about 10% CO2 is released into the atmosphere. “Green hydrogen” is produced by using renewable electricity and electrolysisBut it is twice as expensive as blue and depends on the cost of electricity and water availability.

Many electric and energy utility companies, including Shell
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BP and Saudi Aramco, are actively exploring the transition to a hybrid hydrogen economy, with a focus on blue hydrogen as a temporary step.

Europe, with a dependence on imported natural gas and higher electricity costs, set ambitious net energy goals that will combine the combination of blue and green hydrogen with wind, solar, nuclear and an integrated energy grid.

China, the world’s largest user of energy and greenhouse gas emissions, is investing heavily in natural gas, which is already about half of carbon dioxide emissions coal – along with carbon capture and storage and a growing combination of solar and wind power. Russia, the second largest natural gas producer after the US, is expanding gas production and exports to Asia. Some of those gases can form blue hydrogen.

Enhancing blue and green hydrogen as clean energy solutions requires significant investments and long-term modifications to energy infrastructure. In my opinion, it’s not the magic bullet, but it can be an important step.

Find a solution in the chaotic political landscape

Of course, investments in technology cannot eliminate the world’s political turmoil. People and leaders globally still have differing views on urgency of the climate crisis and the need for greener energy investments.

Perhaps the rally leaders will find some common ground like sea ​​rise and record breaking temperature. The key to achieving Paris goals is that countries invest now for a cleaner future.

John Ballantine is professor of international business at Brandeis University, where he specializes in energy / climate change, corporate finance and political economy.

This commentary was originally published by ConversationHydrogen is one of the future fuel oil producers and environmentalists can assist even as rival countries seek climate solutions.

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