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IEA: time to tap into hydrogen’s potential to play a key role in a clean, secure and affordable energy future

In a major new report on hydrogen, the International Energy Agency says that the time is right to tap into hydrogen’s potential to play a key role in a clean, secure and affordable energy future.

The in-depth study, which analyzes hydrogen’s current state of play and offers guidance on its future development, was launched by Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director, alongside Mr Hiroshige Seko, Japan’s Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, on the occasion of the meeting of G20 energy and environment ministers in Karuizawa, Japan.

The report—The Future of Hydrogen: Seizing Today’s Opportunities—finds that clean hydrogen is currently receiving strong support from governments and businesses around the world, with the number of policies and projects expanding rapidly.

Hydrogen can help to tackle various critical energy challenges, including helping to store the variable output from renewables like solar PV and wind to better match demand. It offers ways to decarbonize a range of sectors—including long-haul transport, chemicals, and iron and steel—where it is proving difficult to meaningfully reduce emissions. It can also help to improve air quality and strengthen energy security.

A wide variety of fuels are able to produce hydrogen, including renewables, nuclear, natural gas, coal and oil. Hydrogen can be transported as a gas by pipelines or in liquid form by ships, much like liquefied natural gas (LNG). It can also be transformed into electricity and methane to power homes and feed industry, and into fuels for cars, trucks, ships and planes.

Hydrogen is today enjoying unprecedented momentum, driven by governments that both import and export energy, as well as the renewables industry, electricity and gas utilities, automakers, oil and gas companies, major technology firms and big cities. The world should not miss this unique chance to make hydrogen an important part of our clean and secure energy future.

—Dr Birol

To build on this momentum, the IEA report offers seven key recommendations to help governments, companies and other stakeholders to scale up hydrogen projects around the world. These include four areas where actions today can help to lay the foundations for the growth of a global clean hydrogen industry in the years ahead:

  • Making industrial ports the nerve centers for scaling up the use of clean hydrogen;

  • Building on existing infrastructure, such as natural gas pipelines;

  • Expanding the use of hydrogen in transport by using it to power cars, trucks and buses that run on key routes; and

  • Launching the hydrogen trade’s first international shipping routes.

The report notes that hydrogen still faces significant challenges. Producing hydrogen from low-carbon energy is costly at the moment, the development of hydrogen infrastructure is slow and holding back widespread adoption, and some regulations currently limit the development of a clean hydrogen industry.

Today, hydrogen is already being used on an industrial scale, but it is almost entirely supplied from natural gas and coal. Its production, mainly for the chemicals and refining industries, is responsible for 830 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year. That’s the equivalent of the annual carbon emissions of the United Kingdom and Indonesia combined.

Reducing emissions from existing hydrogen production is a challenge but also represents an opportunity to increase the scale of clean hydrogen worldwide. One approach is to capture and store or utilize the CO2 from hydrogen production from fossil fuels. There are currently several industrial facilities around the world that use this process, and more are in the pipeline, but a much greater number is required to make a significant impact.

Another approach is for industries to secure greater supplies of hydrogen from clean electricity. In the past two decades, more than 200 projects have started operation to convert electricity and water into hydrogen to reduce emissions—from transport, natural gas use and industrial sectors—or to support the integration of renewables into the energy system.

Expanding the use of clean hydrogen in other sectors—such as cars, trucks, steel and heating buildings—is another important challenge. There are currently around 11,200 hydrogen-powered cars on the road worldwide. Existing government targets call for that number to increase to 2.5 million by 2030.

Policy makers need to make sure market conditions are well adapted for reaching such ambitious goals. The recent successes of solar PV, wind, batteries and electric vehicles have shown that policy and technology innovation have the power to build global clean energy industries.

As the world’s leading energy authority covering all fuels and all technologies, the IEA says that it is ideally placed to help to shape global policy on hydrogen.

Beyond this report, the IEA will remain focused on hydrogen, further expanding its expertise in order to monitor progress and provide guidance on technologies, policies and market design. The IEA said it will continue to work closely with governments and all other stakeholders to support efforts to make the most out of hydrogen’s potential.



I have not seen this new storage technology reported yet elsewhere than here:

'Although gas hydrate storage methods using only pure hydrogen required high pressure conditions, the researchers confirmed for the first time in the world that when natural gas is injected into a gas hydrate along with hydrogen, the natural gas acts as a thermodynamic formation facilitator, dramatically reducing the storage pressure to 90 atmospheres.

In addition, hydrogen byproduct gas, which currently accounts for most of the hydrogen production in Korea, is generated mainly in the oil refining, petrochemical and steel industries, and thus, it is expected that the cost of hydrogen transport can be drastically reduced if these hydrogen derivatives are transported and stored to hydrogen charging stations with hydrogen + natural gas hydrates through the natural gas grid.

GIST Professor Youngjune Park said, “If this original technology is utilized, it is expected that it will be of great help to establish national energy mix policy since hydrogen can be transported at low cost by utilizing existing natural gas piping network that is already well established in Korea, and hydrogen can be separated from the natural gas at hydrogen charging stations.”

KAIST Professor Jae-woo Lee said, “This study is expected to provide a hydrogen storage technology applicable to the upcoming hydrogen era by using gas hydrates with environmentally friendly features from water with a hydrogen-natural gas mixture storage medium in a low-pressure environment.”'

The technical report behind a paywall is here:

I've had a look at it and the parameters are interesting.
Formation of the hydrates at 9MPa and 263.15K, for H2 in the hydrate of up to 22.4 mol%

That is storage at around -13C, which is just commercial refrigeration at the hydrogen station, for excellent weight to hydrates.

I would caution that since I have little technical training, my readings of a technical report should be taken with some caution, as misunderstandings are easy to make, so those with access should use it, and not take my attempted precis as Gospel.

But since the hydrogen is to be delivered in the NG pipeline network in the proposal, then separated at the station and some of the NG used to help form the hydrate which can then be stored More economically and with less bulk(?) than in high pressure containers, the potential is clear enough.

It would not of course be suitable for use on board, and the hydrogen would still need compression to be put into a tank on the vehicle, unlike the projected Kubas magnesium hydride -1 system recently referenced here.

If it is cheaper though, it would combine well with the also low pressure Kubas system on a vehicle.


Davemart, that's a clever scheme but it requires the methane to be stored and recycled if it's actually going to be part of a carbon-free system.  Any scheme which ships H2 along with natural gas is even worse, as NG systems can only tolerate a few percent of H2 and still meet the requirements of other users.  Actually using that H2 for its avowed purpose would require filtering a much larger volume of NG and a separate transport system from the separation plant to the end users.

All of these problems are obvious with a little bit of thought, but so far none of the advocates have set down any proposals to address them.  This means one of two things, neither of them good:

  1.  These people are stupid.
        a.  Nothing they say can be taken seriously.
  2.  These people are knowingly scamming the public.
        a.  They should be prosecuted for fraud.


@Engineer-Poet - To think that electricity and batteries are capable of any meaningful energy transition is beyond the bounds of the imagination. Proponents of an all-electric system such as yourself are both willfully ignorant and abysmally unintelligent.

Constantly trolling the only alternative to fossil energy confirms this over and over again. How profoundly sad for you.

The 'electrify everything' agenda is so patently corrupt and idiotic; it is a wonder that its proponents manage to live functional lives.

There is no alternative to hydrogen, and you will wish you never proved yourself to be what you blame others for being.


@Engineer-Poet , you are sorely lacking in imagination.


To fully understand how hydrogen can be produced for less than the cost of electricity used, please see my comments below:

And how the UK is transitioning its gas grid to hydrogen:


It takes imagination to criticize, insult and attempt intimidation :)

fred schumacher

A rarely mentioned problem with the use of hydrogen fuel cells for transportation is that their exhaust consists of low temperature water vapor, which in winter conditions would lay down a coating of black ice on roads, making them treacherous.

The timing on this optimistic IEA hydrogen report could hardly be worse.

FCV drivers in Norway and California are currently using ICE loaner cars because the fueling infrastructure has been crippled by explosions in those regions.

Battery electrics and plug-in hybrids don’t face the same single point of failure problem on fuel delivery.

Anyone previously considering FCVs for daily transportation must surely pause to consider if H2 can be considered a reliable transportation fuel.


I am not interested in bothering with people who are not intelligent enough to realise that a proper and respectful address to others is the first step to gaining a hearing.

But for the benefit of others who may not have been following the routes to decarbonisation closely, the notion that 'nothing has been done to answer questions' is a confession of ignorance by the poster, not an assessment of the state of affairs.

I find that Inforeupdate has posted most of the relevant links, so here is just a summary timeline for what is going on right now in the UK:

To outline progress, trials of up to 20% hydrogen in the NG pipeline network are taking place right now, which may involve modest upgrades, but nothing too drastic.

For reference, the old town gas was around 50% hydrogen by volume

The hydrogen is largely to be produced by reformation, with the carbon sequestered in depleted natural gas fields.

Of course as and when hydrogen from renewables is economic that can be added.

20% hydrogen is pretty much what the post I led off on about low pressure storage in hydrates uses.


Now that IEA has studied and reported that Hydrogen can and should be one of route to follow towards future energy production, storage and distribution, reluctant posters may have a second thought?


I recently passed the largest cyro tanker that I had ever seen on I-15. It was a rolling bomb filled with liquid hydrogen at -253C or -423F. If there was any accident that caused the tank to rupture, it would immediately gasify and would likely deflagrate.

In my opinion, hydrogen just has too many problems to have wide scale acceptance. It is energy expensive to make and has a very low energy density along with high permeability which makes it hard to store and has a very wide range of flammability which causes safety problems.


This will be a long string of short comments, so sit down and grab a drink.

Speaking for the prosecution, I declare that hypedrogen is the way the fossil fuel industry expects to avoid being put out of business in a carbon-constrained world.  My first (hostile) witness is Inforepudate21.

InfoReupdate21 is a serious propagandist.  He plays fast and loose with facts, hoping you won't notice (or will be too enamored of his conclusions to examine his claims closely).  Unfortunately for him, I did and I'm not:

To fully understand how hydrogen can be produced for less than the cost of electricity used, please see my comments below:



Damn filters won't let ANYTHING of substance through, not even with links totally deleted!  WTF is going on here?


Whoever is in charge of spam filtering at TypePad needs to be bastinadoed.  Anything which blocks so much legit content is malware by definition.

I'll try to continue later.


Anyone who thinks hydrogen can't do it or batteries or any other wonder technology would be right.
There are so many practical solutions at a full range of scale that make these sort of argumentive debates silly.
The low cost hydrogen " cheaper than the cost of the electricity to produce" relies on the salvage of any excess to supply. It would make sense that this a realistic scenario at some level depending on location but unlikey on amalgamated global ledger. As electricity especially oversupply occurs locally, it is sensible to see how large oversupplies can be expected and desirable for supplying 24/7 12months of the year.
There are credible estimates up to a high side 8 - 9X average demand (demand as expected)
If we arrived at that scenario in the future there would be times when local production surplus reached say 6X the total electrical demand capacity.
If hydrogen is manufactured during those times at near the 30% conversion suggested there exists possibilities for a green H2 economy as described.
If we understood that transport options are not limited to fuel cell but adapt to many different renewable options I would think mast if not all global energy requirements can be met by zero carbon options. Not cheap not instant and disruptive ideas meet with resistance but it would seem doable.

The best bit is every single step in this direction is demonstratively effective and as a part of the whole very important.

What I don't believe is that fossil fuels can be considered other than curios for either 'blue as for H2 options or CCS other than by people (i.e those recalcitrant political or industry lobbies ) with vested interests in profiting from dinosaur technologies and yes there are many and they are very effective at deceiving the gullible.
The fact is it costs everyone else multiples more to get the pollution safely back in the ground.


To be clear the 30% is a throw away number for conversion to and from e efficiency across the basket of different uses or needs.

Would hydrogen produced from “surplus” electricity be economically competitive if the electrolyzer equipment used to produce it was only operating at partial capacity?

Would it be cost competitive with pumped hydro or one of the other newer gravity storage schemes now entering production?

Given the low round-trip efficiency, it seems unlikely.


That would depend on the end use. If it were utilised at some step along a chemical path the energy efficiency is as high as any but diminishes each time it changes state.
As far as utilisation of infrastructure is concerned it seems unclear whether stop start is harmful or reduces the lifetime of system parts or adds expense as there are a multitude of variations and proposed components envisioned that are not the same as conventional applications which have been designed towards continuous inputs of either hydrocarbons or electrons.
The cost of intermittent inputs would also be a factor for pumped, gravity or any other infrastructure not working at its highest possible potential?
It may be that the added cost in the case of H2 can be designed way down.
I'm guessing that applicable innovation options are very early days and impossible to predict outcomes or time frames in the same way as the many if not most other promising decarbonising solutions.
The economics should expect inputs to marginal cost being constantly changing as is the way of the world.


Nope, can't even enter a single sentence to continue where I was forced to break off.  It disappears.

God damn the idiots at TypePad.


Irony:  actual content is censored, while curses aimed at the censors go through.


Said tweet links to this article at which does not actually contain the infographic he uses (which bears an uncanny resemblance to the scheme in this comment by "Daniel Williams", which I assume is InfoRepudate21's real name).  However, said infographic is easily explained in words:

  • IF you can get other consumers to pay an extra 30% for their electricity (€52/MWh instead of €40),
  • AND you can get wind-farm operators to give electrolyzer operators 30% of their output for free,
  • AND the electrolyzer operators don't have to pay the 30% premium on the rest of their energy,
  • THEN the electrolyzer operators pay an average €20/MWh and can make hydrogen for €30/MWh.

This is totally wrong, starting with the arithmetic; to average €40/MWh over all generation and make up for the free electricity for electrolyzers, the premium for normal users would have to be 75% for a total of €70/MWh.  This averages out to 70*0.4 + 40*0.3 + 0*0.3 = €40/MWh.  Also, it's just robbing Peter to pay Paul; Peter has obviously not been consulted and won't be happy.

Bald assertion that "gas" storage is sufficient to substitute hydrogen for methane.  This ignores a few inconvenient facts, including:

  1. H2 has less than 1/3 the volumetric energy density of methane, 12.7 MJ/m³ to 40 MJ/m³.
  2. H2 cannot be stored in rock formations which contain sulfides or sulfates, as sulfur-metabolizing bacteria will convert it to H2S.  This all but certainly puts all played-out gas wells (which are the most widely-available gas storage formations) out of the running.

Needing > 3x the volume while being unable to use a lot of what you've already got isn't cause for optimism.

Williams blowing his own horn again (and still with the bad arithmetic).

And how the UK is transitioning its gas grid to hydrogen:

This is actually about carbon capture and storage.  You'd think that the UK would get a clue and realize that if they can sequester CO2 they can use underground coal gasification to feed Allam-cycle plants and switch back to domestic energy resources, but the system is run by NPCs who can only parrot the scheme they're given from their controllers.

This isn't the actual article.  It links to a piece at The Institution of Engineering and Technology which goes on about hydrogen... and CCUS (carbon capture, use and storage).  In short, about continuing to run on fossil fuels.

This is about end-use conversions, which are next to trivial.  It doesn't even look at generating, storing or transporting hydrogen.  Those are the issues which must to be dealt with to make hypedrogen an actual solution.

And Davemart links to Hynet:

Here's from their self-description:

HyNet is based on the production of hydrogen from natural gas.

Hypedrogen is the way the fossil fuel industry expects to avoid being put out of business in a carbon-constrained world.  The prosecution rests.


Before I hand down my ruling does the defense have anything more to say?


No, no, no and no. "A wide variety of fuels are able to produce hydrogen, including renewables, nuclear, natural gas, coal and oil." This plan is meant to keep the oil industry as our masters. To continue wars for control. Solar and wind are democratic. You can have your own and control your costs.


Nuclear is democratic too.  It also makes minimal demands on the land (unlike the vast farms required for wind and solar), and it's 24/7/365 in the bargain; it is not going to go away on calm, clear winter nights when you need heat.

Roger Pham

Paroway stated: "This plan is meant to keep the oil industry as our masters. "
Of course, the oil industry is already our master...what can we do about it?
That 's why the US gov has no plan to combat GW, while raising the speed limits to 70-80 mph, and putting no additional taxes nor restriction on the sales of low-mpg SUV's and trucks, and has no plan for public transportation...etc...

Short of a revolution in the USA and other oil-producing countries, our most realistic option would be to negotiate for the energy industry to move toward the Hydrogen Economy by at least producing hydrogen from fossil fuels at near oil and gas fields, and then immediately sequester the CO2 waste stream down in depleted oil and gas wells. Then, the Hydrogen can flow in pipeline systems to the end users, who will then use the Hydrogen for transportation, for combined power and heating in FC or combustion engines in distributed power generation due to the emission-free nature of H2, ...and for production of steel, concrete, fertilizer, and other industrial chemicals. It is FAR EASIER to decarbonize at the source than at the end users.

E-P has reservation regarding storing H2 in underground natural gas reservoirs. However, due to the vast size of these formations with very high volume to surface ratio, we can simply coat the walls of these underground caverns with a thick coating to prevent leakage of H2 into the sulfur-based rock formation. That's all.
So, to sum up, we can easily and cost-effectively achieve CO2-free energy by moving to the Hydrogen Economy, NO MATTER how the Hydrogen will be produced.

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