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Sustainable Hydrogen: Mitsubishi's Insight into the Green Energy Transition

3 Sept 2023

In a rapidly evolving energy landscape, sustainable hydrogen is emerging as a key player in the global shift towards clean energy solutions. Professor Dr. Emmanouil Kakaras, Executive Vice President of NEXT Energy Business at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries EMEA, shares his profound insights into the role of hydrogen in achieving sustainability goals in an exclusive interview with Energy Digital.

Diverse Sources of Sustainable Hydrogen

Sustainable hydrogen comes in various forms and originates from different sources. The primary type is 'green hydrogen,' which is produced through electrolysis using renewable energy sources like solar and wind. However, it's crucial not to overlook other hydrogen 'colors.' 'Blue hydrogen,' generated from natural gas with carbon capture and storage, and 'turquoise hydrogen,' produced via methane pyrolysis, offer carbon-neutral alternatives. These diverse sources will be essential in meeting the growing demand for hydrogen in the years ahead. Looking further into the future, 'pink' hydrogen, produced using nuclear power or as a by-product of next-generation nuclear reactors, presents another promising avenue.

Challenges on the Path to Hydrogen Adoption

While progress is being made towards building a comprehensive hydrogen ecosystem, several challenges persist. Many large-scale hydrogen projects are in the pipeline, but only a few have received final investment approval. Governments must provide regulatory and financial incentives to de-risk these pioneering projects. Cost remains a significant hurdle, as electricity prices and renewable energy costs are influencing hydrogen production expenses. In Europe, the anticipated reduction in hydrogen costs has not materialized, potentially impeding the scaling-up of production.

Innovations Driving Hydrogen Production, Storage, and Utilization

Overcoming bottlenecks in electrolyzer manufacturing capacity is crucial. The International Energy Agency emphasizes the need to increase annual electrolyzer production from 11GW to 184GW by 2030. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Group is actively developing next-generation, highly efficient electrolyzers, exploring turquoise hydrogen production, advancing hydrogen-based e-fuels, and enhancing hydrogen storage solutions. Additionally, the company is adapting gas turbines and engines for power generation and shipping to run on hydrogen or hydrogen carriers like ammonia and methanol. The ironmaking industry is another focus area for hydrogen utilization to produce green steel.

Hydrogen's Role in Future Mobility

Hydrogen is poised to play a pivotal role in decarbonizing various sectors of the global energy system. It is particularly well-suited for 'hard-to-abate' industries and activities that cannot be easily electrified. While battery technology has made significant strides, hydrogen remains a crucial option for long-distance transport, aviation, heavy-duty freight, and international shipping. These sectors require energy solutions with higher density than batteries can provide. Hydrogen, along with hydrogen carriers such as ammonia and methanol, and e-fuels derived from CO2 and hydrogen, will all contribute to sustainable mobility solutions.

As the world continues its transition towards cleaner and more sustainable energy, hydrogen's versatility and potential make it a key player in achieving a greener future.

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