The European Commission is facing calls to assess the climate impact of scores of proposed hydrogen projects after data revealed that 90 percent of them could be used to prolong the use of planet-warming natural gas. Companies operating Europe’s existing natural gas infrastructure are seeking to preserve the value of their assets by converting them to carry clean-burning hydrogen to power homes and industry in line with legally-binding climate targets. But the data compiled by Brussels-based research and advocacy group Food & Water Action Europe, and shared with DeSmog, shows that 57 percent of 147 hydrogen projects under consideration by the European Commission are designed to also carry natural gas, or “blue” hydrogen made from the fossil fuel.
Berlin, Germany — Germany’s push to achieve climate neutrality by 2045 could, by some projections, soon turn the vast network of natural gas pipelines powering the country’s homes and industry into one of Europe’s biggest stranded assets. But gas grid executives gathered in Berlin this week to lay out a survival strategy: Retool their infrastructure to turn clean-burning hydrogen into the engine of Germany’s energy transition. Echoing a trend seen among fossil fuel incumbents the world over, Germany’s pipeline operators are casting themselves as gatekeepers to climate solutions.
Green groups in Oregon celebrated on Wednesday after NW Natural withdrew its application for approval to build a green hydrogen pilot program in Eugene, citing local uproar. "This should be a lesson, not just for NW Natural but for all toxic polluters—the West Eugene community is not a sacrifice zone," said Lisa Arkin, executive director of Beyond Toxics, in a statement. "Eugene residents will not be forced to be guinea pigs for experimental and dangerous technology that perpetrates fossil fuel infrastructure, environmental injustices, and more air toxics," Arkin added. "This project was absolutely unacceptable, and its withdrawal is a testament to the power of community opposition."
In just a few years, hydrogen has shot into mainstream conversations about tackling the climate crisis. It is now one of the most hotly discussed energy topics, and a very particular form of hydrogen known as fossil hydrogen (or 'blue hydrogen’) is being pushed by the fossil fuel industry for government backing. They claim it is climate friendly and can help with efforts to decarbonize our energy system, as it involves the use of carbon capture technology to trap and store emissions. One of the very few plants of this type, “Quest” is owned by Shell in Alberta, Canada. Shell have boasted about the project as an example of how it is tackling global heating, claiming that the project demonstrates that carbon capture systems are “safe and effective” and is a “thriving example” of how this technology can significantly reduce carbon emissions.
Hydrogen has shot up the European legislative agenda in recent years, with politicians of all stripes touting its potential to help countries meet their climate goals. The UK government’s Hydrogen Strategy, launched in August, promises to develop a “thriving low carbon hydrogen sector” as a “key plank” of its climate plans, and the fuel was given pride of place at a “Hydrogen Transition Summit” hosted in Glasgow during the recent UN climate talks. But not all hydrogen is created equal, and environmental experts have raised concerns about the type of hydrogen being advocated – as well as which sectors of the economy it is best suited for. The fuel comes in a variety of “colors”, depending on how it is produced, with almost all hydrogen currently created using fossil gas and termed “grey”.
While celebrated as a climate victory by the Biden administration, the large infrastructure bill passed in the U.S. Senate this week includes billions of dollars of funding toward "blue hydrogen," which new research published Thursday finds is more polluting than coal. The $550 billion bipartisan infrastructure package passed Tuesday includes $8 billion to develop "clean hydrogen" via the creation of four regional hubs. The White House claims that the bill is in step with President Joe Biden's climate goals and advocates of hydrogen energy champion it as a low-emissions alternative for various uses such as fuel shipping, trucking, aviation, and heating. But new research published in the journal Energy Science & Engineering finds that the carbon footprint to create blue hydrogen is more than 20% greater than using either natural gas or coal directly for heat, or about 60% greater than using diesel oil for heat.
It seems like nearly every day another hopeful article touts the potential of using hydrogen as a fuel to tackle climate change. What’s known as “green hydrogen” — which relies on renewable power for production — is getting the bulk of that attention. In December, ABC News ran an article with the headline “Why green hydrogen is the renewable energy source to watch in 2021.” And as Bloomberg has reported, Airbus is betting big on hydrogen as a fuel for its planes. Meanwhile, South Korea’s SK Global just announced an investment in U.S. hydrogen fuel cell producer Plug Power; in the past year, the company’s stock value has increased ten-fold.