Black and brown hydrogen are often used interchangeably to describe any hydrogen produced from fossil fuels through gasification. Black hydrogen is produced from fossil fuels such as black coal or lignite. Unfortunately, the carbon emissions generated during this process are not captured, making brown hydrogen the most environmentally detrimental form of hydrogen production. In essence, brown hydrogen releases the same amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as burning coal. While hydrogen is considered a clean-burning fuel, certain types of hydrogen production can actually generate carbon emissions.
Black Vs. Brown Hydrogen
The difference between brown hydrogen and black hydrogen lies solely in the color of the coal utilized in its production. It is evident that brown hydrogen is obtained through the gasification of brown coal, commonly referred to as lignite. Unfortunately, both carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide are once again emitted into the atmosphere as highly impactful greenhouse gases, making brown hydrogen an alternative that is still carbon intensive.
Also See: What is Blue Hydrogen?
Challenges in Black or Brown Hydrogen Sources
From the perspective of energy trilemma, the following problems are faced in black and brown hydrogen.
Produced with high level technologies, these forms of hydrogen are not accessible easily globally. It is only limited to a few locations.
Not all countries have access to coal, particularly those grappling with an energy crisis resulting from the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Presently, emissions from brown hydrogen are around 900 million tons of carbon dioxide on an annual basis. This makes it the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.
The storage and transportation of hydrogen present certain safety risks. Moreover, current hydrogen storage is expensive and has low capacity. These factors may raise concerns about the sustainability of hydrogen.
However, the feasibility of this depends on factors such as location, pipeline accessibility, ongoing negotiations with key stakeholders, and the delicate balance between cost and sustainability. It is important to note that the public perceives the highly flammable nature of hydrogen as posing significant safety concerns.
Also See: What is Green Hydrogen?
Measures to Tackle Challenges
In addition to the distinct challenges associated with different hydrogen sources, the following measures can be adopted to effectively use the resource.
1. Specialized Infrastructure
It is crucial to develop specialized infrastructure for the logistics of hydrogen value chains. The establishment of this new infrastructure may involve significant costs, which will ultimately be borne by the consumers.
2. Blending Technique
Blending hydrogen with natural gas can be a viable solution to avoid the high costs of hydrogen-based energy and maintain energy equity. This interim start-up measure allows for a smoother transition into a new hydrogen infrastructure, ensuring accessibility and affordability for all.
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