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Moving Toward a Hydrogen Economy in the U.S. and Beyond: A Roadmap to Decarbonization

3 Sept 2023

As the world races toward decarbonization, hydrogen is emerging as a key player in the transition to a sustainable energy future. While it may not be the golden age of hydrogen just yet, significant strides are being made to harness its potential, both in the United States and on a global scale.

International Commitment to Green Hydrogen

Countries worldwide are investing heavily in low-carbon hydrogen and clean fuels. The United States, for instance, allocated $9.5 billion for clean hydrogen in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, with additional policies and incentives through the Inflation Reduction Act. Similarly, the European Union boasts programs like the Clean Hydrogen Partnership and the European Clean Hydrogen Alliance, while China has ambitious plans to deploy 50,000 hydrogen fuel cell vehicles by 2035.

The Power of Hydrogen: Decarbonization and Energy Security

The driving force behind this hydrogen surge is clear: green hydrogen and clean fuels like bioethanol, biodiesel, and e-ammonia are essential for decarbonizing economies heavily reliant on fossil fuels. Hydrogen's versatility extends to ensuring energy security worldwide due to its abundance.

The Path to a Hydrogen Economy

But how will the hydrogen economy take shape, especially in sectors like transportation, heavy industries, and power generation? Gas power plants will play a vital role in providing dispatchable energy when renewable sources are unavailable. However, to align with decarbonization goals, these power plants must transition to hydrogen.

Hydrogen-Ready Gas Turbines

To facilitate this transition, new gas power plants need hydrogen-ready gas turbines capable of burning hydrogen mixes and eventually 100% hydrogen for emission-free energy generation. Manufacturers like Siemens Energy have already introduced industrial gas turbines designed for pure hydrogen operation.

Building the Hydrogen Infrastructure

While hydrogen-ready turbines are crucial, a comprehensive hydrogen economy also requires substantial infrastructure. Hydrogen production capacity, pipelines, transportation, and storage facilities are needed to support its widespread adoption. Governments are investing in expanding existing hydrogen infrastructure, such as the U.S. Gulf Coast hydrogen network.

Hydrogen's Role in Industry

Hydrogen is set to revolutionize emissions-intensive industries like steel, cement, and chemicals. Projects like Salcos aim to minimize natural gas usage using green hydrogen. Additionally, green hydrogen can replace fossil feedstock in chemical production, supporting the shift toward synthetic climate-neutral fuels for aviation, shipping, and heavy-road transport.

Power Plants: Leading the Way

Power plants are another sector where hydrogen adoption is gaining traction. Regulatory pressures and commitments to carbon neutrality are driving the transition to hydrogen-ready gas-fired power plants. Many countries, including the U.S., are aiming for carbon-pollution-free electricity by 2035. Siemens Energy has witnessed increased interest in turbines capable of firing 100% hydrogen.

Hydrogen: A Spectrum of Possibilities

Not all hydrogen is created equal, with various production pathways resulting in different colors of hydrogen, from grey to green. Blue hydrogen, produced with carbon capture and storage, is a transitional step toward green hydrogen, which is entirely emissions-free and produced using renewable energy.

Laying the Groundwork for Hydrogen

Demonstration and pilot projects around the world are already testing hydrogen's feasibility in industrial applications and power plants. These initiatives pave the way for a hydrogen-powered future, even as the development of hydrogen infrastructure remains a lengthy process.

Fast-Tracking Hydrogen's Future

While the journey to a hydrogen economy will take time, it must be fast-tracked to meet decarbonization targets. Patience is key, as we are only at the beginning of harnessing hydrogen's potential to decarbonize emissions-intensive sectors. Just as oil infrastructure developed over decades, hydrogen infrastructure will also require time and investment.

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