Often referred to as the “energy of the future,” hydrogen’s minimal carbon emissions serve as a clean alternative to traditional natural gas. Hydrogen is the most abundant element in existence, making up 75% of the known universe, and while it’s essential for life, its pure gas state is very scarce on earth —making up less than one part per million by volume. Rather, it is usually paired with another element to form compounds such as water or natural gas.
So, why is hydrogen critical to a cleaner future? As it stands, the world primarily uses natural gas to generate electricity to provide power to our homes, businesses, for heating and cooking, and for industrial processes. Natural gas is easily obtainable, highly affordable and much cleaner than coal. When we burn natural gas, we create energy, but we also release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This greenhouse gas leads to further climate change issues, warming our atmosphere which is not sustainable for the long-term. However, by using hydrogen for power generation, the only byproduct is 100% pure water vapor.
Natural gas is the main resource used in producing hydrogen, representing a significant portion of the yearly hydrogen production in the world. It can be made many different ways, using a number of different resources, ranging from natural gas to water. The lifecycle emissions can be further reduced by using low carbon power such as nuclear or renewables like hydro, solar and wind power. Although it’s available in many forms, the challenge to unlocking its full potential stems from the costs associated with the technology and the infrastructure buildout to produce, store and deliver hydrogen to end users.
Blue hydrogen vs. green hydrogen
There are two primary classifications of low- to zero-carbon hydrogen, commonly referred to as “blue” hydrogen and “green” hydrogen. They are differentiated based on the way they are produced.
Blue hydrogen is created by extracting hydrogen from natural gas and utilizing carbon capture, use and sequestration (CCUS). The most common methods are steam methane reformation and autothermal reforming. Approximately 95% of the world’s hydrogen is made using natural gas in a reforming process, a subset of which employs CCUS technology and is classified as blue. Blue hydrogen still produces carbon dioxide so it requires use of CCUS techniques to significantly reduce CO2 emissions. However, the most recent federal hydrogen production tax credits provide a boost to the economics of blue hydrogen with a credit of up to $1 per kilogram for projects with lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions rate between 0.45 kg – 1.5 kg.
Green hydrogen uses electricity to split water into separate hydrogen and oxygen molecules through a process called electrolysis. Green hydrogen has many sustainability benefits, as it has low waste and no carbon byproducts. A challenge with green hydrogen is the cost and resources required to produce it on a large scale. However, the recent federal hydrogen production tax credits provide a significant boost to the economics of green hydrogen with a credit of up to $3 per kilogram. This form of hydrogen can be produced and stored when renewable energy is available and the hydrogen is subsequently used to generate electricity when renewables are not available.
How is hydrogen being used today?
Hydrogen is a feedstock for many users in heavy industry, including oil refineries, steel manufacturing fertilizer manufacturing and chemical manufacturing. It is also an option as a fuel for fuel cell vehicles. There are a handful of companies already using hydrogen power in their operations, including fleets of hydrogen-powered delivery vehicles, which can drive hundreds of miles on a single tank. Countries worldwide are adopting hydrogen technology and building critical infrastructure to support this emerging power source.
The future of hydrogen is here
Although it is exciting, tapping into this power source is a massive undertaking, and will require collaboration, commitment and discipline to use this technology to help us achieve our commitment to Net Zero by 2050.
Entergy’s territories are primed and ready to handle the needs of the ever-expanding hydrogen industry. There is a range of hydrogen-ready facilities, an expansive pipeline delivery network, hydrogen storage capacity and future-focused industrial customers within our footprint. In fact, a significant portion of the nation’s existing hydrogen infrastructure (production, storage, and transportation) in the United States today is within or near Entergy’s service territory along the US Gulf Coast. Throughout Entergy’s region, organizations are leading the way in the new era of low-to-zero carbon energy production. These companies are equipped with a skilled workforce and technology to adapt to the next generation of clean energy.
Entergy’s commitment to cleaner power
Now, more than ever, we’re committed to leveraging these advantages and elevating our position as a global force in the energy sector. Entergy is exploring the use of hydrogen as a solution for cleaner power generation and using our diverse power generation portfolio of increasingly carbon-free energy sources to help us and our customers achieve sustainability objectives. Together, with our customers and partners, we’re helping to create a cleaner, more resilient energy future for everyone.