Green hydrogen vs blue hydrogen: What’s the difference?

James Elston
Written by James Elston
Updated on 17th April 2024
Posted on 4th February 2024
Topic: Boiler Advice
Green hydrogen vs blue hydrogen

Green hydrogen vs Blue Hydrogen guide

Hydrogen is currently one of the leading fuel sources for the energy transformation of the world. However, not all hydrogen produced is created equal.

While blue and green hydrogen is the result of the main processes across the world currently in place, how we get it has vastly different environmental effects.

This large difference between blue and green hydrogen in impacts should not surprise us that the oil-and-gas industry supports one type of hydrogen (Blue) and the climate supporters support the other (Green)

In the UK hydrogen is at the forefront of domestic boilers, with 20% hydrogen ready boilers already in production and readily available buy at Boiler Central.

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Why is hydrogen not used already?

Because hydrogen atoms are not readily available and have to be attached to other elements, it, therefore, takes energy to produce hydrogen. They almost always stick to another atom and often an element. H2O (water), which is the most abundant form of hydrogen, is found on earth.

To get a single hydrogen element, these bonds must be broken or split apart using different processes or production methods.

People refer to hydrogen production in the energy industry by a variety of colours as shorthand for how it is made, and Green hydrogen and Blue hydrogen are the most commonly heard of.

Electrolysis is a process of harnessing hydrogen. It involves passing electricity through a substance. This will in turn create a chemical change which in this instance we are aiming to split H2O into hydrogen and oxygen. The main difference is the use of renewable energy or fossil fuels like natural gas.

What is Green Hydrogen?

Green hydrogen refers to the energy that is generated to perform electrolysis from renewable sources such as wind, solar panels power, or water. Hydrogen production this way creates zero carbon emissions.

The process of producing green hydrogen is to separate water into hydrogen and oxygen by using renewable energy-powered electrolysis. This technology could meet 24% of world energy requirements, and contribute significantly to net zero emissions by 2050, according to scientists.

We have already mentioned that cost is still a major obstacle to achieving this level of adoption. Green hydrogen oil is produced at a cost of USD 3-7 for 1 kilogram, compared to about USD 1 for those using fossil fuels.

Recent cost trends suggest that production costs will be between USD 1 to $2 by 2050. This trend is driven by the drop in electrolysis costs, which have fallen 50% over five years. Predicted advances in fuel cell technology and government hydrogen strategies are also driving this trend.

What is Blue Hydrogen?

Blue hydrogen is hydrogen made from natural gas through a method called steam methane reforming.

This involves the use of very hot steam and a catalyst to mix natural gas with steam. The chemical reaction creates hydrogen and carbon monoxide and then the mixture is then diluted with water, which turns the carbon monoxide into carbon dioxide and more hydrogen.

The carbon dioxide emissions can be captured and stored underground. This is known as “blue hydrogen”.

Blue hydrogen is controversial because it can result in methane emitted from natural gas production. These are methane leaks from drilling, extraction, and transportation.

Although methane doesn’t last as long in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, it is much more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas. According to the International Energy Agency, one ton (or 100 pounds) of methane is equivalent to between 28 and 36 tons of CO2 over 100 years.

Blue Hydrogen Production process

There are two ways to produce blue hydrogen, these processes include either steam methane reforming which seems to be the most popular option or auto thermal reforming. These methods separate natural gas into hydrogen (H2) and carbon dioxide (CO2 ).

This hydrogen is a byproduct of natural gas production as it relies on fossil fuels for the energy source. tehre are processes companies need to put in place though, so to reduce emissions, some operations employ Carbon, Capture, Utilization, and Storage (CCUS) for the greenhouse gases.

Producing hydrogen this way, to make 1 kilo of blue hydrogen oil costs between USD 1.50 and USD 3.50. This includes USD 0.50 to US 1 for the carbon capture and storage processes. We have used the industtry standard USD here as most calculations are worked out in the currency. Although measures are in place, the CCUS process is not efficient and CO 2 captured typically ranges from 65% to 90% which compared to Green hydrogen in terms of carbon emissions is just not good enough.

Finally, the connection between natural gas and blue hydrogen is a major reason that is important in the world’s clean-energy transition.

Green Hydrogen Advantages

The world’s clean energy transition is possible with hydrogen as a fuel source. Its production process is also important. Although it’s not economically feasible to produce on a large scale, it could be made.

You can also look at other renewable energy technologies, such as solar PV and wind. Between 2010 and 2019, solar panels experienced a 90% price drop. This price drop is due to government support, private investment, and research.

It is now green hydrogen’s time, and there is a real investment opportunity for those who want to enter this market early. The potential for green hydrogen to account for 24% of the world’s energy by 2050 if predictions are correct is immense.

Green hydrogen disadvantages

The main disadvantage to green hydrogen produced with renewable energy source is that it is currently so expensive it is not viable in mass. Once this issue is sorted and addressed, considering the constant changes in technology and the race to be the first company to harness this type of hydrogen cheaply it will surely be inevitable sooner rather than later.

Blue hydrogen advantages & disadvantages

The main advantage of the blue hydrogen process is that it can by far create more hydrogen more quickly currently. However, currently, the pros outweigh the cons. Blue hydrogen production will have its place but as soon as green is in abundance then it will not be the better option.

Some experts say that even the estimates of how much and how safe the storage of methane emissions is very over exaggerated and therefore if you think about it, we could really never know exactly how bad an effect this would be having on the environment.

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Written by
James Elston
James Elston Director Of Boiler Central
Posted on: 4th February 2024
Topic: Boiler Advice

James Elston is our resident boiler replacement and heating expert here at Boiler Central. With over 20 years experience in the boiler installation industry, James ensures that he knows everything there is about our Gas Safe boiler installations, energy saving and home heating solutions. This can be from simply procuring the latest best combi boilers, to reviewing and ensuring that Boiler Central maintains the highest standards across our boiler installation company.

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