Why pink hydrogen produced using nuclear may have a big role to play

Each pink and blue have been used to distinguish between completely different strategies of hydrogen manufacturing.Eve Livesey | Second | Getty ImagesFrom Tesla’s Elon Musk to European Fee President Ursula von der Leyen, the previous few years have seen many high-profile names speak in regards to the position hydrogen could — or could not — play within the planet’s shift to a extra sustainable future.Musk has expressed skepticism about hydrogen’s usefulness, however many assume it might assist to slash emissions in various sectors, together with transportation and heavy trade.   Whereas there is a main buzz about hydrogen and its significance as a device in securing a low-carbon future — a subject that is generated loads of debate in latest months — the overwhelming majority of its manufacturing remains to be based mostly on fossil fuels.Certainly, in keeping with a Sept. 2022 monitoring report from the Worldwide Vitality Company, low-emission hydrogen manufacturing in 2021 accounted for lower than 1% of world hydrogen manufacturing.If it is to have any position within the deliberate power transition, then hydrogen technology wants to alter in a reasonably large approach.   Learn extra about power from CNBC Professional”The very first thing to say is that hydrogen would not actually exist naturally, so it must be produced,” stated Rachael Rothman, co-director of the Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures on the College of Sheffield.”It has loads of potential to assist us decarbonize going forwards, however we have to discover low-carbon methods of manufacturing it within the first place,” she stated, including that completely different strategies of manufacturing had been “denoted completely different colours.””About 95% of our hydrogen at present comes from steam methane reforming and has a big related carbon footprint, and that is what’s known as ‘gray’ hydrogen,” Rothman instructed CNBC.Gray hydrogen is, in keeping with power agency Nationwide Grid, “created from pure gasoline, or methane.” It says that the greenhouse gases related to the method are usually not captured, therefore the carbon footprint that Rothman refers to.The dominance of such a technique is clearly at odds with net-zero objectives. Consequently, an array of sources, methods and colours of hydrogen are actually being put ahead as options.These embrace inexperienced hydrogen, which refers to hydrogen produced utilizing renewables and electrolysis, with an electrical present splitting water into oxygen and hydrogen.Blue hydrogen, alternatively, signifies using pure gasoline — a fossil gas — and carbon seize utilization and storage. There was a charged debate across the position blue hydrogen might play within the decarbonization of society.Pink potentialAlongside blue and inexperienced, one other colour attracting consideration is pink. Like inexperienced hydrogen, its course of incorporates electrolysis, however there is a key distinction: pink makes use of nuclear.”If you happen to cut up … water, you get hydrogen and oxygen,” Rothman stated. “However splitting water takes power, so what pink hydrogen is about is splitting water utilizing power that has come from nuclear.”Which means “the entire system is low carbon, as a result of … there is no carbon in water … but in addition the power supply can also be very low carbon as a result of it is nuclear.”Alongside electrolysis, Rothman famous that nuclear is also used with one thing known as a thermochemical cycle.This, she defined, harnessed very excessive temperatures to separate water into oxygen and hydrogen. Pink hydrogen already has some doubtlessly vital backers. These embrace EDF Vitality, which has floated the thought of manufacturing hydrogen at Sizewell C, a 3.2-gigawatt nuclear energy station deliberate for the U.Ok.”At Sizewell C, we’re exploring how we will produce and use hydrogen in a number of methods,” the agency’s web site says. “Firstly, it might assist decrease emissions throughout development of the facility station.””Secondly, as soon as Sizewell C is operational, we hope to make use of among the warmth it generates (alongside electrical energy) to make hydrogen extra effectively,” it provides.EDF Vitality, which is a part of the multinational EDF Group, stated in an announcement despatched to CNBC: “Hydrogen produced from nuclear energy can play a considerable position within the power transition.”The corporate additionally acknowledged there have been challenges going through the sector and its growth.”Hydrogen is at present a comparatively costly gas and so the important thing problem for low carbon electrolytic hydrogen, whether or not produced from renewable or nuclear power, is to convey down the prices of manufacturing,” it stated.This wanted “supportive insurance policies which encourage funding in early hydrogen manufacturing tasks and encourage customers to change from fossil fuels to low carbon hydrogen.””Rising the marketplace for low carbon hydrogen will ship the economies of scale and “studying by doing” which can assist to cut back the prices of manufacturing.”Whereas there’s pleasure in regards to the position nuclear might play in hydrogen manufacturing and the broader power transition — the IEA, for instance, says nuclear energy has “vital potential to contribute to energy sector decarbonisation” — it goes with out saying that it isn’t favored by all.Critics embrace Greenpeace. “Nuclear energy is touted as an answer to our power issues, however in actuality it is complicated and vastly costly to construct,” the environmental group says. “It additionally creates big quantities of hazardous waste.”A multi-colored future?Throughout her interview with CNBC, the College of Sheffield’s Rothman spoke in regards to the larger image and the position several types of hydrogen would possibly play. May we ever see a time when the extent of blue and gray hydrogen drops to zero?”It relies upon how lengthy a timeframe you are taking a look at,” she stated, including that “in a super world, they may ultimately drop very low.””Finally, we ideally do away with all of our gray hydrogen, as a result of gray hydrogen has a big carbon footprint and we have to do away with it,” Rothman stated.”As we enhance carbon seize and storage, there could also be an area for blue hydrogen and that is but to be evaluated, relying on the … developments there.””The pink and inexperienced we all know there must be an area for as a result of that is the place you actually get the low carbon [hydrogen], and we all know it must be, it is potential to get there.”Fiona Rayment, chief scientist on the UK Nationwide Nuclear Laboratory — which, like EDF Vitality, is a member of commerce affiliation Hydrogen UK — pressed house the significance of getting a spread of choices out there within the years forward.”The problem of internet zero can’t be underestimated; we might want to embrace all sources of low carbon hydrogen technology to switch our reliance on fossil fuels,” she instructed CNBC.Whereas there was loads of discuss utilizing colours to distinguish the varied strategies of hydrogen manufacturing, there’s additionally a energetic dialogue about whether or not such a classification system ought to even exist in any respect.”What we would like is low carbon hydrogen,” Rothman stated. “And I do know there’s loads of confusion in regards to the varied colours, and I’ve heard some individuals say … ‘why can we even have the colours, why can we not simply have hydrogen and low carbon hydrogen?'””And in the end, it is the low carbon bit that is vital, and each pink and inexperienced would do this.”