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World Economic Forum: How to understand the carbon footprint of clean hydrogen

Renewable energy may be zero-carbon, but its generation process, manufacturing, may not entirely be. Some other major sources of carbon dioxide emissions in renewable power generation come from transportation of these technologies from place of manufacture to place of deployment. In addition, some renewable energy technologies may require solid foundations for deployment or additional concrete structures, as in hydropower where reservoir-based hydropower schemes require concrete dams, spillways, and power houses.

Regulatory frameworks such as the Paris Agreement and more recently the European Green Deal, Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and formation of the European Hydrogen Bank are quickly making the hydrogen industry a reality.

Despite significant efforts, the hydrogen industry is yet to address numerous technical, economic and policy challenges. One of these challenges revolves around hydrogen’s carbon intensity and colour nomenclature.

Recent data from the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory was used to calculate the indicative carbon footprint of green hydrogen production. The life cycle of some renewable energy technologies can reach levels higher than 200 g of CO2e per kWh.

While hydrogen production using renewable energy or nuclear has a significantly lower carbon footprint compared to hydrogen using electricity from fossil fuels, in some cases, it is difficult to call renewable hydrogen carbon-free. For exemple hydrogen produced from biomass. It can either be carbon negative or comparable to that of fossil fuels in terms of carbon intensity.

Because of all that, there is ongoing discussions about the need to certify what a low-carbon hydrogen would be. Who would do it ? Which intensity thresholds ?

Click at the image below for a recent article by the World Economic Forum.


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“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”

“I am among those who think that science has great beauty”

Madame Marie Curie (1867 - 1934) Chemist & physicist. French, born Polish.

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