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A path to scaling production and uptake of renewable hydrogen and sustainable e-fuels

Decarbonising industry and transport with renewable hydrogen

There are at least three immediate uses for renewable hydrogen in the short term in the ‘difficult-to-decarbonise’ sectors of industry and transportation, with many more to come.

1. Replacing all uses of fossil based hydrogen with renewable hydrogen

Chemical industries and refineries are the right starting point for developing renewable hydrogen demand as they already have the hydrogen demand and virtually all necessary infrastructure is already in place. In 2018, the global market for pure hydrogen was app. 74Mt. Incentivising these industries to use renewable hydrogen in place of fossil-based sources will have immediate impact on GHG emissions.

At the same time, industrial applications where hydrogen today is not used, e.g. steel manufacturers, could be developed in parallel, which can grow in tandem with the scaling up of hydrogen production and industrialising electrolysers – and we make some suggestions as to how policymakers could incentivize this transfer on recommendations for policy makers. The resulting reduction in costs of renewable hydrogen would in turn incentivize additional industrial applications where hydrogen today is not used, creating new industrial centres, located near large sources of renewable energy and hydrogen production.

2. In medium to heavy-duty land transport, using renewable hydrogen in fuel cells

Diesel remains the primary fuel for the vast majority of medium- to heavy-duty land transport, e.g. buses, trucks and some trains and taxis. In many applications, direct electrification is not fit for purpose as energy requirements exceed the practical limits for batteries or frequent and time-consuming recharging is required, making batteries impractical.

Hydrogen-powered fuel cells offer a viable zero-carbon alternative to transport applications where direct electrification is unfeasible. Moreover, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, as with battery-electric vehicles, have zero tail pipe emissions, which can significantly improve air quality.

3. In aviation and shipping, using e-fuels based on renewable hydrogen

The need to move loads over long distances leaves aviation and deep-sea cargo shipping reliant on energydense fuels, which today are almost exclusively oil-based.

Pure hydrogen is not an efficient solution here – but e-fuels derived from renewable hydrogen, are a possible pathway to decarbonisation. For aviation, e-kerosene that is produced from renewable hydrogen and carbon from sustainable CO2 seems to be the only viable option at scale. For deep-sea shipping, different types of e-fuels may be the solution, and further feasibility studies and demonstration is required.

Industry and heavy transport are some of the hardest sectors to decarbonise. However, for the global economy to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 (as required to stay below 1.5°C by end of this century), investment must begin today in the development of these green alternatives.

Policymakers, industry, and consumers and voters all have their part to play: while renewable fuels are significantly more expensive today than the fossil based alternative, to the end consumer, costs of e.g. sustainable shipment of a pair of shoes or an airline ticket using renewable fuels are relatively low. In fact, with ever growing consumer demand for sustainable options, green fuels can soon become a competitive advantage.

Potential routes for renewable energy in transport

There are several routes for renewable energy in transport.
Find out how each method of transport can be integrated below.

  • EV cars
  • Small trucks
  • Trucks
  • Long-distance buses
  • Short/medium distance buses
  • Aircraft
  • Small ships & ferries
  • Regional and deep-sea vessels

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Renewable hydrogen

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