Decarbonisation Technology - November 2022

Though, it is also worth noting that half of the hydrogen produced through SMR actually comes from the water used, not the methane (UK Gov BEIS, 2021). At JM, our own LCH technology captures more than 95% of associated CO₂ emissions, and has excellent environmental credentials for ATR blue hydrogen production (Johnson Matthey, 2022c). Blue hydrogen is often looked on as an intermediate technology – something to tide us over until green hydrogen electrolysis plants are ready to take over. We don’t see things this way. Complementary solutions Rather than two opponents – one in the blue corner, the other in the green corner, slugging it out for supremacy – we see blue hydrogen and green hydrogen as being pieces of the same jigsaw. In the future, we will need both methods, working together to diversify supply and boost energy security. Diversity is important to insulate the market from price fluctuations. Both of these hydrogen generation methods have dependencies: CCS network capacity and natural gas prices in the case of blue hydrogen; and the availability and price of low-carbon electricity for green. Other factors to consider are speed and scale: blue hydrogen is ready to go now; green hydrogen will need until about 2030. At JM,

with this is both expensive and has a carbon footprint all of its own. However, this argument fails to acknowledge the ease with which existing grey hydrogen plants can be retrofitted with CCS to make them blue – a process that has a much smaller carbon footprint than building a green hydrogen plant from scratch. For instance, JM’s suite of CLEANPACE technologies enables the revamp of steam methane reformers with existing, proven technology to achieve CO₂ emission reductions of up to 95% (Johnson Matthey, 2022b). Such retrofitted blue hydrogen plants have an important role to play in expanding the hydrogen market in which new blue hydrogen plants, and green hydrogen electrolysis facilities, can then thrive. The colour naming convention also fails to take into account the technology variations within these categories. As analysis by the Hydrogen Council shows, the greenhouse gas emissions associated with green hydrogen production depend on how the electricity was generated (Hydrogen Council, 2021). Similarly, a blue hydrogen analysis by UK government department BEIS highlights the impact of the reforming method on lifecycle emissions, with autothermal reformers (ATR) being more efficient and more compatible with CCS than steam methane reforming (SMR).


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