Editorial Feature

Green Hydrogen: Reducing Carbon Footprints in Heavy Industry

Green hydrogen is a key solution for reducing carbon emissions within heavy industries such as manufacturing, mining, and transportation. This article explores the significant role of green hydrogen in minimizing carbon footprints, detailing its environmentally friendly production process while addressing the challenges and opportunities in its adoption.

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Introduction to Green Hydrogen

Green hydrogen is produced through the electrolysis of water, a process that separates water into hydrogen and oxygen using electricity derived exclusively from renewable energy sources.

This method sets green hydrogen apart from grey and blue hydrogen. Grey hydrogen is produced from natural gas through steam methane reforming, emitting carbon dioxide (CO2) in the process, while blue hydrogen also originates from natural gas but involves carbon capture and storage to mitigate emissions (IEA, 2023).

The production of green hydrogen represents a clean energy solution, leveraging wind, solar, or hydroelectric power for electrolysis. This eliminates carbon emissions from the production process and provides a sustainable and versatile energy carrier that can be used across various sectors (Hassan, et al., 2024).

Importance in Heavy Industry

Heavy industries, including steel manufacturing, cement production, and chemical processing, are significant contributors to global carbon emissions, accounting for around 22% of total CO2 emissions worldwide (IEA, 2023).

The inherent energy-intensive processes and reliance on fossil fuels exacerbate their impact on climate change, presenting a formidable challenge in the global decarbonization effort. Reducing carbon emissions in these sectors is complex due to the high temperatures and energy required for industrial processes, making it difficult to find viable, less carbon-intensive alternatives (De Pee, et al., 2018).

Integrating renewable energy sources into existing industrial frameworks presents logistical and technical challenges, necessitating substantial investments in new technologies and infrastructure to make a meaningful impact on reducing their carbon footprint.

Applications of Green Hydrogen in Heavy Industry

Green hydrogen is gaining traction as a versatile fuel and raw material in sectors previously dominated by fossil fuels. In steel manufacturing, companies like Sweden's HYBRIT are pioneering the use of green hydrogen to replace coal in the steel-making process, significantly reducing CO2 emissions (HYBRIT, 2021).

The chemical industry, particularly in ammonia production, sees green hydrogen as a cleaner alternative to natural gas. Projects like the NEOM city in Saudi Arabia plan to produce green ammonia entirely from renewable energy and green hydrogen (ACWA Power, n.d.).

In transportation, green hydrogen is being explored for shipping and aviation, where its high energy density offers a viable alternative to conventional fuels. For example, Airbus has unveiled concepts for hydrogen-powered aircraft, signaling a future where green hydrogen could play a crucial role in decarbonizing air travel (Airbus, 2020).

Benefits of Green Hydrogen

Green hydrogen offers substantial environmental benefits. When produced from renewable energy sources, it enables significant emission reductions and plays a vital role in the transition toward a low-carbon economy (International Renewable Energy Agency, 2022).

Economically, green hydrogen promises to foster job creation in new green sectors and enhance energy security by diversifying energy sources and reducing dependence on imported fossil fuels (International Renewable Energy Agency, 2022). Technically, green hydrogen boasts a high energy density, making it an efficient storage medium for renewable energy.

This characteristic is particularly beneficial for balancing the grid and storing surplus renewable energy for use during periods of low production or high demand. Its versatility as a fuel and feedstock across various industrial processes also underscores its potential to facilitate a wide range of decarbonization strategies (European Commission, 2020).

Barriers and Challenges of Green Hydrogen

The widespread adoption of green hydrogen faces several barriers, notably the high production costs compared to fossil fuel-based hydrogen due to the expensive electrolysis technology and the cost of renewable electricity. Infrastructure for hydrogen storage, transport, and distribution also requires significant investment, presenting logistical challenges (IEA, 2023).

Technological advancements are needed to improve the efficiency and reduce the costs of electrolyzers. Research and development efforts are ongoing, with governments and private sectors investing in innovation to scale up electrolysis technology and integrate hydrogen infrastructure into existing energy systems (European Commission, 2020).

These initiatives aim to lower green hydrogen production costs and develop regulations and standards for its use, addressing safety and compatibility issues to facilitate its adoption across various industries.

The Future of Green Hydrogen in Heavy Industries

The future of green hydrogen in heavy industries looks promising, with projections indicating a significant role in global energy transitions. The International Energy Agency (IEA) forecasts that, with supportive policies and technological advancements, green hydrogen could meet up to 24% of the world’s energy demand by 2050, significantly impacting carbon reduction efforts in heavy industries (IEA, 2023).

Policies and incentives are crucial for this transition; government-led initiatives like the European Green Deal aim to establish Europe as the first climate-neutral continent by 2050, with green hydrogen at the forefront of this ambition (European Commission, 2020). Such policies, alongside financial incentives, could accelerate the development and deployment of green hydrogen technologies, making them more economically viable and encouraging investment in production, infrastructure, and research.

Continue Reading: The Future of Producing Green Hydrogen with Wind Power

References and Further Reading

ACWA Power. (n.d.). NEOM Green Hydrogen Project. ACWA Power [Online] Available at: https://acwapower.com/en/projects/neom-green-hydrogen-project/ (Accessed on 29 March 2024).

Airbus. (2020). Airbus reveals new zero-emission concept aircraft. Airbus [Online] Available at: https://www.airbus.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/2020-09-airbus-reveals-new-zero-emission-concept-aircraft (Accessed on 29 March 2024).

De Pee, A., Pinner, D., Roelofsen, O., Somers, K., Speelman, E. and Witteveen, M. (2018). How industry can move toward a low-carbon future.  McKinsey & Company. [Online] Available at: https://www.mckinsey.com/capabilities/sustainability/our-insights/how-industry-can-move-toward-a-low-carbon-future (Accessed on 29 March 2024).

European Commission. (2020). A hydrogen strategy for a climate-neutral Europe. [Online] Available at: https://energy.ec.europa.eu/system/files/2020-07/hydrogen_strategy_0.pdf (Accessed on 29 March 2024).

Hassan Q, Algburi S, Sameen AZ, Salman HM, Jaszczur M. (2024) Green hydrogen: A pathway to a sustainable energy future. International Journal of Hydrogen Energy. 50(Part B):310-333. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijhydene.2023.08.321

HYBRIT. (2021). HYBRIT: Fossil free gas heating – an important step towards fossil free steel. HYBRIT [Online] Available at: https://www.hybritdevelopment.se/en/hybrit-fossil-free-gas-heating-an-important-step-towards-fossil-free-steel/ (Accessed on 29 March 2024).

International Energy Agency. (2023). Hydrogen. IEA [Online] Available at: https://www.iea.org/reports/hydrogen (Accessed on 29 March 2024).

International Renewable Energy Agency. (2022). Green hydrogen For Industry: A guide to policy making. [Online] Available at: https://www.irena.org/-/media/Files/IRENA/Agency/Publication/2022/Mar/IRENA_Green_Hydrogen_Industry_2022.pdf (Accessed on 29 March 2024).

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the author expressed in their private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of AZoM.com Limited T/A AZoNetwork the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and conditions of use of this website.

Rachael Jones

Written by

Rachael Jones

Rachael Jones, a freelance writer with an MSc in Earth Science and a PGDip in Environmental Management, merges her extensive academic background with years of publishing and editing experience. Focused on digital marketing within the science and technology sectors, Rachael excels in creating compelling narratives that connect intricate scientific ideas with a wider online audience.

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