The hydrogen economy was yesterday’s solution to stop releasing CO2. Then electrification seemed to take over in prominence, thanks to wind and solar and Elon Musk, pushing hydrogen into the background. Now it seems that hydrogen is making a comeback. Here are a few recent items (they all reach similar conclusions: electrolysis of water using ‘green’ electricity as long-term solution and reforming gas - preferentially LNG - combined with CCS as interim solution.)

The Noordelijke Innovation Board (NIB) put a finger on the sore spot when they claimed in their recent report: “Large-scale hydrogen production is necessary to realize low hydrogen production costs of 2 to 3 euros per kilogram, which is more or less competitive with present fossil-based hydrogen prices. This in turn implies a dedicated hydrogen infrastructure.”

The Hydrogen Council - an international conglomerate of 18 industries, consisting of oil companies (Shell, Statoil and Total), carmakers (Audi, BMW, Daimler, Honda, GM, Hyundai and Toyota) and Air Liquide, Alstom, Anglo American, Engie, Iwatani, Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Plastic Omnium and Linde - has published what it claims to be a “first-of-a kind study showing hydrogen’s contribution as a key pillar of the energy transition”. It is long on claims about the wonderful things hydrogen can be used for, but rather short on how to produce sufficient amounts of the stuff (electrolysis and steam methane reforming are mentioned).

Closer to home: Berenschot and TNO conducted a study (culminating in a report) to find out just that (“how to produce the stuff”) in the short , medium and long term.
Their economic analysis did not just compare electrolysis with steam methane reforming, but also included autothermal reforming and partial oxidation. ATR came out on top. Also 3 alternatives to produce oxygen were evaluated.

Nuon, Gasunie and Statoil started a project aimed at converting a 440 MW gas fired unit of the Eemshaven powerplant to run on hydrogen by 2023. Hydrogen would be produced by steam methane reforming using Norwegian gas, with the CO2 to be returned by ship to Norway for storage in an old oilfield. (That is where Statoil comes in, they have 20 years of experience with CCS.)

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