March 28, 2023

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Why pink hydrogen produced using nuclear may have a big role to play

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Both pink and blue have been used to differentiate between different methods of hydrogen production.

Eve Livesey | Moment | Getty Images

From Tesla’s Elon Musk to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, the past few years have seen many high-profile names talk about the role hydrogen may — or may not — play in the planet’s shift to a more sustainable future.

Musk has expressed skepticism about hydrogen’s usefulness, but many think it could help to slash emissions in a number of sectors, including transportation and heavy industry.   

While there’s a major buzz about hydrogen and its importance as a tool in securing a low-carbon future — a topic that’s generated a lot of debate in recent months — the vast majority of its production is still based on fossil fuels.

Indeed, according to a Sept. 2022 tracking report from the International Energy Agency, low-emission hydrogen production in 2021 accounted for less than 1% of global hydrogen production.

If it’s to have any role in the planned energy transition, then hydrogen generation needs to change in a pretty big way.   

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“The first thing to say is that hydrogen doesn’t really exist naturally, so it has to be produced,” said Rachael Rothman, co-director of the Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures at the University of Sheffield.

“It has a lot of potential to help us decarbonize going forwards, but we need to find low-carbon ways of producing it in the first place,” she said, adding that different methods of production had been “denoted different colors.”

“About 95% of our hydrogen today comes from steam methane reforming and has a large associated carbon footprint, and that’s what’s called ‘grey’ hydrogen,” Rothman told CNBC.

Grey hydrogen is, according to energy firm National Grid, “created from natural gas, or methane.” It says that the greenhouse gases associated with the process are not captured, hence the carbon footprint that Rothman refers to.

The dominance of…

2023-02-03 02:52:13

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