Hydrogen – considered a clean source of energy – could lead to higher greenhouse gas emissions than coal, according to a new study by researchers at Cornell and Stanford Universities.
The study examined the greenhouse-gas emissions generated by the production of “blue” hydrogen. The process uses steam heat to turn natural gas into carbon dioxide and hydrogen. The carbon dioxide is captured but the process also generates methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
Researchers Robert Howarth, a biogeochemist and ecosystem scientist at Cornell, and Mark Jacobson, director of Stanford’s Atmosphere/Energy Program, found that manufacturing blue hydrogen emitted 20 percent more carbon than burning natural gas or coal for heat.
"We suggest that blue hydrogen is best viewed as a distraction, something that may delay needed action to truly decarbonize the global energy economy," the authors wrote.
The peer-reviewed study was published in the Energy Science & Engineering journal. It comes out just months after the U.S. Department of Energy announced $52.5 million in funding for 31 projects to support "next generation clean hydrogen."