The World Energy Council has launched a report titled ‘Hydrogen – industry as a catalyst, accelerating the decarbonisation of our economy to and post 2030,’ that builds on previous studies around Europe’s Energy Transition. 

Decarbonisation of energy usage is one of the biggest challenges facing industries globally. Energy usage both as a feedstock and as a source of heat and power need to be rapidly decarbonised with renewable electrons and molecules assuming a much larger share of primary energy consumption.

This report looks at feedstock applications and energetic usage options of hydrogen (H2) in industries. It explains how developing H2-based production and production processes in the industry can serve as a catalyst to substantial decarbonisation of the economies as a whole.

The report looks at pathways to make and use H2 in a much more cost efficient way, calculating what is needed to scale and scope up blue and green H2 applications, thus significantly accelerating the decarbonisation process.

Hydrogen production – September 2014

The report concludes that the development of an industrial H2 economy should be a priority for two reasons:

Firstly, not all industrial processes can be electrified, and there is a need for a carbon-neutral energy carrier to fully decarbonise industrial production. H2 is simply one of the very few substances that can be used for this purpose. In addition, H2 and its derivatives are already a key input in many industries, especially in chemicals and refining. Industrial applications are by far the largest consumer of H2 today. 

“Our analysis and case studies demonstrate a wide range of further applications, such as using H2 to provide energy for industrial processes (like high-temperature heating). In all such examples, H2 has the potential to replace carbon-based processes with a carbon-free alternative,” the report states.

The second reason is that industrial activities can be a catalyst for H2 development in other sectors. 

“Declaring H2 to be the most promising molecule-based energy carrier is one thing, achieving scale and consequently lower cost of production is quite another. The volumes of H2 needed to reduce the cost of production will be large.” 

In industrial applications, a relatively small number of very large players generate a major share of the volume allowing effective intervention to promote H2 use. This is an advantage over transport or residential uses, where the stakeholder landscape is much more fragmented.

Overall, the need for H2 is well established. Industry has an important role to play in making sure the H2 economy gains the scale it needs. However, there are significant barriers to adoption which will need a clear action plan, particularly on the part of governments and regulators.

The report suggests:

  • Governments should subsidise R&D and pilot projects in specific technologies.
  • Governments should reconsider existing regulatory frameworks for the energy sector.
  • They could impose quotas and make green H2 use compulsory in several end-use applications.

The World Energy Council is the principal impartial network of energy leaders and practitioners promoting an affordable, stable and environmentally sensitive energy system for the greatest benefit of all.