Comment: Everyone should commit more to the cost of ‘turquoise hydrogen’

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Governments and industry should do more to develop hydrogen as an affordable, sustainable and commercially viable fuel – especially so-called “turquoise hydrogen” derived from waste plastic, says Chris Williams, founder and CEO of ISB Global, a UK-based provider of software to the global waste management sector.

Williams said, “Turquoise hydrogen offers a sustainable answer to the problem of ‘unrecyclable’ plastics that that are either too difficult or too expensive to recycle, or which struggle to find a clear secondary market where they’re sold for profit, recycled and re-introduced to the supply chain. The goal for turquoise hydrogen is to bring down its production costs so that it’s affordable.”

Hydrogen made from waste plastics is known as ‘turquoise hydrogen’ due to it being halfway between green hydrogen which is made from wind and solar power, and blue hydrogen which is made from fossil fuels.

“Hydrogen has numerous advantages over other fuel sources,” said Williams. “Fossil fuelssuch as gas, coal and oil emit large volumes of CO2, whereas hydrogen’s only byproduct is water. Hydrogen can also be stored and reused quickly, unlike batteries and other renewable energy sources.

“However, maximising hydrogen’s considerable potential depends on having in place a clean and cost-effective production method. Research has identified methods that are being applied to produce hydrogen commercially, but their widespread use is still a long way off.

Hydrogen could contribute more than 20 percent of annual global emissions reductions by 2050, but affordability and clean production are barriers to the fuel’s widespread adoption.

However, at the moment, almost 95 percent of the world’s hydrogen is made using fossil fuels, with steam-methane reforming another common method of hydrogen production that results in significant CO2 emissions.

Williams continued, “Several projects are underway to explore the possibility of ‘mining’ hydrogen from plastic waste. For example, the Department of Materials Science and NanoEngineering at Rice University in Texas has developed technology that converts plastic waste into clean hydrogen gas and graphene without any CO2 emissions.

Research last year by Boston Consulting Group found that the price of green hydrogen in Europe is unlikely to fall below five Euros per kilogramme by 2030, making it difficult to justify its commercial use.

“With the mass rollout of green hydrogen clearly many years away due to price constraints, it’s time to consider alternative solutions that can aid the net zero transition,” said Williams.“Solving how to produce turquoise hydrogen in a way that is cost-effective and scalable willput the fuel on a solid, sustainable footing and make it commercially viable as well.”

He concluded, “What’s critical is for government and industry to ensure adequate funding for the companies and researchers working to establish turquoise hydrogen as a viable fuel source. A long-term solution will not only reduce consumption emissions but also drive the circular economy through the sustainable disposal of waste plastics.”