What You Should Know About Hydrogen

Samantha Dynowski

September 2022

what.jpg

Hydrogen has suddenly become a hot topic in Connecticut policy circles. With new federal funding for hydrogen hubs and passage of a bill in the state legislature, the appropriate use of hydrogen in Connecticut is now being investigated in at least two processes.

 

Sierra Club Connecticut, alongside other organizations, is playing an important role in these discussions by bringing attention to environmental studies on hydrogen and advocating for environmentally-sound sources and uses of hydrogen in our state. There is a growing body of environmentally-focused research that recommends:

 

  • Production of hydrogen should be limited to only “green” hydrogen, hydrogen produced by splitting water into its constituent hydrogen and oxygen components through electrolysis, which is powered by renewable energy. Hydrogen produced with fossil-fuel feedstocks should be rejected; hydrogen produced with fossil-fuels would eviscerate the intended climate benefits (increasing rather than decreasing total greenhouse gas emissions).

  • Once produced, green hydrogen should play a limited role in supporting a carbon-free economy, reserved for the hardest-to-decarbonize end-uses for which no alternatives exist. These include long-term energy storage, long-haul trucking, and to displace fossil hydrogen in current uses as an industrial feedstock. 

  • Green hydrogen should not be combusted in fossil gas power plants; used in gas-burning appliances in homes and commercial buildings; or for cars, buses and regional trucks. These applications can be powered directly by renewables, making producing green hydrogen from renewables for these uses unnecessary and much more expensive. Direct combustion also produces NOx emissions up to six times worse than those released by methane combustion.

  • Green hydrogen should not be blended into pipelines. Hydrogen embrittles steel and cast iron pipelines, necessitating a costly replacement of existing pipeline infrastructure to accommodate hydrogen. We should not support projects that label themselves as “sustainable” because their fuel source includes a small fraction of hydrogen when the lion’s share of it is fracked gas.

 

You won’t be surprised to hear that fossil fuel interests are fighting hard to convince decision-makers to support hydrogen produced with fossil fuel feedstocks. We can also expect a push to use it in pipelines to justify more ratepayer investment in gas pipelines.

 

The processes underway include the Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection’s Comprehensive Energy Strategy hearings, and the Connecticut Greenbank led Hydrogen Task Force. Follow the links to learn more. 

Samantha Dynowski is State Director of Sierra Club Connecticut.

References

  1.  Hydrogen: Future of Clean Energy or a False Solution?, Sierra Club

  2.  Assessing the Viability of Hydrogen Proposals: Considerations for State Utility Regulators and Policymakers, Energy Innovation

  3.  Reclaiming Hydrogen for a Renewable Future: Distinguishing Fossil Fuel Industry Spin from Zero-Emission Solutions, Earthjustice