Energy

$15 trillion global hydrogen investment needed to 2050-research

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A Shell hydrogen station for hydrogen fuel cell cars is seen in Torrance, California September 30, 2014. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

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LONDON, April 27 (Reuters) - Decarbonising energy and other industries globally using hydrogen will require investment of almost $15 trillion between now and 2050, the Energy Transitions Commission (ETC) said in a report on Tuesday.

The ETC is an international coalition of executives from the energy industry committed to achieving net zero emissions by mid-century, a goal set by the Paris climate agreement.

So-called green hydrogen, made by using renewable energy to power electrolysers to convert water, is being backed by many governments for vehicles and energy plants but it is currently too expensive for widespread use.

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Proponents say infrastructure investment and more demand from transport, gas grids and industry will bring the costs down.

The ETC said that to reach a globally agreed goal of net zero emissions by mid-century, clean power must be at heart of decarbonising every sector, and hydrogen will play an important role in decarbonising industries such as steel and transport.

Hydrogen use is forecast to grow to 500-800 million tonnes a year by mid-century, accounting for 15-20% of total final energy demand, from 115 million tonnes currently.

Producing green hydrogen will need zero-carbon electricity supply to increase by 30,000 terawatt hours (TWh) by 2050, on top of 90,000 TWh needed for decarbonisation generally, the ETC said.

This will require investment of around $15 trillion, peaking in the late 2030s at around $800 billion per annum, not just for hydrogen production but for the electricity system to support the massive increase in hydrogen use.

Around 85% of the required investment would be in electricity generation and 15% in electrolysers, hydrogen production facilities and transport and storage infrastructure.

Large-scale geological storage will be needed for the hydrogen produced, given the limited capacity and large costs of compressed hydrogen containers.

Salt caverns will offer the lowest cost but if 5% of total annual hydrogen use in 2050 needs to be stored, it needs about 4,000 typical size salt caverns, compared with only about 100 in use for natural gas today, the report said.

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Reporting by Nina Chestney. Editing by Jane Merriman

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