Hydrogen financing under the Infrastructure Act is a big win for the oil and gas industry

Lambert is here: Well, the bill used to be Two parties…

Author: Justin Mikulka, researcher at New Consensus. Originally published on DeSmog.

The infrastructure bill signed into law by President Biden in November includes $9.5 billion to support the creation of a clean Hydrogen industry — But most of the funds will be used to support the US fracturing natural gas industry under the guise of “clean” blue hydrogen. Although proposed as a clean hydrogen plan for the decarbonization of the energy system, the main focus of the hydrogen part of the bill is to continue and expand the use of natural gas (ie methane) in the U.S. economy through so-called blue hydrogen.

Blue hydrogen is the name of a fuel product that cannot currently be produced on a commercial scale. Hydrogen is marked in different colors depending on how it is produced. There are grays made from fossil fuels and greens made using renewable energy.

Then there is blue. The theoretical idea is to use methane to produce hydrogen, while using carbon capture technology to eliminate more than 90% of CO2 emissions in the production process, making hydrogen “low carbon”.

At present, most of the hydrogen in the world is “grey”, produced from methane without carbon capture, which is a cheap but dirty process.Hydrogen production currently helps 2% of global carbon dioxide emissions, Except for all global warming methane released during natural gas production.

The natural gas industry is promising that carbon capture can eliminate most of the carbon dioxide emissions associated with hydrogen production, but Growing evidence Carbon capture technology cannot be delivered as promised, and even if it can, it is very expensive.

Bloomberg Recent report US Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) played a strong role in supporting the use of fractured shale gas as part of the infrastructure bill for hydrogen production. However, even Manchin recently admitted that carbon capture-which is crucial to the so-called climate credentials of blue hydrogen-is not a realistic solution.

“I really want to do carbon capture, but we don’t have the technology because we really haven’t reached that level yet,” Manchin Explain to E&E“And it’s too expensive, it’s almost impossible to achieve.”

Recently, the CEO of Italian energy company Enel admitted The same reason Regarding carbon capture, he said: “The truth is, it doesn’t work.”

However, the reality of failed carbon capture has not prevented the $3.5 billion in subsidies Support the development of carbon capture in the fossil fuel industry in the Infrastructure Act, as well as funds dedicated to the development of blue hydrogen.Biden’s iconic climate and social policy legislation “Rebuild Better” is also full of More handouts To the fossil fuel industry to support carbon capture.

Although public relations efforts in the oil and gas industry try to use Blue Hydrogen’s false promises to market to the world, the actual clean hydrogen technology has made rapid technological and economic progress, which makes Blue Hydrogen a “clean” or low-cost solution. Obsolete.

Green hydrogen-made from water that uses renewable electricity-is the focus of private funding, and the green hydrogen industry is experiencing rapid growth. The Infrastructure Act does include funding for a clean hydrogen center that uses renewable energy and nuclear energy, as well as research funding to improve these technologies. These are two possible ways to make hydrocarbon-free.

The oil and gas industry hired The same PR company It used to promote climate denial and now sells blue hydrogen to the world. These efforts were initially rewarded with blue hydrogen funding in the Infrastructure Act. However, both the investment community and the climate community agree with Representative Alexander Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY)’s recent conclusions about blue hydrogen: “Blue is not good.”

Blue hydrogen as the lifeline of the natural gas industry

The appeal of blue hydrogen is easy to understand because it is sold as a way to use natural gas to produce energy that does not produce carbon emissions.However, just as the industry promises that natural gas is a clean “bridge fuel” for the clean energy transition, this is another false promise

The natural gas industry is in trouble and knows this well. At an industry conference this year, a slide in the presentation raised the question: “Will carbon capture and blue hydrogen save the natural gas industry.” The answer to this question seems to be: no.

New report”12 Insights on hydrogenThe European think tank Agora Energiewende issued a forecast in November that because hydrogen is unlikely to replace methane as a home heating fuel, the natural gas distribution industry should prepare for the “disruptive end of its business model.” Blue hydrogen is the natural gas industry. A rescue plan to avoid this fate, and the US Infrastructure Act reads like it was written for this purpose.

The language in the bill requires the determination of “economic opportunities for the production, processing, transportation, storage, and use of clean hydrogen in major shale gas producing areas.” The bill also requires “use of existing infrastructure, including all components of the natural gas infrastructure system, to identify opportunities… for clean hydrogen deployment.”

If the goal is to save the natural gas industry from a disruptive end, but if the goal is to reduce carbon dioxide and methane emissions, then these are all good ideas.

The main problem with this approach is that even if carbon capture is technically effective, financially cost-effective, and can produce blue hydrogen, blue hydrogen is still not a clean fuel at the end of the day. Therefore, blue hydrogen cannot be part of a clean hydrogen strategy. Its real purpose is to help avoid catastrophic global warming.

One Recent analysis Cornell University biogeochemist Robert Howarth and Stanford University environmental engineering professor Mark Jacobson discovered that methane emissions associated with blue hydrogen may make it dirtier than directly burning methane.And one New analysis Business intelligence company Fitch Solutions recognizes this reality and predicts that blue hydrogen-related emissions will “limit investment in blue hydrogen”-this is exactly what is happening.

Green Hydrogen is a clean hydrogen solution

according to New report from Agora Energiewende“Analysts agree, but not all lobbyists agree: hydrogen’s role in climate neutrality is crucial, but it’s second to direct electrification.”

Nonetheless, lobbyists in the natural gas industry continue to debate the future The house is heated Using hydrogen, natural gas power plants are Reused to burn hydrogen, Hydrogen plays a big role in it Light vehicle transportation.

Electrification and batteries may be the best decarbonization solutions for light vehicle transportation, building heating and cooling, and many other applications.The main argument for using electrification instead of hydrogen in these applications is that it is a A cheaper and more effective solution.

Although hydrogen is necessary for the complete decarbonization of the U.S. and global economy, only green hydrogen, not blue hydrogen, can achieve these results.

No emission of hydrogen is essential to decarbonization work. For example, green hydrogen is currently the only viable way to decarbonize the steel industry-accounting for 8% of global carbon dioxide emissions.Although the use of hydrogen to make green steel is still in its early stages, the technology has matured and plans to build it were announced earlier this month. A new green steel facility On the Iberian Peninsula (Spain or Portugal).

As happened with renewable energy power generation and battery technology, the economics of green hydrogen are improving rapidly, and much faster than many people expected. This trend has led investors to signal that green hydrogen is a successful solution, and as a result, the industry is expanding rapidly, even before the promise of government incentives. This investment in expanding the green hydrogen economy is expected to result in a significant drop in the cost of producing green hydrogen in the next five years.

Compared with hydrogen made from methane, another advantage of green hydrogen is that it does not depend on the market price of fossil fuels.According to reports, the recent surge in methane prices in Europe has caused Green hydrogen is cheaper Than methane-based hydrogen without carbon capture.

Fitch’s new analysis of the hydrogen market highlights how green hydrogen can significantly defeat blue hydrogen, and points out that there are currently 174 green hydrogen projects in the global market, while blue hydrogen has only 15.New paper Clean hydrogen? – Compare the emissions and costs of fossil fuels and hydrogen based on renewable electricity In the magazine Applied energy, Concluded that for hydrogen production “renewable energy electrolysis [green hydrogen] Using the CCS option may be cheaper than fossil fuels [blue hydrogen], Maybe in the near future. “

Green hydrogen is currently technically feasible, and there is a wave of private investment around the world that will rapidly expand the industry and drive substantial cost reductions. The only reason to oppose green hydrogen is that it is more expensive than methane-based hydrogen.However, 75% of the cost of green hydrogen production is the cost of renewable electricity, and 25% is the cost of the electrolytic cell. Down 80% With the scale of the industry.Renewable energy costs are falling rapidly, it is expected to produce green hydrogen Cheaper than gray hydrogen In many parts of the world by 2030.

The only valid argument for blue hydrogen is that it is a cheaper alternative to clean green hydrogen.That argument No longer validIn particular, there is evidence that blue hydrogen is not “clean” by any standard, and carbon capture technology cannot change this at present.

The infrastructure bill’s focus on shale gas and blue hydrogen has delayed efforts to decarbonize the fossil fuel-based economy and seek to expand the use of natural gas in the United States. The good news is that the market has already spoken, and investors realize that despite the oil and gas industry and bidding politicians , The only way forward is green hydrogen.

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