The CEO of ITM Power (LON: ITM) has hit out at “oil and gas lobbyists” blurring the lines between blue and green hydrogen.
Dennis Schulz said suggestions of blue hydrogen as more than a “bridging technology” is “morally questionable”, adding that the lobbyists are trying to make it “indistinguishable” to its green alternative.
“More and more oil and gas lobbyists are trying to convince governments to back blue hydrogen also for new installations, which would include building new grey hydrogen plants plus CCS,” Mr Schulz said in a Linkedin post.
“They are lobbying governments to no longer speak of blue and green hydrogen, but only of “low carbon hydrogen”, so that the two become indistinguishable.”
“This is where my sympathy ends”, he said. “Blue hydrogen is a bridging technology to accelerate the decarbonisation of existing assets and has a role to play to kickstart the hydrogen economy. Not more, not less. Everything else is morally questionable.”
ITM Power is a manufacturer of electrolyers for “green” hydrogen, derived from renewable energy.
The cost of electrolysers is falling, however it remains a component of what makes green hydrogen more expensive than its fossil-based alternatives.
Analysts have argued that green hydrogen will become cheaper over time as it breaches an “experience curve” for manufacturing of electrolysers and starts to enjoy economies of scale.
The UK Government has targets for 10GW of “low-carbon hydrogen” capacity by 2030.
Mr Schulz’ firm told Westminster in 2022 that “failure to prioritise green will prevent significant progress in developing the UK hydrogen economy over the next 5 years”.
Lobbying group Offshore Energies UK (OEUK) said blue hydrogen was the “main way that hydrogen can be deployed at scale by 2030”.
Similarly, public body UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) said a joint approach between blue and green “enables production to be brought forward at scale this decade, while at the same time scaling up green hydrogen which is likely to dominate the global market in the long term”.
Grey hydrogen, from natural gas, is an emitter of CO2. Converting this to “blue” hydrogen, by storing CO2 via carbon capture and storage, is a cleaner alternative – and backed by oil and gas firms.
However CCUS has been slow on the uptake, capturing just 0.1% of global emissions in 2022.
Mr Schulz said blue and grey do not compete with green hydrogen for tackling emissions.
“Fossil-based (natural gas) grey hydrogen production generates 10 tonnes of CO2 per 1 tonne of hydrogen… not a great ratio, is it?
“The idea of blue hydrogen is that instead of emitting this massive amount of CO2 into the atmosphere, the CO2 is captured, transported (over oftentimes long distances) and sequestrated, which means putting and storing it under the surface of the earth.
“Whilst I agree that if faced with only the two options to either emit the CO2 into the atmosphere, or to sequestrate the CO2, then the latter is certainly the preferable option. Now, this of course applies to upgrading existing grey hydrogen production plants.
“But does anybody really feel that this is the better or even a remotely comparable route to clean green hydrogen – and not generating CO2 in the first place? Or really even cheaper in the long run?”