Chemicals & Fertilizers

Reprioritizing Hydrogen Development to Maximize Emissions Reductions: A Strategic Shift in the Hydrogen Sector

“We’d be far better off to be using it in industrial processes, and displacing fossil fuels there.”

SMEBROctober 27, 23:19
Hydrogen Development: Strategic Shift for Emissions Reductions


In recent years, the hydrogen industry has faced setbacks and a more realistic outlook, with reduced demand forecasts and scaled-back operations by major players. However, this shift in perspective may actually benefit the sector by allowing developers to concentrate on making hydrogen a viable solution for specific use cases.

One of the main challenges for potential users of green hydrogen has been the limited availability for real-world testing. Global production of low-emissions hydrogen remains relatively low, hindering the assessment of its viability as a power fuel or heat source. Additionally, the high cost of green hydrogen compared to natural gas has further impeded its widespread adoption.

Furthermore, the proposed use of hydrogen in applications that can be better served by other energy sources has diverted attention and resources. For instance, hydrogen-powered passenger trains have been developed, but electrification has proven to be a more cost-effective solution. 

Similarly, hydrogen fuel cells for household heating face challenges due to the extensive retrofitting required, while heat pumps offer a cheaper alternative.

Hydrogen's potential as a fuel for airlines has also been explored, but the cost of retrofitting airports with hydrogen infrastructure is considered prohibitive. As a result, alternative power sources that are cheaper and easier to deploy have gained traction in the aviation industry.

Andrew Stock, an expert on Energy & Councillor with the Climate Council said, “We’d be far better off to be using it in industrial processes, and displacing fossil fuels there.”

To refocus the hydrogen industry, industry analyst Michael Liebreich suggests prioritizing heavy industry decarbonization. Hydrogen shows promise in the production of fertilizer, chemicals, and oil refining, where it can replace fossil fuels as the primary input and power source. 

These applications may not have the same visibility as hydrogen-powered transportation, but they are crucial for the production of essential industrial ingredients.

By redirecting efforts towards these promising areas, hydrogen developers can accelerate the delivery of scalable solutions for heavy industry. This strategic shift can contribute significantly to global emissions reduction efforts and provide a more focused and substantive approach to the hydrogen economy.

Overall, a narrower focus on specific applications holds promise. By concentrating on heavy industry decarbonization, hydrogen can play a vital role in critical industrial processes. This shift in priorities will allow developers to refine and expand the market, making hydrogen a valuable contributor to global sustainability efforts.