How Cheap Hydrogen Could Become the Next Clean Fuel
– Hydrogen has a very special place in the universe.
It’s the first element on the periodic table.
It is the most abundant element in the universe.
And when clean energy advocates think about
“What can we find which would be
“as easy to use as fossil fuels?”
they think about hydrogen,
the fuel that will, when burned, only produce water.
– We like to imagine that if we just built
enough of these, and these,
we could ditch fossil fuels and save the planet.
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
There are some things where you just need
good old fashioned combustible fuel.
Now, startups around the world are betting
that hydrogen can become the fuel of the 21st century.
– Just like today, we use fossil fuels
for different applications like power plants,
cars, and trucks, and trains, hydrogen will be used
for all this variety of different applications.
– Eventually the world’s going to have to care about CO2.
As soon as you start to care about CO2,
hydrogen becomes pretty interesting.
– But turning the most common element in the universe
into the new fuel of choice
is harder than it might seem.
The first thing you need to know about hydrogen
is that not all hydrogen is created equal.
Allow us to introduce the hydrogen rainbow.
– Hydrogen is unique
because you can generate it in many different ways.
and the different ways in which it is created
actually are defined by colors.
– The rainbow scales from the most environmentally friendly
to the least.
– Gray hydrogen means taking natural gas
and converting that into hydrogen
while creating CO2 emissions in the process.
Blue hydrogen is gray hydrogen
but with carbon capture instead.
So there are no CO2 emissions
that are put into the atmosphere.
Instead, they’re captured and buried deep underground.
There’s also pink hydrogen
where you use nuclear power to create hydrogen.
– One color is prized above them all, green.
– Green hydrogen is the hydrogen that everybody wants
because it’s the hydrogen that uses renewable electricity
to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.
– If we could make enough green hydrogen,
we’d have a clean fuel source with incredible versatility,
making electricity whenever we need it,
powering heavy industry,
and theoretically, even replacing fossil fuels
in some of the most polluting forms of transportation.
Today though, most hydrogen is produced
on the polluting end of the spectrum.
So, engineers are working on
getting green hydrogen up to speed.
– At H2Pro, we’re developing a new technology
that splits water into hydrogen and oxygen.
The environment was always dear to me.
I remember, as a kid, having this poster in my room,
the Earth, and it was written on it
“Fragile, handle with care”.
And being here is a tremendous opportunity
to actually do something about it.
– Talmon Marco founded and sold two app companies
for more than a billion dollars
before following his green dreams
and starting H2Pro in 2019.
– The process of splitting water
has been known for over 200 years.
You put two electrodes in a glass of water with some salt
turn on the power,
and you get hydrogen and oxygen bubbles.
– Today, I was in my son classroom
and I showed them an experiment
of how we can split water very easily.
I just took a nine-volt battery,
placed in the water with some salt,
and voila, you have hydrogen and oxygen coming out.
That’s nice, but it’s very, very inefficient
and therefore very, very costly.
The hard thing is how to make hydrogen efficiently
and with low cost.
– Our technology is different
in the fact that it’s more efficient
and it’s cheaper to manufacture,
resulting in cheaper hydrogen for our customers.
– That’s made possible by a fancy engineering trick.
Conventional electrolyzers use electricity,
not just to create hydrogen molecules,
but also to separate out unwanted oxygen molecules.
H2Pro found a way to separate the oxygen using heat instead.
– We have the oxygen being released
just by raising the temperature.
So we are releasing the oxygen without applying any power.
This is the reason why we can be so much more efficient.
This is the unique technology of H2Pro,
these specific electrodes themselves,
they release the oxygen.
The next level, when we’re going to make our factory,
it’s going to work in a very similar approach like here.
– H2Pro’s fighting an uphill battle
just by virtue of being green.
Electrolysis makes up just 2% of hydrogen production today
and many investors didn’t see the potential for growth.
– Initially, it was very, very difficult
to raise money for H2Pro.
In fact, we had to reach to over a hundred funds
until we managed to get the company funded.
Scaling is never easy.
Our system produces 500,000 times more hydrogen
than where we were three years ago,
but we still have a ways to go.
– The ultimate test will be
whether H2Pro can make its product cheaply enough
to race ahead of its more established competition.
– The long term goal for hydrogen to become a viable fuel
is for it to cost between a dollar or $2 a kilogram.
We are nowhere close to that.
We are probably in the three, or four, or $5 range
for green hydrogen today.
– We anticipate that our customers
will have a cost of about $1 per kilogram of green hydrogen
by the end of this decade.
– Companies like H2Pro still have a long way to go
before they’re producing green hydrogen at scale,
but being green isn’t the only way to be green.
That’ll make sense in a minute.
– We describe what we are doing at C-Zero
as turquoise hydrogen,
’cause it’s kind of a combination
of both blue and green
in that it’s low cost and low emission.
C-Zero has developed a technology
for removing the carbon in natural gas.
Natural gas is a hydrocarbon;
it’s made out of hydrogen and carbon,
and what we do is remove the carbon,
so we pull out the solid carbon
out of the hydrogen that we produce
and there are no direct CO2 emissions
because anything that would’ve been CO2
is instead solid carbon.
If you want to get hydrogen from water,
it takes seven and a half times as much energy
to go pull hydrogen off of oxygen by splitting water
as it does to pull hydrogen off of carbon
through our process.
– The way C-Zero achieves it is using molten salts.
It has a big chamber full of salt
that is heated to a very high temperature.
– So this is an example
of one of our laboratory scale reactors.
So right here, we have a very high temperature,
around 1,000 degrees and slightly above,
molten media column.
– And it bubbles natural gas through that chamber,
leaving behind carbon in its elemental form
and hydrogen as a gas that can be trapped and sold.
– If we’re successful, we’re producing
piles of black carbon
that ultimately it gets sequestered
back into the ground.
You can think of it almost as pre-combustion carbon capture.
Rather than ending up with CO2
that you have to concentrate, compress,
put into a pipeline and inject it underground,
we pull it out ahead of time
as a solid that’s much denser and you can move around
with conventional solids handling equipment and dispose of.
– Just like green hydrogen,
the success of turquoise hydrogen
will ultimately come down to cost.
– $1.50 per kilogram of hydrogen
is our target for doing this at very large scale.
If you can be $2 a kilogram or less
with very low to zero CO2 emissions,
that’s kind of a game changer.
– The tough economics of hydrogen
can make it sound like we’re a long way
from reaching the cleaner end of the rainbow.
And it’s true that companies like C-Zero and H2Pro
are going to have to make hydrogen at vastly larger scales
before they can make a dent in fossil fuel consumption.
But some industrial companies aren’t waiting
for the economics to be perfect before making the switch,
even in one of the most polluting industries in the world.
– SSAB is a steel company having a production capacity
of approximately 9 million tons of steel products per year.
We alone accounts for 10% of Sweden’s total CO2 emission.
If we want to cut emission, we can’t continue
with the current blast-furnace-based technology.
We need to change technology.
– So that’s exactly what SSAB did,
developing a way of replacing coal with hydrogen
in their steel making process.
– In the process of making steel,
a factory has to convert iron ore into iron.
Iron ore is iron plus oxygen.
The removal of oxygen requires,
typically, the use of coal
which will combine with oxygen to form CO2
and warm the planet.
You could also use green hydrogen to take the oxygen away
and that will only produce water.
– Our aim is to decarbonize the whole value chain
from mining, to iron making, steel making,
but also deliver our final product to our customers
without using fossil fuel.
That’s the aim.
We believe this is going to contribute
not only cutting our own emissions,
but this technology can also be used by others
when they are ready to take this step.
– It’s not going to be easy
for industries to take full advantage of hydrogen,
even when production costs come down.
Storing and transporting the stuff
is something of a nightmare.
And since hydrogen is extremely flammable,
safety’s always a concern.
Just look at the hydrogen Zeppelins
of the early 20th century.
But if we can overcome the economic
and engineering challenges,
the most abundant element in the universe
could provide the abundant energy we need.
– I want to see a decarbonized future
but I’m also an engineer, a practicalist, and a realist.
And that transition to a low carbon future
is not going to happen overnight.
We need realistic transition options
and technologies that allow us to decarbonize
our existing applications.
– I love this company.
I love the people I work with
and we’re all in this together
for this almost sacred mission.
This is our duty for our children
and for our grandchildren,
and for generations to come.