The Bright Future of the Hydrogen Economy

The U.S. is counting on hydrogen to play a significant role in the low-carbon economy of the future, but fundamental questions about transportation, storage and cost need to be addressed in order to integrate hydrogen gas into the nation’s existing infrastructure, according to a preliminary study from a new research program at The University of Texas at Austin. That’s because although hydrogen gas burns carbon free, it only gives about a third of the energy of natural gas per unit volume. That means the U.S. will need to make and store much more of it for heating, transportation, power generation and industrial uses.

The research offers a framework for solving these issues, presenting an initial goal of replacing 10% of the nation’s natural gas supply with hydrogen as a reasonable first target. That move could reduce U.S. greenhouse gasses by 3.2%, based on 2019 emissions, and help meet the Department of Energy’s goal of enabling a low-carbon economy in the U.S. The analysis considers what it would take to scale up the use of hydrogen, including integrating hydrogen into the country’s natural gas system, which is probably the most robust in the world, said lead author Mark Shuster, associate director of energy at the Bureau of Economic Geology in the UT Jackson School of Geosciences.

We know how to move gas. We’re very experienced in it, particularly in the U.S., so it makes sense,” he said. “You have a whole suite of potential uses for the hydrogen, but it’s going to take some work, some research, and I think it’s going to take probably some targeted incentives.”

The paper, authored by scientists and economists at the bureau, was published in the Oil & Gas Journal. It came out as Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm announced the goal of reducing the cost of clean hydrogen from $5 a kilogram to $1 a kilogram in a decade.

Bureau Chief Economist Ning Lin, a study co-author, said that hydrogen projects will have to quickly become reality for the Department of Energy’s goal to be met.

There is a lot of research being done, but not enough demonstration,” she said. “In order to achieve the goal of having hydrogen as a meaningful sector in our current energy system with competitive cost, we need to see material progress in scaling up to pilot test capacity and strong cost reduction evidence in the next five years.”

Source: https://news.utexas.edu/