1. Blog

What is 'Blue' Hydrogen and Why it is Dangerous to the Environment?

Shivam Dwivedi
Shivam Dwivedi
Blue Hydrogen (Pic Credit: Vellourec)

Recently, United Nations declared “Code Red for Humanity” over the emergency climate condition. Researchers from Cornell & Stanford Universities branded the blue variety of hydrogen beloved of the fossil fuel sector as a distraction that could divert attention away from genuinely Green Technologies.

This report highlighted that human-induced climate change is already affecting weather conditions in every parts of the world and Blue hydrogen has “No Role in a Carbon-Free Future” and is actually up to 20% more worse for our planet than burning gas or coal to produce heat.

What is Blue Hydrogen? 

  • Blue Hydrogen, generated using natural gas with carbon capture and storage (CCS), is a key element of the energy transition techniques of a number of major nations and global fossil fuel players, considered as an essential short-term answer to de-carbonizing economies without the need to wait for green hydrogen from renewable-powered electrolysis to attain sufficient scale and cost reductions.

  • Blue hydrogen is used  for generating electricity and storing energy, powering cars, trucks and trains and heating buildings too. 

Findings of Research:

  • As per the new report by Cornell and Stanford University Researchers in the USA, it may be no better for the climate and potentially a bit worse- than continuing to use fossil natural gas, that currently keeps homes warm in UK.

  • Recent claims made by the researchers that using Blue Hydrogen with carbon capture and storage is in some applications far worse than burning coal or gas were seized on by those who see green hydrogen produced using renewable power as the only suitable path to a carbon-free future.

  • Cornell and Stanford- Researchers claim a first-of-a-kind peer-reviewed study of blue hydrogen’s lifecycle greenhouse gases footprint debunks any notion that it represents an emissions-free, or even low-emissions option, citing the large amounts of natural gas required to fuel the process itself and the escape of “fugitive methane” from wells and other equipment along the supply chain.

What is Hydrogen Fuel?

  • According to International Energy Agency (IEA), 96% of hydrogen generated across the world is produced from using fossil fuels- coal, oil & natural gas- in a process known as 'Reforming'. It involves mixing fossil fuels with steam, and heating them to about 800°C. Eventually, you get carbon dioxide & hydrogen.

  • These two gases are then separated. The carbon dioxide is often released to the atmosphere where it leads to global heating, and the hydrogen is extracted and used in everything from car engines to boilers, releasing water vapour.

  • So the process of extracting hydrogen from all of these options releases carbon dioxide to varying degrees, that's why they are not much suitable way for attaining net zero emissions with hydrogen.

Blue vs Green Debate:

  • Green hydrogen is generated by using zero-carbon electricity, for instance, generated by wind turbines or solar panels- to break or split water into hydrogen & oxygen. This process is carbon-neutral, but green hydrogen is very costly, and is likely to remain so until at least 2030.

  • The Cornell & Stanford study puts fuel to a debate that has raged for many years in the energy sector over the respective roles of Blue & Green Hydrogen in the energy transition, one extensively charted by Recharge.

  • That has witnessed a broad split between those in the fossil fuel industry leading to accusations that they are seeking to prolong the role in the energy mix of one of their core products, gas-and those from the power sector who align with the view of a top executive from renewable giant Enel that any other form of Hydrogen than green “will be a trick”.

  • Widely considered as a good option in chemicals and heavy industries sector, there is also confusion over hydrogen’s suitability to de-carbonize some parts of the economy at all.

“While carbon dioxide emissions are lower, fugitive methane emissions for blue hydrogen are higher than for gray hydrogen because of an increased use of natural gas to power the carbon capture,” the Research Group explained.

“We further note that much of the push for using hydrogen for energy since 2017 has come from the Hydrogen Council, a group established by the oil and gas industry specifically to promote hydrogen, with a major emphasis on blue hydrogen,” they said.

(Source: RECHARGE)

Like this article?

Hey! I am Shivam Dwivedi. Did you liked this article and have suggestions to improve this article? Mail me your suggestions and feedback.

Share your comments

Subscribe to our Newsletter. You choose the topics of your interest and we'll send you handpicked news and latest updates based on your choice.

Subscribe Newsletters