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The Future of Green Hydrogen
Sustainability

The Future of Green Hydrogen

By and | October 27, 2022

Join Sphera Implementation Consultant Dr. Toyin Sanusi, and Rachel Popa, one of Sphera’s content marketing managers, for a conversation on the future of green hydrogen. They define green hydrogen, discuss its advantages and disadvantages in relation to other biofuels and examine the role of green hydrogen in ESG.

 

The following transcript was edited for style, length and clarity.

Rachel Popa: 

Welcome to the SpheraNOW ESG podcast, a program focused on safety, sustainability and productivity topics. I’m Rachel Popa, one of Sphera’s content marketing managers. Today we’re joined by Dr. Toyin Sanusi, implementation consultant at Sphera. Thank you for joining us on the podcast, Toyin. 

Toyin Sanusi: 

Thanks, Rachel. 

Rachel Popa: 

We’re going to be discussing the future of green hydrogen and sustainability and its impact on ESG. Using green hydrogen as a fuel has the potential to keep millions of tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere. Like every upcoming technology, there are challenges with the industrial-scale deployment of green hydrogen. So, Toyin, to get us started, can you explain what green hydrogen is and why our listeners should know about it? 

Toyin Sanusi: 

Green hydrogen is a clean fuel. It’s produced from the elemental separation of water into hydrogen and oxygen, and that’s done majorly via electrolysis. It’s powered by a renewable energy source. The raw material is water, and that is inexhaustible. It can be employed in hydrogen fuel cells in electrical systems, or it can be combusted in engines, and that’s without any carbon release. Hydrogen is very fundamental to a vast amount of our production processes today. However, green hydrogen currently accounts for just over 0.1% of our global hydrogen production. 

Rachel Popa: 

What are some of the production challenges associated with green hydrogen? 

Toyin Sanusi: 

The main constraint is the cost and supply of renewable electricity. The World Economic Forum approximates renewable electricity to account for about 70% of the production cost of green hydrogen. It is estimated that by 2050, 12% of global energy use will be from clean hydrogen. The expectation is that the cost of renewables will continue to reduce relative to non-renewables, and the technologies for water separation will continue to improve in efficiency and cost. In addition, governments [are expected to] continue to encourage the uptake of sustainable fuels by offering subsidies to further reduce green hydrogen costs. 

Rachel Popa: 

How does green hydrogen compare to other biofuels? How is it similar? How is it different? 

Toyin Sanusi: 

Green hydrogen must be created from a renewable energy source for it to be green. Biofuels are produced from various industrial plant processes, which ideally should be powered by renewable energy sources as well. The cost and availability of renewable electricity impacts both fuel groups. Both fuel groups can serve as renewable energy storage, as gas or liquid energy [and] both systems are currently in use globally, albeit at different capacities. 

Now, highlighting the differences between green hydrogen and biofuels: Firstly, the raw materials are different. Biofuels are sourced from biomass. While research continues to improve energy from waste incentives, we still have heavy reliance on land space and agriculture for biomass cultivation. Also, while the use of biofuels is carbon neutral, hydrogen use is carbon zero and so potentially plays a more effective role in decarbonization. A major difference between both fuel groups, which in this case does not favor hydrogen use, is their physical properties. While biofuels are less difficult to manage, hydrogen is a gas at ambient conditions; it’s, in fact, the lightest gas we know. It requires critical conditions to keep it compact and efficient for use in carrier systems and storage facilities. Technologies for managing, distributing and harnessing hydrogen energy are under research. At least one of the electrolysis methods used to split water into its molecules has been in technology for several decades. 

Rachel Popa: 

I think people might be a little bit more familiar with biofuels. I mean, I’ve certainly heard of them. I hadn’t heard much about hydrogen being used as a fuel before I started speaking to you about putting this podcast together. I was wondering if you could give a few examples of ongoing green hydrogen projects that are promising in this area. 

Toyin Sanusi: 

On a regional overview, over 30 countries are in the active commercial planning phase of hydrogen deployment. Chile, Morocco [and] Namibia are emerging as green energy exporters, while fossil exporters, such as Oman and Saudi Arabia, are increasingly considering hydrogen to diversify their economies. In South Korea, electricity power stations are planned to meet at least 10% of their electricity demand by 2030, scaling up to 30% [of electricity demand] 10 years after. The industrial sector is in full-scale research of green hydrogen capabilities, including aviation giants such as Boeing and Airbus, which are working alongside airports and fuel suppliers, [including] major oil and gas companies such as Shell, British Petroleum, Exxon [and] Total. They have significant investments in the complete hydrogen supply chain and are partnering with specialist industries and utility companies within Europe and globally. 

Rachel Popa: 

How does green hydrogen fit into the conversation around ESG? What impact can there be on ESG with increasing deployment of green hydrogen? 

Toyin Sanusi: 

Full-scale hydrogen is relatively new, though there are positive claims that increasing hydrogen deployment could potentially strengthen energy independence. So strategies and tools to monitor governance and social changes that are influenced by an increasing green hydrogen energy share are required. The environmental impact of new infrastructure deployment, including material use and reliance on existing infrastructure, will need to be measured against the ESG pillars to create a less biased comparison with other energy sources.

Rachel Popa: 

Are there environmental limits to sustainable fuel usage? 

Toyin Sanusi: 

From an ecological footprint perspective, biofuel use is more sustainable than fossil fuel use. Bio-productive land is, however, devoted to the cultivation of biomass. The implication is that as we reduce the fossil fuel ratios of our fuel blends, we reduce the agricultural resources such as bio-productive land area. The result is resource competition, inflated prices, environmental and food quality pressures—the scenarios are extensive. There is a limit to which biomass can be deemed sustainable, as the raw material is not inexhaustible. Governments are thus currently determining these limits via different measures. This is an incredibly positive driver for green hydrogen, which in several ways is used to support sustainable agriculture with much less reliance on agriculture resources. 

Rachel Popa: 

Great, thank you, Toyin, for your insights on this and for joining us on the SpheraNOW ESG podcast.  

Toyin Sanusi:  

Thank you. 

 

 

 

 

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