Powered by

Home Environment Stories

Green hydrogen best option not only for climate but also for water crisis

By Ground Report
New Update
Green hydrogen best option not only for climate but also for water crisis

In the latest report released at the COP28 summit in Dubai, experts from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and BlueRisk have cast a spotlight on the pivotal role of green hydrogen in the global quest for sustainable energy. As the world grapples with the dual challenges of energy security and climate change, hydrogen has emerged as a beacon of hope, offering a clean alternative to fossil fuels.

Hydrogen, revered for its simplicity and cosmic abundance, releases energy through combustion without yielding carbon dioxide, the notorious greenhouse gas heating our planet. This positions hydrogen as a key player in the arsenal of tools to combat global warming.

However, the path to harnessing hydrogen’s potential is not without its hurdles. The production process demands energy, which, if derived from non-renewable sources, could undermine the very benefits hydrogen promises.

The production landscape of hydrogen is diverse, with gray hydrogen at one end of the spectrum, relying heavily on carbon-intensive methods, and green hydrogen at the other, championed for its reliance on renewable energy. Blue hydrogen sits in the middle, offering a less carbon-intensive alternative but still dependent on natural gas and carbon capture technologies.

The report underscores the superiority of green hydrogen, not only for its minimal carbon footprint but also for its water efficiency. In an era where water scarcity looms large, the report’s findings are a clarion call to prioritize green hydrogen, which consumes significantly less water than its blue counterpart—about one-third less per kilogram produced.

Despite its promise, the production of hydrogen, particularly the green variant, is a thirsty affair. The current consumption of water in hydrogen production is substantial, and projections indicate a surge in global water demand for hydrogen production—expected to triple by 2040 and increase sixfold by 2050.

Water for Hydrogen production

The report titled 'Water for Hydrogen Production' urges the closure of fossil fuel-powered hydrogen production plants in favor of green hydrogen production. This change is proposed to reduce the impact on local water resources and reduce the region's exposure to water risks.

“Our analysis sheds light on an often overlooked aspect of hydrogen's role in the energy transition: the water impact of clean hydrogen production,” says Ute Collier, Acting Director of IRENA's Center for Knowledge, Policy and Finance.

He further explains that "some forms of hydrogen production, while attempting to tackle greenhouse gas emissions, may lead to water scarcity at the local level. So we must remember that relatively little water “Using green hydrogen is a better option for the world.”

Despite green hydrogen's reliance on water for electrolysis, the report highlights its superior water efficiency compared to all other types of hydrogen, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Blue hydrogen, which produces hydrogen from coal with CCS, actually emerges as the most water-intensive option, with water requirements more than double that of green hydrogen.

Tianyi Luo, director of BlueRisk, emphasized the role of carbon capture and storage systems in driving water demand. "Adding CCS to a coal plant producing about 230 kilotonnes of hydrogen annually would require an amount of water that would meet the needs of the entire population of London for half a year," he said.

Key regional and country findings

In a comprehensive analysis of regional and national trends, a recent report has shed light on the water-related challenges faced by key players in the hydrogen production sector:

  • In China, over 80% of hydrogen production from coal occurs in the Yellow River Basin, an area that represents less than 4% of the nation’s total water resources, signaling a significant strain on an already troubled water system.
  • Europe faces its own set of challenges, with projections indicating that by 2040, 23% of green hydrogen projects and 14% of blue hydrogen projects will be situated in regions experiencing high or extremely high levels of water stress.
  • The situation in India is particularly acute, with an estimated 99% of the existing and planned capacity for green and blue hydrogen production likely to operate under conditions of extreme water stress by the year 2040.

Keep Reading

Follow Ground Report for Climate Change and Under-Reported issues in India. Connect with us on FacebookTwitterKoo AppInstagramWhatsapp and YouTube. Write us on [email protected].