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23 August 2021updated 05 Nov 2021 1:40pm

A focus on blue hydrogen will delay the energy transition

A study from Cornell and Stanford Universities reveals that blue hydrogen is only slightly climate-friendlier than grey hydrogen, and dirtier than burning gas or coal for heat.

The greenhouse gas footprint of blue hydrogen, made from natural gas using carbon capture and storage (CCS), is 20% worse than burning natural gas or coal for heat, concludes a study from researchers at Cornell and Stanford Universities.

Total CO² equivalent emissions from the production of blue hydrogen are only 9% to 12% less than for grey hydrogen, which is produced from natural gas without CCS, the report states.

Fugitive methane emissions are higher for blue hydrogen than grey hydrogen – 95.4 grams of CO² equivalent per megajoule (g CO2eq/MJ) versus 77.4g CO2eq/MJ – because of an increased use of natural gas to power the carbon capture.

Some fossil fuel companies argue that societies will reach large-scale green hydrogen production (made from renewable energy) via “a blue highway” and politicians are “placing expensive bets on blue hydrogen as a leading solution in the energy transition,” says Robert Howarth, a co-author of the study.

“This is a warning signal to governments that the only ‘clean’ hydrogen they should invest public funds in is truly net-zero, green hydrogen made from wind and solar energy.”

Armin Laschet, chancellor candidate of the German Christian Democrats, launches the inauguration of a green hydrogen production plant at the Shell Energy and Chemicals Park Rheinland in Wesseling, Germany, July 2021. (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)

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