Generation

6 Myths and Facts About Hydrogen

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water drop in a recycle symbolMyth: Hydrogen is a renewable resource.

Fact: Hydrogen is the most abundant element, but using it first requires capturing it in its pure form. Once you have hydrogen, the combustion and electrochemical processes used to produce electricity from it are “clean” — in that these processes do not emit carbon and mainly result in water vapor as a byproduct. However, hydrogen can be produced from burning natural gas and coal, among other sources. Hydrogen produced from renewable resources is called “green hydrogen.”

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factoryMyth: Hydrogen is only for industrial processes.

Fact: Industries such as oil refining and steel predominantly use hydrogen today, but its potential applications extend into many sectors. Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are already in use in the transportation sector, and electric utilities are exploring how to use hydrogen for long-duration energy storage or as a generation resource. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory projects that hydrogen could account for up to 14% of energy demand in the U.S. by 2050.

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arrows suggesting a swapMyth: Hydrogen can’t replace natural gas.

Fact: From filling in for home heating and cooking to generating easily dispatched electricity, research is beginning to demonstrate how hydrogen can fulfill many of the functions that natural gas serves today. However, while some storage tanks and pipelines could be repurposed for hydrogen, significant upgrades would be necessary to this infrastructure to account for hydrogen’s properties, and green hydrogen currently costs much more to produce and use.

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green hydrogen iconMyth: Green hydrogen is the only low-carbon option for hydrogen’s future.

Fact: Planners are considering “blue hydrogen,” which is produced from natural gas with carbon capture and storage, and “pink hydrogen,” which is produced using nuclear power, as other low-carbon options. Cost and resource availability — and customer preferences — are major drivers in whether these options are viable in a region.

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calendar showing 30Myth: Mainstream use of hydrogen is at least 30 years away.

Fact: While some estimates pin 2050 as when green hydrogen could become cost competitive, many factors, including the relative price of renewables, supportive policies, and ramped-up technology development, could make using hydrogen more attractive as early as the 2030s. A review from the Hydrogen Council asserted that 22 of 35 applications for green hydrogen would be cost competitive relative to other noncarbon options before 2030. Projects underway now already have goals to convert generating plants to 100% hydrogen in the 2040s or earlier.

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diamondMyth: Using hydrogen would drive up electricity costs.

Fact: Today, producing, storing, and then using green hydrogen to generate electricity at small scale would be costlier and less efficient than relying on other sources. However, the economics depend on many factors. Areas with favorable conditions, such as those with salt caverns suitable for storage and which regularly produce excess renewable electricity, would have lower levelized costs. If the cost of hydrogen reached about $3 per kilogram, which is 25% to 50% lower than today, power could be produced at $140 per megawatt-hour, making it competitive with costs for gas peaking. The Department of Energy has a goal in the fiscal year 2022 budget to bring down the cost of green hydrogen production to $1/kg by 2032, which would put hydrogen’s cost in line with combined-cycle natural gas.

 

Learn more in Understanding Hydrogen: Trends and Use Cases

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