The Gas Technology Institute (GTI), the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) and S&P Global Platts have launched the Open Hydrogen Initiative (OHI) to make the environmental impacts of hydrogen production more transparent.

The companies said there is a high degree of variability in hydrogen production when it comes to carbon intensity, even within the same ‘colours’ of production.

They advocate for precise measurements at each facility for a more accurate comparison of the environmental impacts of hydrogen.

"The world is rapidly preparing for aggressive decarbonisation, and having access to precise carbon intensity assessments is no longer [just] 'nice to have' but required," said Paula Gant, senior vice president of strategy and innovation at GTI.

"With hydrogen applications increasing, more sophisticated measurement solutions are needed to assess the carbon intensity impacts of using this energy source."

A current system to determine the quality of hydrogen was based on the colour wheel — grey, blue, pink, green and others — but stakeholders have had conflicting views on what production method is the best.

Blue hydrogen, for example, is thought of by some as a quick way to cleanly scale up hydrogen production by using carbon capture on grey hydrogen, but a controversial study by researchers at Cornell and Stanford universities claims that blue hydrogen is barely cleaner than grey hydrogen and actually worse for the environment than natural gas.

Certain types of green hydrogen production, on the other hand, are viewed by some as a carbon-free process, although there are concerns that the market will fail to scale up to meet demand.

“The potential for hydrogen to play a significant role as the global energy system transitions to a lower carbon intensity is vast,” said NETL director Brian Anderson.

“As hydrogen generation and use scales up, the market needs to adopt a consistent approach to the assessment of hydrogen's greenhouse gas footprint that is agnostic to the different production technologies, modes of transportation and end-use sectors."

OHI plans to create objective, credible, peer-reviewed, transparent and open-sourced tools to assess asset-level carbon intensity that can be accurately compared to other production facilities, drawing from Stanford’s Oil Production Greenhouse Gas Emissions Estimator Model, which has become the standard to measure carbon intensity in the oil sector.

The initiative will convene stakeholders from all sectors of the hydrogen market to develop a measurement model.

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