“Green hydrogen offers huge opportunities in the transport, electricity and chemicals sectors,” said John Litynski, Deputy Director of Advanced Fossil Technology Systems at the US Department of Energy (DOE), today at the virtual Green Hydrogen Visions for the West Conference.
Over the past two decades, Litynski said Fossil Energy (FE) has invested more than $1bn in low cost, carbon neutral hydrogen production technologies, including turbines, gasification, solid oxide fuel cells and pre combustion R&D.
“We are seeing an opportunity for all sources of hydrogen, as long as they are carbon free,” Litynski told conference attendees.
In aligning hydrogen across DOE and FE, Litynski said they have divided their R&D activities into four areas:
- Carbon-neutral hydrogen production using gasification and reforming technologies
- Large scale hydrogen transport infrastructure
- Large scale on site and geological hydrogen storage
- Hydrogen use for electricity generation, fuels and manufacturing.
Highlighting that most of the hydrogen today is produced by fossil fuels (grey hydrogen), Litynski said as the market for carbon free hydrogen grows, there’s going to a bigger role for green and blue hydrogen to play.
“Today we produce about 10 million tons of hydrogen a year, most of it from natural gas and gasification. Globally, it’s about 70 million tons, again mostly from steam methane reforming and gasification,” he said.
“To give you a sense of where the hydrogen moves in our economy right now, most of it is used in oil and ammonia production, some of it is used for biofuels and transportation.”
“Most of the global demand is being used in production of ammonia and the refining sector also.”
“Some of the laboratories, at least in the US, are saying they can see a two to four times increase in domestic production from green or other sources.”
So, what does that mean for the infrastructure requirements?
“As we started to look at hydrogen and get back into the sector, we really are looking at a national scale or grid scale or regional scale on what the infrastructure requirements are going to be necessary,” Litynski continued.
“We have approximately 305,000 miles of interstate pipelines and about 400 underground storage facilities for natural gas today, so as you start looking at expanding hydrogen production and offsetting natural gas usage in our existing infrastructure, it’s a significant challenge we see through 2050.”
“It’s doable, but this is the scale of the infrastructure that will have to be replaced.”
“Today, we currently have about 1,600 miles of dedicated hydrogen pipeline. We by far in the US probably have the most amount of pipelines dedicated to hydrogen production.”
According to Litynski, total US natural consumption is 3.1mmcf – or 650m tons. Current hydrogen demand is 10 million tons.
“So we will need to increase the hydrogen volume transported by 200 times to equal the natural gas annual volume transported,” Litynski said.
“One of the issues with hydrogen is the energy density. Hydrogen is one third the energy density of natural gas, so we will need 600 times to equal the natural annual energy transported today.”
Moving on to hydrogen storage, Litynski said capacity is commercial but at a small scale currently.
There are currently three hydrogen storage sites using salt domes now commissioned in Texas and a new storage site planned near Delta, Utah.
Total US natural gas storage capacity is 9,231,237mmcf across 400 sites and the total hydrogen underground storage capacity in Texas is 11,726mmcf.
“We will need to increase hydrogen storage volume by 770 times to equal natural gas storage volume. Hydrogen is one third the energy density of natural gas, so we will need ~2000 times to equal natural gas energy storage capacity,” Litynski said.