Status, Drivers & Barriers
Green hydrogen is an energy carrier that can be used in many different applications. However, its actual use is still very limited. Each year around 120 million tonnes of hydrogen are produced globally, of which two-thirds are pure hydrogen and one-third is in a mixture with other gases (IRENA, 2019a). Hydrogen output is mostly used for crude oil refining and for ammonia and methanol synthesis, which together represent almost 75% of the combined pure and mixed hydrogen demand.
Today’s hydrogen production is mostly based on natural gas and coal, which together account for 95% of production. Electrolysis produces around 5% of global hydrogen, as a by-product from chlorine production.
Currently, there is no significant hydrogen production from renewable sources: green hydrogen has been limited to demonstration projects (IRENA, 2019a).
DIFFERENT SHADES OF HYDROGEN
DRIVERS OF THE NEW WAVE OF GREEN HYDROGEN
*Fuel cells use the same principles as an electrolyser, but in the opposite direction, for converting hydrogen and oxygen into water in a process that produces electricity. Fuel cells can be used for stationary applications (e.g. centralised power generation) or distributed applications (e.g. fuel cell electric vehicles). Fuel cells can also convert other reactants, such as hydrocarbons, ethers or alcohols
*System flexibility is here defined as the ability of the power system to match generation and demand at any timescale
*The Hydrogen Council is an example of a private initiative. Launched in 2017, it has 92 member companies (by October 2020). The Hydrogen Initiative under the Clean Energy Ministerial is an example of a public initiative, where nine countries and the European Union are collaborating to advance hydrogen. The Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking is an example of private-public partnership in the European Union.
However, green hydrogen still faces barriers.
BARRIERS TO THE UPTAKE OF GREEN HYDROGEN
POLICIES TO SUPPORT GREEN HYDROGEN
*Belgium, Canada, China, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Spain, United Kingdom and United States.
The stages of green hydrogen policy support
POLICY PILLAR 1: NATIONAL STRATEGIES
POLICY PILLAR 2: ESTABLISH POLICY PRIORITIES FOR GREEN HYDROGEN
POLICY PILLAR 3: GUARANTEE OF ORIGIN SCHEME3
*For the purpose of this report, GO is used to define all schemes quantifying the GHG emissions of hydrogen or its derivatives.
**This is applicable to all advanced renewable fuels, including hydrogen and its derived products
POLICY PILLAR 4: GOVERNANCE SYSTEM AND ENABLING POLICIES
POLICY SUPPORT FOR ELECTROLYSIS
- Setting targets for electrolyser capacity
- Tackling high capital cost.
- Improving tax schemes for electrolysers.
- Paying a premium for green hydrogen.
- Ensuring additionality of renewables generation.
- Increasing support for research
POLICY SUPPORT FOR HYDROGEN INFRASTRUCTURE
Realising the potential of green hydrogen will require careful policy attention to meet the challenges of transport and storage.
It is important to begin now to plan the infrastructure of the future; similar to the planning of the power grid, the effects of such planning will be seen decades from now.
Policy makers should consider:
- Kicking off international collaboration on global trading of hydrogen
- Identifying priorities for conversion programmes
- Aligning standards and blending targets
- Financing infrastructure development
POLICY SUPPORT FOR INDUSTRIAL APPLICATIONS
Converting to green hydrogen can significantly reduce carbon emissions from the industrial sector, which is currently responsible for about one-quarter of all energy-related CO2emissions (or 8.4 GtCO2/yr). Four industries in particular – iron and steel, chemicals and petrochemicals, cement and lime, and aluminium – account for around threequarters of total industrial emissions (IRENA, 2020b).
Grey hydrogen is currently used as a feedstock to produce methanol and ammonia. Green hydrogen could replace much of it with no changes in equipment or technology, eliminating the emissions associated with the production of grey hydrogen.
Over 70% of global steel is produced via the blast furnace/basic oxygen furnace (BF-BOF) route, which relies mostly on coal. Most of the remaining steel is produced from direct reduction of iron (DRI) or steel scrap in an electric arc furnace (EAF), with fossil fuels providing both the reducing agent and energy for DRI and the electricity for the furnace. A structural shift in iron and steel making is needed, with renewables displacing fossil fuels for both energy and reducing agents.
One option is to apply alternative processes that can use renewable energy and green hydrogen (IRENA, 2020b)
POLICY SUPPORT FOR SYNTHETIC FUELS IN AVIATION
Aviation accounts for 2.5% of global energyrelated emissions. It is dependent on high energy density fuels due to the mass and volume limitations of aircraft.
Synthetic jet fuels produced from green hydrogen could play a role as drop-in fuels, complementing biojet fuels in decarbonising the aviation sector (IRENA, 2020b). Synthetic jet fuels are produced from hydrogen and a source of carbon (usually in the form of CO or CO2) and are hydrocarbons with the same physical properties of refined products from fossil fuels.
The amount of synthetic fuel needed for aviation (and thus the overall cost of the energy transition of the aviation sector) could be reduced further through greater aircraft energy efficiency, lower demand for longdistance travel (e.g. through shifts to trains or reduced air travel, wider use of teleworking and teleconferencing), and direct electrification of short-haul flights. Electric propulsion could be feasible for small planes and short-haul flights.
The direct use of hydrogen in airplanes is also under consideration.
To take advantage of the opportunity to cut emissions from aviation using synthetic fuels, policy makers can consider:
- Setting explicit targets for reducing emissions in aviation
- Focusing more on synthetic fuels
- Providing financial incentives to reduce the cost gap between fossil fuels and synthetic fuels.
- Guaranteeing a sustainable carbon source
POLICY SUPPORT FOR HYDROGEN IN MARITIME SHIPPINGS
Maritime shipping is already the most efficient form of freight transport; it uses 30% less energy for a given weight and distance than rail transport and 90% less than heavy-duty trucks. But the 95 000 ships currently in use, which carry 80-90% of all global trade, emit substantial amounts of CO2 – 930 MtCO2 in 2015, equivalent to 2.8% of total global energy-related emissions. With heavy fuel oil providing more than three-quarters of the fuel used by ships, ships are also major emitters of sulphur, particulates and other air pollutants (IRENA, 2020b).
Around 20% of the global shipping fleet is responsible for 85% of the net GHG emissions associated with the shipping sector. Therefore, a limited number of interventions might have a large impact in decarbonising the shipping sector. Electrification via batteries or fuel cells could play an important role for shortdistance vessels. Biofuels are an immediately available option to decarbonise the shipping sector, either in blends or as drop-in fuels.
However, their potential is currently limited (IRENA, 2020b).
Green hydrogen could play an important role, but its adoption would require substantial adaptations to existing onboard and onshore infrastructure. In addition, green ammonia is emerging as one of the most feasible lowcarbon fuel pathways. Leading manufacturers are working on engines that can run on ammonia and are anticipated in 2024.
Many of the policies already described to reduce the cost gap between fossil fuels and green hydrogen and its related fuels will also help make these green synthetic fuels more economically viable for use in ships, from carbon taxes to economies of scale that bring down the price of renewable electricity and ammonia plants.
Beyond those general policies, there are specific steps that governments can take to accelerate the decarbonisation of maritime shipping. While these policies can be implemented either domestically or internationally, they will have the greatest impact at the international level. Policy makers should consider:
- Implementing fiscal incentives.
- Creating demand for green maritime fuels.
- Support infrastructure development
- Support international policy and regulations
Sources : Adapted by IRENA
To see more : IRENA – Green Hydrogen a Guide to Policy Making