“Right now we are in the middle of an energy transition, and in this process I believe that hydrogen will play a crucial role,” opens Mr. Bawa. “Hydrogen has long been used as a raw material in chemicals and refining and now many people see its potential as a clean fuel for both aviation and general transportation, as well as power generation, heating, etc.”
In the ideal world, societies might wish to immediately switch to green hydrogen. However, given the need to first develop a green hydrogen infrastructure, and also bearing in mind the existing hydrogen production facilities, Mr. Bawa suggests a more balanced approach is called for.
“Of the three forms of hydrogen, blue is the most balanced option. Blue hydrogen can give us the energy source we need, at a realistic price, whilst avoiding the carbon emissions associated with grey hydrogen. Green hydrogen is, for the immediate future, still too expensive. That is why we need blue hydrogen in this energy transition.”
Worldwide, natural gas is of course used extensively as an energy source by both industry and households. It is praised by many for being a clean-burning fuel, but does release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere during combustion. Mr. Bawa therefore sees blue hydrogen as an ideal way to improve the environmental credentials of natural gas. “As we have captured the carbon during production, blue hydrogen could for example be mixed into the natural gas that is fed into our homes and factories to lower overall carbon dioxide emissions. In countries such as the UK this has already been successfully implemented.”
Blue hydrogen can also be used to fuel power plants. “In Ohio, for example, we are working with Long Ridge Energy Terminal to convert their 485 MW combined-cycle power plant to run on carbon-free hydrogen. The plan is to introduce up to 20% hydrogen into the gas stream by the end of 2021, and to slowly increase that to 100% hydrogen. This is why I say that blue hydrogen and natural gas complement each other perfectly. I expect both will retain their existing roles during the coming ten to twenty years.”
Asked about challenges to the further introduction of blue hydrogen, Mr. Bawa first considers the financial aspects of carbon sequestration. “Capturing and sequestering carbon dioxide currently costs around 65-70 USD per ton, yet the carbon tax credit paid for doing so is just 50 USD per ton. Hence the biggest challenge right now is helping companies balance their books. If the carbon tax credit were a little higher that would certainly motivate the big hydrogen producers to install carbon capture systems.”