Researchers at Cornell and Stanford universities said in a new study that burning blue hydrogen — one that is made from steam reforming of natural gas with carbon capture and storage (CCS) — should be viewed “at best as a distraction” since it produces 20% more greenhouse gas emissions than regular natural gas or diesel. The figure is for the full life cycle of the artificial gas, but blue hydrogen also results in higher fugitive methane emissions as the CCS part of the operations are powered by natural gas itself.
The study clearly suggests that the blue hydrogen has no place in a carbon-free future as its carbon emissions itself were only 12% lower than grey hydrogen’s. The findings are also contrary to the growing interest in the fuel — particularly in the developed world — as it is cheaper than “green hydrogen”, which is produced by electrolysis of water through clean energy. Most recently, the UK government is reported to be extending equal support to both, although it may have been misled into the decision by oil and gas firms that used falsified data to make blue hydrogen seem cleaner than it is.
HYBRIT delivers first-ever, fossil fuel-free steel
Sweden’s HYBRIT delivered the first consignment of fossil fuel-free steel to automaker Volvo last week, making it the first time ever that steel has been produced without the use of (coking) coal. The steel was instead produced using clean energy and green hydrogen, and the delivery process was a trial that is likely to be cemented into commercial production by 2026. Volvo, for its part, will use the steel in its vehicles from this year onward, while another Swedish start-up, H2 Green Steel, aims to produce fossil fuel-free steel in the north of Sweden by 2024.
Maersk orders 8 carbon-neutral ships, to run then only on green methanol
Global shipping giant Maersk ordered eight carbon-neutral ships (worth $1.4 billion) from Hyundai Heavy Industries in the biggest ever move to lower the sector’s carbon emissions. The ships will have the capacity to be run exclusively on green methanol, but Maersk has admitted that getting adequate quantities of “proper carbon neutral methanol” will pose a bit of a challenge — at least at present. Nevertheless, operating them will save a million tonnes of CO2 every year and the order was placed despite each unit costing 10-15% more than ships that use traditional fuels. The ships will join Maersk’s fleet after 2024.
US releases guidelines to stop banks from funding fossil fuels
The Biden administration released guidelines that would prevent multilateral development banks (MDBs) from funding any coal and oil power projects, as well as any upstream natural gas projects. Instead, it wants them to refocus the financing on renewable energy, but it allows for rare exceptions when fossil fuels would be needed for humanitarian efforts or when a renewable energy project would be infeasible. The guidelines would affect most MDBs around the world as the US has sizeable holdings in each of them — it is the largest collective shareholder — and proposed projects in Thailand (the 1,400MW Hin Kong gas plant) and South Africa (a 4GW proposed glas plant by Eskom) would likely be affected.
The guidance does leave room for natural gas to be used in indoor heating, which environmental activists have criticised as natural gas extraction leads to significant fugitive methane emissions.
Chhattisgarh to lose ₹900 crore a year over Centre’s rock-bottom coal auction prices
A new analysis by The Reporters’ Collective revealed that the state of Chhattisgarh in India will lose ₹900 crore (~USD 120 million) in revenue from its coal blocks every year due to the rock-bottom prices agreed upon by the Central government in the latest round of coal blocks within its territory. The average price at which the Gare Palma IV/1 block was auctioned in this round was around ₹342/tonne, which is only a fifth of the ₹1,585/tonne that it fetched in 2015. The bids received in the latest round have been very low since the DISCOMs’ debts have only grown since 2015 and due to non-payment of dues, coal power producers are unable to offer anything higher. Among other factors, the country’s coal power demand has also been shrinking, which has led bidders — most of them private — to spend much less in procuring the fuel.
US judge rules against Biden-backed Willow drilling project
A federal judge in the US ruled against the Willow drilling project in Alaska, which was hurriedly okayed by the Trump administration and was then curiously backed by the Biden government. The judge ruled that the project’s environmental impact assessment plan was not satisfactory in terms of its impact on polar bears, that it did not account for the greenhouse gas emissions from foreign oil consumption, and that it did not adequately take into account reasonable alternatives. While Alaska’s governor called it “a horrible decision” as the project could have resulted in 180,000 barrels of oil per day, environmental activists have praised the ruling.