It is essential to decarbonize industrial applications, shipping, and aviation. Electrification may be a pillar of decarbonization, but for many things electrification is not an option. Shipping and aviation, for example, require storing energy at a high density to cover long distances, which is beyond what batteries can currently achieve. Hydrogen itself might not be the best choice for such applications, but it can be converted into more suitable energy carriers - such as ammonia for shipping, and synthetic fuels for aviation. Industrial processes, which account for as much as 20% of global CO2 emissions, could lend themselves well to hydrogen, with the right infrastructure in place. The World Economic Forum’s Net Zero Industrial Clusters initiative connects public and private stakeholders to assess how to best meet decarbonization goals, and some of these clusters have a strong focus on hydrogen. The Houston-based hub, for example, has more than 100 organizations committed to reducing the cost and emissions of clean hydrogen. Meanwhile the Ohio Clean Hydrogen Hub Alliance has roughly 100 members and aims to establish a clean hydrogen hub in that state, and the Port of Antwerp-Bruges is starting to convert hydrogen into sustainable raw materials and fuel for the chemicals sector. In some places, public support for greater hydrogen use has been established. In the European Union, for example, the REPowerEU plan put forward in 2022 would make 75% of the hydrogen used in industry renewable, and 5% of all renewable fuels non-biological in origin (including hydrogen and its derivatives) by 2030. The first wave of approved “important projects of common European interest” related to hydrogen include some for industrial applications. The European Clean Hydrogen Alliance has a total of 750 projects that have been identified as viable for investment, 172 of which are for industrial applications. In the US, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed in 2021 includes $8 billion in funding for hydrogen hubs designed to drive down the costs of production, storage, and use. The main barriers for hydrogen uptake in industrial applications include the high cost of hydrogen technology relative to alternatives, a lack of demand for sustainable products, and a lack of policy support. At the same time, the range of possible enabling measures is vast; it includes sustainable public procurement, the use of quotas, ecolabelling, and “carbon contracts for difference” that enable governments to reward emissions reduction in tailored ways.
Hydrogen and the Toughest Emissions Challenges