The US is attempting to roll out new hydrogen policies with its Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and a budget reconciliation bill, using language that emphasises emissions reduction regardless of the type of hydrogen produced.

This technology-neutral approach differs from several green hydrogen-specific bills and the Hydrogen Earthshot Initiative at the Department of Energy, which focuses on reducing costs of green hydrogen produced by electrolysis.

Right now, blue hydrogen is much cheaper than green hydrogen, sitting at $1.50 to $2.50 per kilogramme against green hydrogen’s cost of over $5 per kg.

The Hydrogen Shot aims to bring the cost of hydrogen from electrolysis to $1 per kg by the end of the decade.

The focus on green hydrogen has led to concerns that the push for zero-carbon hydrogen production will forestall the buildout of the infrastructure and transportation networks needed to support a hydrogen economy.

Green vs Blue

Blue hydrogen is produced from natural gas feedstocks, with the carbon dioxide by-product from hydrogen production captured and stored. However, the process is not emissions free.

Green hydrogen is made using electrolysis powered by renewable energy to split water molecules into oxygen and hydrogen, creating an emissions-free fuel.

“We want to decarbonise the production of hydrogen, but we also need to build out the demand for the consumption of that clean hydrogen, and that takes time and you have to do that in a way that's affordable for the end users,” says Neil Beup, head of global government affairs at industrial gas and engineering company Linde.

Naomi Boness, managing director for the Natural Gas Initiative and the Hydrogen Initiative at Stanford University, says using carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) and hydrogen production together are key for making the technologies more commercially viable, partly due to the ability to use tax incentives for both hydrogen and CCS.

This will be especially effective if the 45Q tax credit for capturing and sequestering carbon dioxide in the US is increased from $50 to $85 per tonne.

“I have the same vision I think many people (do) for, out in the future, to have this beautiful, carbon-free energy system,” Boness says. “But in the short term, that’s just not viable.”

The infrastructure bill not only allows for diverse hydrogen production methods but backs it with a plan for four regional hydrogen hubs.

At least three of the hubs would have different production sources, using fossil fuels and carbon capture along with electrolysis from renewable and nuclear energy.

Hydrogen produced from nuclear energy, known as pink hydrogen, will likely hold a smaller share of the market given the controversial nature of nuclear power, but it is a carbon-free technology.