Time for some Hydrogen Real Talk

Time for some Hydrogen Real Talk

If you’re involved in energy in any way, you’ve undoubtedly heard a lot about hydrogen recently.  Hydrogen proponents will tell you that it can power our cars, businesses and homes and is the future of energy and the answer to our climate woes.

Sounds great, doesn’t it?  After all, hydrogen is the most abundant chemical element in the universe by mass.  It’s literally everywhere.

Many combustion technology manufacturers of engines and turbines, as well as fuel cells, have successfully adapted their products to run on hydrogen and hydrogen blends.

So, if hydrogen is everywhere and technology exists to convert it to electricity, what’s the hold up?

Here is the time for real talk.  The only way to produce usable hydrogen is to consume large amounts of fossil energy or dedicate huge renewable energy systems to hydrogen production.  These processes involve either climate pollution or massive financial investment and space allocation or both.

Drilling down, say you’re a pharmaceutical company that wants to get its energy from hydrogen.  Your best option is to build a giant steam plant fueled by natural gas that will reform the steam into usable hydrogen.  Then of course you need another conversion plant onsite such as turbine, engine, or fuel cell to generate power from usable hydrogen.  Your costs go way up as do your GHG emissions.  There are other ways to produce hydrogen but today 95% of hydrogen is produced from steam reforming of natural gas.

When a customer asks us about hydrogen, we are proud to tell them that our power generation solutions can cleanly and reliably operate on hydrogen-based fuel.  Everyone is excited for a second and then we ask where they get their hydrogen from.  The excitement fades and reality sets in and we get down to business – providing rational climate and energy solutions that support their bottom line and the environment today.

When the hydrogen supply chain matures to supply our customers with economical and readily available fuel, we will be ready.  Research, development, and deployment must continue.  Please don’t wait for that day to take action.