Production of carbon-free green hydrogen could be cost competitive by 2030

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By 2030 the production of hydrogen fuel by splitting water, which can be carbon-free provided the electricity used in the process is produced by renewables, could become cost competitive with currently predominant methods that require the use of natural gas as a feedstock, according to analysis by the IHS Markit Hydrogen and Renewable Gas Forum.

This green hydrogen produced by electrolysis, a process that uses electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, is rapidly developing from pilot to commercial-scale operation in many parts of the world.

“Costs for producing green hydrogen have fallen 50 per cent since 2015 and could be reduced by an additional 30 per cent by 2025 due to the benefits of increased scale and more standardized manufacturing, among other factors,” Simon Blakey, IHS Markit senior advisor, global gas, said.

“The work that we have done for the IHS Markit Hydrogen Forum very much focuses on economies of scale as a way of reducing costs, developing dedicated renewables in order to get the load factor on the electrolyser up and, of course, continued expectations of falling costs for renewables. We’re all pretty clear that the trends are in that direction in all three of those areas.”

Investment in so-called power-to-x projects, of which hydrogen makes up the large majority, is growing rapidly. Investment is expected to grow from around $30 million in 2019 to more than $700 million in 2023.

Economies of scale are a primary driver for green hydrogen’s growing cost competitiveness. The average size for power-to-x projects scheduled for 2023 is 100 megawatts, ten times the capacity of the largest project in operation today, according to the IHS Markit Power-to-X Tracker, which tracks hydrogen projects around the world.

Hydrogen production that uses natural gas as a feedstock, via a process known as methane reforming, currently supplies the hydrogen to the chemical and refining industries that today make up the bulk of global hydrogen demand.

“There is growing potential for hydrogen to be used in transport, heating, industry and power generation, Shankari Srinivasan, vice president, global and renewable gas, IHS Markit, added. “Both green hydrogen and blue hydrogen, methane reforming coupled with carbon capture technology, are likely to play a role in the energy future as demand expands.

“Blue and green hydrogen are extremely complementary. If they are developed in parallel, hydrogen will be able to make a big contribution to future energy demand, especially with the ambitious goals on carbon.”

Hydrogen’s overall share in the energy mix will ultimately depend on the extent of decarbonisation that is desired. In Europe, currently the primary market for hydrogen projects, hydrogen could account for as much as one third of the energy mix if the aim were 95 per cent decarbonisation or greater.

 

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