Recent research has raised questions about the global-warming impact of uncombusted hydrogen. When it leaks from storage, pipes and other infrastructure into the atmosphere, new studies suggest hydrogen absorbs more heat than previously understood. And, perhaps more importantly, it extends the atmospheric life of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
Proponents argue that hydrogen is a critical climate solution. “Green” hydrogen, for example, is made with zero-carbon electricity, effectively turning things like solar and wind energy into a storable fuel that can replace natural gas in many end uses. But could hydrogen’s warming impacts outweigh its advantages?
That depends on your assumptions about how and where we use it.
In this episode, Shayle talks to Thomas Koch Blank, senior principal at RMI, where he leads the organization’s Breakthrough Technology Program. Shayle and Thomas examine the new research and discuss topics like:
Where we will use hydrogen and varying risks of leakage in those applications
Poor applications for hydrogen, like turning “blue” hydrogen derived from steam methane reforming into synfuel
Estimated leakage rates and the incentives for hydrogen producers to build low-leakage systems
Hydrogen’s total warming impact, factoring in how much natural gas it could replace
How natural gas and hydrogen compare kilogram for kilogram or megajoule for megajoule
The time horizon we should use to evaluate the global warming potential of hydrogen
Hydrogen leakage measurement, verification, and safety
Environmental Defense Fund: Emissions of Hydrogen Could Undermine Its Climate Benefits; Warming Effects Are Two to Six Times Higher Than Previously Thought
RMI: Hydrogen Reality Check #1: Hydrogen Is Not a Significant Warming Risk
Columbia University’s SIPA Center on Global Energy Policy: Hydrogen Leakage: A Potential Risk for the Hydrogen Economy
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