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Hydrogen Not a Good Option for Residential Energy Use, Study Finds

Efforts to blend hydrogen into natural gas main lines could push up energy costs and have minimal emissions reduction effects. Global Hydrogen Trade to Meet the 1.5C Climate Goal: Part II – Technology Review of Hydrogen Carriers, a recent report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), determined that while it may be possible to blend up to 20 percent hydrogen into gas grids without expensive infrastructure retrofits, there are “multiple disadvantages that limit the prospect of this option.” While existing natural gas pipelines could be used without repurposing them to be compatible with hydrogen transport if a blend was used, “the only benefit is that it allows production to be scaled up without the need to include infrastructure or end use.” A 20 percent blend would lead to just a 7 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, and the price of gas would increase, as hydrogen is about 10 times as expensive as natural gas in the U.S. The report suggests that using a blend in the natural gas grid is impractical for household use such as cooking and heating. Hydrogen is seen a potential clean fuel source that can help the U.S. meet its climate goals. It can be produced cleanly using natural gas with carbon capture technology, or from water using large amounts of renewable energy in electrolysis. However, the technology and infrastructure must be scaled up in order to be affordable and widely used. “Hydrogen is a clean fuel that, when consumed in a fuel cell, produces only water, electricity, and heat. Hydrogen and fuel cells can play an important role in our national energy strategy, with the potential for use in a broad range of applications, across virtually all sectors - transportation, commercial, industrial, residential, and portable,” the U.S. Department of Energy website states. “Hydrogen and fuel cells can provide energy for use in diverse applications, including distributed or combined-heat-and-power; backup power; systems for storing and enabling renewable energy; portable power; auxiliary power for trucks, aircraft, rail, and ships; specialty vehicles such as forklifts; and passenger and freight vehicles including cars, trucks, and buses.” It is widely viewed as a way to decarbonize the energy-intensive trucking, rail, and shipping industries, as well as being industrial uses that require large amounts of energy, such as steelmaking. The IRENA study would suggest that those sectors may see more benefit from hydrogen use than the residential sector, as development of hydrogen technology rapidly continues.

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