NM simply cannot make the economics of hydrogen work - Albuquerque Journal

NM simply cannot make the economics of hydrogen work

The whole purpose of hydrogen production and use is to reduce greenhouse gases. Hydrogen does a poor job of this. Three of the four methods of production require expensive carbon capture and disposal. The fourth method is called Green Hydrogen – electrolysis of water with renewable energy – and this method is energy- and water-intensive.

Hydrogen is typically produced via the steam methane reforming (SMR) of natural gas – methane. The methane gas is broken down into hydrogen and carbon dioxide. When the carbon dioxide is removed, it is referred to as blue hydrogen. … A recent study found the greenhouse gas footprint of blue hydrogen is more than 20% greater than burning natural gas or coal for heat, and some 60% greater than burning diesel oil for heat.

For green hydrogen, water requirements are high and high-purity water is required. It takes 61 pounds/7.3 gallons of raw water to produce 1 pound of hydrogen. This also produces 8 pounds of oxygen and 2.6 gallons of wastewater. Cooling water requires 3.6 gallons of water loss due to evaporation and drift. We simply don’t have the water in the Western states for green hydrogen production, with the current cost to produce it at over $2 per pound.

Safety and health are a major concern with the use of hydrogen. The burning of pure hydrogen would emit more than six times as much NOx into the atmosphere as burning methane. The gas-burning appliances in homes and commercial buildings cannot burn hydrogen without an unacceptable risk of explosion. Hydrogen is extremely dangerous as an explosive, and hard to contain in service distribution pipelines to homes and businesses.

To have hydrogen replace the energy supply of fossil gas in the global economy would require building three to four times more storage and pipeline infrastructure. It is important not to confuse hydrogen pipelines with the United States’ vast network of gas pipelines. These pipelines were designed to deliver methane because these fossil gas pipelines cannot carry meaningful volumes of hydrogen. Hydrogen’s size and energy density make it incompatible with generic pipeline materials and compressor designs. Hydrogen can cause “embrittlement” in steel pipes, and higher flammability and leakage rates create safety risks.

The only time hydrogen is cost-effective is when the feds are handing out massive amounts of money for research and development with hydrogen. Free government money is not free. The taxpayers eventually must pay for it. Our best option for energy production is with solar, wind and battery. This includes heating, cooling and transportation. Hydrogen will probably never be cost-effective as a fuel or source of energy. We may never be able to make the economics work for hydrogen.

Norman Norvelle has worked over 30 years in the oil and gas, coal and chemical process industries.


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