Energizing Tomorrow

Unveiling the Potential of Hydrogen for a Sustainable Future

Embarking on an era of revolutionary energy solutions, hydrogen emerges as a key player, offering a pathway to unparalleled energy efficiency, environmental resilience, and economic competitiveness. Employing the use of hydrogen as a power source is not a new concept, but recent advances in technology have finally allowed us to make progress in this field. As the dawn of hydrogen energy across diverse sectors surfaces—from production and storage to transportation and industrial applications—one must delve into advanced technological options, exploring the unexpected prospect of harvesting this versatile and abundant element.\

The Production Methods of Hydrogen

Hydrogen energy utilizes hydrogen, or hydrogen-containing compounds, to produce energy for various practical applications. Although hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, it is commonly found bound to other molecules and thus needs to be separated. Production is generally classified as black, brown, pink, grey, blue or green, based on the source and method applied. Grey hydrogen is the most conventional form, representing nearly 95% of hydrogen production in the U.S., and is generally sourced from natural gas. This form of hydrogen is produced through a process called steam methane reform but results in direct CO2 emissions.

Similarly, blue hydrogen is produced through steam methane reforming and produces CO2, but unlike grey hydrogen, this production method employs carbon capture and storage (“CCS”) technology which captures and stores CO2 underground. This process is a carbon neutral alternative that does not disperse CO2 directly into the atmosphere. According to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, CCS captures more than 90% of emissions generated from power plants and industrial facilities.

Green hydrogen is produced through electrolysis, which splits water into hydrogen and oxygen using renewable sources such as solar or wind power. This method is cleaner as it emits only water vapor during production. However, less than 0.1% of hydrogen production currently comes from electrolysis due to our grid being unable to support it.

Hydrogen Energy

Hydrogen can be used both as a direct fuel source, which when burned emits zero emissions, and as an energy carrier that can generate electricity. After separating hydrogen atoms through one of the various production methods, it can also be used to store and transport energy. Hydrogen fuel cells are seen as a way to combat the large draws on the renewable grids. During times of peak production from these energy sources, hydrogen can be produced and stored for times of greater need or emergency. Currently, hydrogen stands as the leading option to reduce emissions in the manufacturing, power, and transportations sectors.

Today, hydrogen is used primarily in the refinery process, treating of metals, production of petrochemicals, and the production of chemicals such as ammonia (fertilizer) and methanol. It is also added to fossil fuels through the hydrogenation process which results in cleaner, more efficient fuels. It is predicted by researchers and experts in the industry that in the future, hydrogen will have the following uses:

  • Fuel for producing electricity in fuel cells;
  • Supplement natural gas;
  • Feedstock in the production of synthetic fuels;
  • Fuel for motor vehicles, locomotives and aircraft; and
  • Fuel for space heating.
Current Hydrogen Projects in the US

Unlocking the development of hydrogen energy will be vital in reducing emissions in the most energy intensive and polluting sectors. Various oil and gas companies have emerged as leaders in developing projects that implement hydrogen production and utilization. The following are current examples:

  • In March of 2024, JERA, Japan’s top power generator, came to an agreement with Exxon Mobile to explore the development of low-carbon hydrogen and production of ammonia in the United States. Exxon Mobile is developing a world-scale blue hydrogen plant at its petrochemical complex in Baytown, Texas. The plant is expected to generate up to 1 billion cubic feet of hydrogen a day and over 1 million tons of ammonia. The project is expected to begin production in 2028.
  • Developers are constructing two caverns in Utah that will be used to store hydrogen gas. Their plan is to produce hydrogen with excess solar and wind power in the spring and fall when electricity demand is low and store it in the prospective caverns. Then, in the summer months when electricity is in higher demand, the hydrogen would be burned using a blend of the stored hydrogen and natural gas. The construction of this power plant site is expected to be completed by 2025 with a projected cost of $2 billion.
  • TotalEnergies acquired Talos Low Carbon Solutions on March 18, 2024, for $148 million. As a part of the acquisition, TotalEnergies acquired Talos’ 25% stake in Bayou Bend CCS, which is a carbon transportation and storage solution located in the Houston Ship Channel and Beaumont. Among the stakeholders in the Bayou Bend CCS are Chevron at 50% and Equinor at 25%. This project, the company states, “will be instrumental for the reduction of direct emissions from [their] US operations.

Many of these projects have come after the announcement of new federal tax incentives, which create a 10-year incentive for clean hydrogen production with up to $3.00/kilogram, or up to $85 per metric ton of stored carbon dioxide that is captured after extracting hydrogen from natural gas.

Furthermore, oil and gas companies are among some of the best suited entities to carry out these goals. As hydrogen production is still a very costly means of fuel production, large amounts of capital combined with knowledge, work force, and current infrastructure allow for oil and gas companies to combine this new energy source into their portfolio.

In conclusion, this new and emerging approach offers significant environmental, social, and economic advantages. Currently, the world is exploring the emergence of hydrogen energy across sectors such as energy production, storage, distribution, electricity, heating, cooling for buildings, industrial processes, transportation, and feedstock fabrication. The transition from a fossil fuel-based economy to an economy driven by energy efficiency and sustainability has been a crucial aspect of 21st century engineering and energy technological choices, and hydrogen energy offers a new and possibly endless fuel source. This transition is still in its early stages, and will at best still takes decades to perfect, but it currently presents a viable option for the future.

Kuiper Law Firm, PLLC provides legal services for all aspects of hydrogen-related matters. We understand the evolving regulatory landscape and will continue to monitor the legal complexities of the hydrogen industry. If you have any questions about the information in this article or how it may affect your operations, please do not hesitate to contact us.