Interview Synopsis

Hydrogen's role in the energy transition

  • Multi Asset
  • Energy
  • North America

Hydrogen has been grabbing the headlines as a substitute for greenhouse gas-intensive energy, driven by Europe and increasingly the US. Third Bridge Forum spoke to a former acting secretary at the Department of Energy to discuss the economics of hydrogen, its role in emissions reduction targets and industry applications.

Hydrogen gaining momentum but not a silver bullet

After outlining hydrogen’s main uses, the specialist explained its “colour scheme”, spanning green, blue, turquoise and grey/brown, and how each is produced. Given the CO2 emissions associated with the traditional production method of natural gas steam methane reforming, much of today’s focus is on green hydrogen. 

Green hydrogen relies on electrolysis, but the cost of renewable electricity required is a significant challenge, representing two-thirds of the total cost. The expert noted that “no one’s talking much about steam methane reforming with CCUS [carbon capture, utilisation and storage], or coal gasification”. Gasifying coal with biomass results in hydrogen being net-negative CO2 emissions and is “clearly the cheapest way to produce hydrogen in mass quantities”.

The Interview also explored commercialising hydrogen, with pipeline infrastructure a concern. “If we were to use the natural gas pipeline system, it would help jump-start the hydrogen economy.” However, this is not a simple process and would require a thorough inspection of pipeline integrity. “The problem with hydrogen is embrittlement. Hydrogen molecules, because they’re so small and light, they can embed themselves in the crystalline structure of the metal pipeline and cause cracking.” 

One of the final questions was how the US energy mix could change. “The oil and gas industry will continue, because people are going to continue driving cars and flying in aeroplanes, and we’re going to continue shipping goods from all over the world into the US. That’s all done by ships and trains and trucks, and I for one can’t see that turning around even by 2050, to be quite frank.”

Nonetheless, hydrogen is set to become a more broadly used source of energy. It’s a “logical” alternative for liquid fuels that produce greenhouse gas emissions — but how quickly and widespread is “the multibillion-dollar question”.

To access all the human insights in Third Bridge Forum’s Hydrogen’s role in the energy transition Interview, click here to view the full transcript. 

The information used in compiling this document has been obtained by Third Bridge from experts participating in Forum Interviews. Third Bridge does not warrant the accuracy of the information and has not independently verified it. It should not be regarded as a trade recommendation or form the basis of any investment decision.

For any enquiries, please contact