Hydrogen has received a lot of attention as a fuel source, especially with the launch of new federal incentives supporting cleaner forms of hydrogen production. We at the Clean Energy Group have documented several reasons why the currently proposed blue and green hydrogen overflow projects are concerning, particularly to the environmental justice community.
In a recent webinar, speakers Sean O’Leary of the Ohio River Valley Institute, Eric Schlenker-Goodrich of the Western Center for Environmental Law, and I discussed some of these issues, including widespread hydrogen leaching. The top five fossil fuel industry myths used to greenwash irresponsible hydrogen projects include:
Myth no. 1 – Emission-free hydrogen:
Although hydrogen does not produce carbon dioxide (CO2) when burned, it does produce high amounts of air pollutant nitrogen oxides (NOx). In fact, hydrogen produces six times the amount of NOx as natural gas when burned.
Myth no. 2 – Green hydrogen can help meet decarbonization goals:
Green hydrogen is produced by using renewable energy to power a process called electrolysis. However, electrolysis is a very energy-intensive process, and once green hydrogen is created, it must be converted back into electricity before it can be used. While there may be very specific uses for green hydrogen in hard-to-decarbonize sectors such as aviation, it is also a very large energy user that underestimates the renewables that can directly cause tissue decarbonization.
Myth no. 3 – Hydrogen can be safely mixed into existing pipelines:
Even at very low levels of mixing, hydrogen in steel pipes is known as embrittlement, which can cause explosions and large quantities of leaks.
Myth no. 4 – Hydrogen will save you money:
Hydrogen behaves very differently from natural gas. In addition to the pipeline problems described above, most emission control technologies in natural gas power plants are not equipped to handle large quantities of hydrogen. This means that beyond very low mixing rates, any existing infrastructure will need to be reassembled to use hydrogen safely, an extremely costly endeavor.
Myth no. 5- Hydrogen does not contribute to global warming:
Hydrogen is an indirect greenhouse gas that extends the life of methane in the atmosphere. Due to the small size of the molecule, hydrogen is very susceptible to leakage. A recent study found that based on current projections, global hydrogen leakage rates could increase to 6.5% by 2050—resulting in a warming equivalent to 100 million to 200 million tonnes of CO2 in the atmosphere.