The potential of green hydrogen for decarbonisation

27 November, 2023

Green hydrogen is emerging as one of the most promising solutions for decarbonising key sectors of the economy to make it more sustainable.

This renewable gas, produced from water and green energy, has immense potential to transform the way we generate and use energy.

By using renewable electricity, water is split into oxygen and hydrogen in a process known as electrolysis.

Green hydrogen is emerging as one of the most promising solutions for decarbonising key sectors of the economy

This process is evolving rapidly, thanks to technological innovation, resulting in more efficient electrolysers, more affordable systems, the use of new sources for its production (such as seawater) and other developments that are moving towards the mass production of green hydrogen on an industrial scale.

The result is renewable, zero-emission hydrogen with a wide range of applications. In this article we review some of the most prominent.

Decarbonising industry

Energy-intensive sectors are more difficult to decarbonise because of the complexity of replacing the large amounts of fossil fuels they consume. This is the case with steel and cement production, chemicals and machinery manufacturing, which are among the most CO2- intensive industries and have the greatest impact on climate change. The first two alone already account for more than 50% of all industrial emissions.

Renewable hydrogen offers an alternative to this situation, potentially paving the way for a more sustainable and greener heavy industry. It is also a proposal for the decarbonisation of domestic heat and power generation.

Renewable hydrogen paves the way for a more sustainable and greener heavy industry

Several projects around the world are already leading the way in the production and use of green hydrogen.

Zero emission transport

Transport and logistics is one of the most polluting sectors: it is the leading sector in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and the largest consumer of petroleum products. Green hydrogen is an alternative for every type of transport, allowing it to continue to operate normally and with zero emissions.

On the one hand, it can complement electrification or biomethane to speed up the transition to a more sustainable mobility model. On the other hand, it can decarbonise heavy transport that cannot be electrified.

In the future we will see not only trucks or buses powered by green hydrogen, but also other energy-intensive means of transport such as aircraft or ships.

Storing renewable energy

Green hydrogen makes it possible to store renewable electricity generated at peak times and transport it to where it is needed. So when there is more wind or solar radiation, wind or solar power plants can use it to continue to produce, even if the energy is not needed at that time.

Hydrogen can be stored in large quantities for long periods of time and transported in hydrogen pipelines

Renewable electricity can be used to electrolyse water and the hydrogen produced can be stored for peak demand.

In this regard, hydrogen can be stored in large quantities for long periods and transported in hydrogen pipelines to centres of demand. In this way, the system becomes more secure and flexible, avoiding the intermittency inherent to renewable energies which, on the other hand, are key to sustainable generation.

Transporting renewable energy

One of the main advantages of renewable hydrogen is its ability to make energy production, storage, transport and use more flexible.

This possibility is a reality that we will soon see materialise. Five potential hydrogen corridors have already been identified in the European Union  that will allow renewable hydrogen to be transported from the points of production or import to the places where it will be consumed.

In this respect, it is worth highlighting the joint project between Spain, Portugal, France and Germany known as H2Med, the first renewable hydrogen corridor on the European continent. With the participation of Enagás, this is a key infrastructure that will enable the transport of 10% of the expected consumption of renewable hydrogen in Europe by 2030.

Decarbonisation is a puzzle with many pieces, each contributing to the common goal of a more sustainable future. In this context where we combine strategies and technologies, green hydrogen is a wild card that, thanks to its versatility, can be used in a variety of ways to solve the most complex challenges.