A Hydrogen Future? Some Basic Facts

by P. Homewood, July 5, 2020 in NotaLotofPeopleKnowThat

There has been a wide ranging debate about hydrogen in the last couple of days, so I thought it worthwhile to recap some of the basic facts. Most of these are from the Committee on Climate Change’s Net Zero report last year, otherwise I will provide links.

I have referred to many of these facts before, but they sometimes get lost in the fog of technical debate. If anybody disagrees with these facts, please explain where the CCC went wrong.


There are essentially two methods of producing hydrogen:

1) Steam reforming

This process typically usually uses natural gas as the feedstock, but produces CO2 as a by-product. Therefore, for the process to be “low carbon”, carbon capture and storage would be necessary. Unfortunately even then not all of the CO2 is captured. Allowing for upstream emissions as well, the CCC estimate that the process will only reduce emissions by 60 to 85%, compared to burning natural gas instead.

The cost of producing hydrogen via steam reforming with CCS is estimated to be triple the current wholesale price of natural gas (ie before adding distribution costs).

2) Electrolysis

The CCC explain why electrolysis can only offer a limited contribution: