Hydrogen Risks Being The Great Missed Opportunity Of The Energy Transition

At-a-Glance: 

Hydrogen is required to decarbonizing industries that cannot be easily electrified, like deep sea shipping, aviation, and high heat industrial processes. Yet, our recent forecast Hydrogen Future to 2050 finds that hydrogen uptake will be far too slow. To meet the Paris Agreement goals, by 2050 hydrogen should meet approximately 15% of energy demand, but our findings show it will reach just 0.5% by 2030 and 5% by mid-century. Read more: Hydrogen Risks Being The Great Missed Opportunity Of The Energy Transition.  

Key Takeaways:

  • Even if hydrogen production is forecast to fall short of what it needs to be, huge investment opportunities exist. 
  • Electricity-based green hydrogen – produced by splitting hydrogen from water using electrolyzers – will be the dominant form of production by the middle of the century, accounting for 72% of output.
  • Hydrogen will be transported by pipelines up to medium distances within and between countries, but almost never between continents. Ammonia – a derivative of hydrogen – is safer and more convenient to transport and is more suitable for long distance seaborne trade. 
  • Cost considerations will lead to more than 50% of hydrogen pipelines globally being repurposed from natural gas pipelines, rising to as high as 80% in some regions
  • Hydrogen derivatives like ammonia, methanol and e-kerosene will play a key role in decarbonizing the heavy transport sectors (aviation, maritime, and parts of trucking). We do not foresee hydrogen uptake in passenger vehicles, and only limited uptake in power generation. 

Path to 100% Perspective:

Hydrogen is the biggest buzz word these days when it comes to decarbonization, and for good reason. It’s carbon-free, can easily be created from and used to store renewable energy sources, and can be used in gas turbines to increase power system flexibility and reduce carbon emissions. Wartsila is currently participating in hydrogen fuel testing at a power plant in Michigan.

While it’s likely that hydrogen and its derivatives will likely be one of the sustainable fuels of the future, it is not certain. The key for power producers is to invest in flexibility now with engines capable of running on natural gas/hydrogen blends that can be easily converted to operate on whatever fuel becomes the most available in the future.

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