EcoJustice Radio guest, Ashley Kosak, 2022 Research and Project Management Fellow with FracTracker Alliance, explains how hydrogen is generated, transported, stored, and burned; the environmental impacts; and the future of clean energy.
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Is Hydrogen the Clean Fuel of the Future? With Ashley Kosak from FracTracker Alliance
The fossil fuel industry has been promoting hydrogen as a reliable, low carbon, next-generation fuel to power cars, heat homes, and generate electricity. However, currently 99% of the annual supply of hydrogen comes from fracked methane gas. So will switching to hydrogen only lock us into continued fossil fuel use and additional investments in fossil fuel infrastructure?
Proponents argue that when hydrogen is made using renewable power it can cut climate-warming industrial carbon pollution from the steel, oil, and agricultural industries. However, does hydrogen measure up when compared to powering our cars and homes with alternative renewable energy generated directly from wind and solar? Well, Ashley goes in depth. The following points summarize what is wrong with hydrogen as a carbon free energy source.
From Renewable Energy World: The top five fossil fuel industry myths that have been used to greenwash irresponsible hydrogen projects include:
Myth No. 1 – Hydrogen is emissions free: While hydrogen does not produce carbon dioxide (CO2) when combusted, it does produce high amounts of the air pollutant nitrogen oxide (NOx). In fact, hydrogen produces six times the amount of NOx as natural gas when combusted.
Myth No. 2 – Green hydrogen can help meet decarbonization goals: Green hydrogen is produced by using renewable energy to power a process called electrolysis. However, electrolysis is an extremely energy intensive process, and once green hydrogen is made, it must then be re-convertedinto electricity before it can be used. While there may be very specific uses for green hydrogen in hard-to-decarbonize sectors such as aviation, it is also a huge energy user undercutting renewable energy that could be going directly towards decarbonizing the grid.
Myth No. 3 – Hydrogen can be safely blended in existing pipelines: Even at very low levels of blending, hydrogen can crack steel pipelines through a process known as embrittlement, leading to explosions and high amounts of leakage.
Myth No. 4 – Hydrogen will save money: Hydrogen behaves very differently than natural gas. In addition to the pipeline issues mentioned above, most emissions control technologies in natural gas power plants are not equipped to handle large amounts of hydrogen. This means that beyond very low levels of blending, any pre-existing infrastructure will need to be retrofitted to safely use hydrogen, a very expensive endeavor.
Myth No. 5 – Hydrogen does not contribute to global warming: Hydrogen is an indirect greenhouse gas that extends the lifetime of methane in the atmosphere. Due to its small molecular size, hydrogen is extremely prone to leakage. A recent study found that based on current projections, global hydrogen leakage rates could be up by 6.5% by 2050 – producing the warming equivalent of 100 million to 200 million tons of CO2 in the atmosphere.
Our guest, Ashley Kosak, Research and Project Management Fellow with FracTracker Alliance, explains how hydrogen is generated, transported, stored, and burned; the environmental and social impacts; and what it means for the future of clean energy.
Ashley Kosak is a mechanical engineer who started her career as an engineer at SpaceX. She is an advocate for decarbonization for energy and aerospace, consumption reduction, and social advocacy. She now works with FracTracker Alliance to distill complex emerging technologies into a simple process that can be understood by anyone who wishes to be informed of shifts within the clean energy movement.
Jessica Aldridge, Co-Host and Producer of EcoJustice Radio, is an environmental educator, community organizer, and 15-year waste industry leader. She is a co-founder of SoCal 350, organizer for ReusableLA, and founded Adventures in Waste. She is a former professor of Recycling and Resource Management at Santa Monica College, and an award recipient of the international 2021 Women in Sustainability Leadership and the 2016 inaugural Waste360, 40 Under 40.
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