Blog Posts: Environment

March 29th, 2020

Hydrogen and the Energy Transition: 40 Shades of Green or 50 Shades of Grey

In Europe and around the world, hydrogen is increasingly seen as an important part of the energy transition. Industry and political actors believe it can help decarbonise transport, heating and industry. But is hydrogen really the zero-carbon miracle solution that will play a pivotal role in Europe’s decarbonisation?

A zero-carbon energy carrier?

The first claim made about hydrogen is that it is zero- or low-carbon. And while it’s true that hydrogen does not produce CO2 when its burned, 96% of the hydrogen produced in the world today is made using fossil fuels, in processes that emit both carbon dioxide and methane.

Hydrogen that is made with coal or fossil gas is known as ‘grey” hydrogen, as it emits large amounts of CO2. There are efforts to make this hydrogen low-carbon by using carbon capture and storage/utilisation (CCS/U) technologies to produce so-called ‘blue’ hydrogen. CCS takes the carbon dioxide that is a by-product of hydrogen production from fossil fuels and stores it in underground reservoirs, whereas CCU takes the CO2 and uses it again – primarily in oil extraction and fertilisers.

The problem is that these technologies are unproven, and many pilot projects have struggled or failed. The flagship projects that do exist have very low capture rates (sometimes as low as 33%), and even a perfectly operating CCS/U installation would not be able to capture the full amount of CO2 emitted during hydrogen production. And CCS/U does nothing to limit the emissions of methane from the fossil gas used to produce hydrogen in the first place. Methane is so damaging to the climate that even a small amount of emissions can turn fossil gas into a fuel entirely incompatible with the Paris Agreement.

The only truly sustainable source of hydrogen is ‘green’ hydrogen, which is produced from renewable energy through a process called electrolysis.

Banking on green hydrogen?

With some actors recognising that grey and blue hydrogen are incompatible with the EU’s climate targets, they are increasingly putting their faith in green hydrogen. Supporters say that it can be used in heating, transport, industry and even electricity generation. This is technically true, but there will not be enough green hydrogen available to service all these sectors simultaneously.

Green hydrogen is expensive to produce, and could pose other issues. If there is no dedicated energy generation to feed electrolysers directly, these systems would rely on excess renewable energy during particularly windy or sunny periods, which are times when the electricity that is produced often exceeds demand for homes, businesses and transport. In using excess renewable electricity, green hydrogen production can play a role in compensating for the variability of renewables.

However, it also means that only limited amounts of green hydrogen can be produced. This will have to be allocated to the areas where it is needed most. For heating homes and powering cars, electricity is much more efficient than hydrogen. However, for industrial processes or long-distance shipping that cannot be easily electrified, green hydrogen can play a crucial role in decarbonisation. This would require careful planning to ensure that green hydrogen goes to the sectors that need it most and is not wasted in sectors that can be easily electrified, or where energy efficiency measures can dramatically reduce energy demand.

Importance of planning for the hydrogen future

Green hydrogen will be produced in very different places, and used in very different sectors, compared to where fossil gas is used today. That means that pipelines and LNG infrastructure cannot be used for both gases. While there might be some overlap between current gas and future hydrogen transport routes, the notion that fossil gas infrastructure built today is “multi-purpose” and can be used for green hydrogen in the future is misguided. But this deceptive argument is already being used by politicians and energy system operators to justify continued support for fossil gas.

Green hydrogen can play an important role in the energy transition, but not if it is used as camouflage for the continued use of fossil fuels.

February 7th, 2020

Parliament Must Reject 55+ Fossil Gas Projects NOW. Not in 2021

Debunking the dubious arguments for not taking action

By Frida Kieninger and Ciara Barry

The projects are costly and climate-killingOn 12 February, the EU Parliament will vote on the PCI list, a priority list for big energy infrastructure, mostly electricity and gas projects. This list contains over 55 fossil gas projects worth 29 billion Euros. None of these projects are needed to ensure EU energy supply; these unnecessary gas projects would be eligible for millions of EU tax money and funding by the European Investment Bank, and will deepen the climate crisis.

So why is there still reluctance within the Parliament to reject this list?

Read the full article…

February 4th, 2020

A Just Transition is Possible for Ireland’s South West

The Shannon LNG terminal is still promoted as a key employer for the South-West of Ireland. But the transition to clean, renewable energy offers a better path for workers and the climate.

A beautiful view in Ireland.

Image credits: Wikimedia Commons

By Ciara Barry

The rural area of Ballylongford in County Kerry, Ireland, has become the centre of attention in a debate that pits advocates of the gas industry against those pushing for a renewable energy future.

Ballylongford is the proposed location for Shannon LNG, an import terminal which seeks to import liquefied fossil gas, likely sourced from fracking operations in the United States.

Although the project was granted planning permission in 2008, due to legal challenges and a campaign co-initiated by Food & Water Europe two years ago, not a brick has been laid in this controversial project.

Read the full article…

December 14th, 2019

European Green Deal: An Ineffective Plan to Address the Climate Crisis

Proposal relies too heavily on gas and carbon markets

On 11 December, just a few days after taking office, the new EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen presented the European Green Deal, an overview of measures that would lead the EU to a “carbon-neutral” economy by 2050.

Food & Water Europe has taken a close look at the many promises in the proposal, and the role that EU foresees in this deal for gas.

An adequate answer to climate strikers and millions taking the streets?

EU Commission President von der Leyen presented the European Green Deal (EGD) as a “man on the moon” moment to make the EU a global leader in the energy transition. It should be seen as an “answer” to the activists taking to the streets demanding climate action. There are several areas where the plan simply comes up short.
Read the full article…

October 23rd, 2019

Cut Fossil Fuels of Our Politics

Cut coal, gas and oil out of politics! /

To tackle the climate emergency, and ensure that climate policy is conducted entirely in the public interest, we must cut fossil fuel interests out of our politics, similar to existing restrictions on the tobacco industry.

We are joining Corporate Europe Observatory, Friends of the Earth Europe and Greenpeace EU and almost 200 other organisations worldwide to campaign for fossil free politics.

Read the full article…

October 1st, 2019

Europe’s Big Bet on Gas Would Be a Climate Disaster

Three infographics show how the “Projects of Common Interest” list is really about serving corporate interests

Every year, the European Commission releases a list of “Projects of Common Interest” (PCI List) for future gas infrastructure. In 2017, the final PCI List included around 50 gas projects; however, in reality there were about 100 projects, since many had been clustered together.

This year looks set to be no different, with over 110 projects being proposed for the fourth PCI List that will be published in October.
Read the full article…

July 24th, 2019

Europe’s Terminal to Import Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) STILL Heavily Underused

By Andy Gheorghiu and Frida Kieninger

What is a utilization rate, and why does it matter?
Just like in 2018, Food & Water Europe again analyzed the utilization rate of EU LNG terminals based on data from Gas Infrastructure Europe. LNG terminals are facilities that enable the import of liquefied natural gas(LNG), gas that is cooled down so its volume is reduced by a ratio of 1:600 and can be shipped across the ocean via LNG tankers.
Read the full article…

June 21st, 2019

World Upside Down: Voters Trust German Greens to Handle Climate Crisis Just as Party Throws Support for American Fracked „Freedom“ Gas

by Andy Gheorghiu

A long, long time ago, in a country known for its green forests, old traditions and also large-scale industry, a miracle was about to happen. A real and much-needed clean energy transition by an industrialized – and very influential – European country was on the way to the so-called “Energiewende.”

However, the transition was simply too successful. The mighty fossil fuel lobby saw that a move away from their dirty business model to a decentralized climate-friendly energy system based on renewables and energy efficiency (perhaps coupled with a changed economic model) was about to transform the old power patterns.

Read the full article…

June 19th, 2019

Touring Four of the Most Pointless Gas Projects in Europe

By Frida Kieninger

Summer time is travel time!

What about taking a trip to some climate disaster projects across Europe? In 2017, Food & Water Europe took you to some of the most ridiculous and costly gas projects that applied to become part of the EU’s priority list for gas infrastructure, the List of Projects of Common Interest (PCI list). This year, in the brand new 2019 all-inclusive experience, we will take you to some more gas projects that make absolutely no sense and are applying for a spot on the PCI list…

Read the full article…

June 6th, 2019

EU’s Fracking Hypocrisy

How LNG is still an accepted back door for fracked gas in Europe

With climate chaos looming and millions on the streets to support the youth climate strikes, it’s time to have a closer look at the hypocrisy of the European Union regarding fracking. A new Food & Water Watch report – The Fracking End Game: Locked Into Plastics, Pollution and Climate Chaos – casts a profound look at the United States’ current fracking and LNG export boom. This blog shows how the EU’s LNG import plans fit perfectly with the U.S.’ dirty plans.

A number of EU Member States have legislative or de facto bans on fracking in place, yet at the same time, imports of fracked US gas are on the rise: Between a meeting of U.S. President Trump and EU Commission President Juncker in July 2018 and spring of this year, exports of American fossil gas have increased by over 270%. In March 2019 alone, over 1.4 billion cubic meters of U.S. LNG reached Europe. While these volumes are still an insignificant fraction of EU gas consumption, decision makers’ endorsement of this steadily growing, extremely harmful source of gas is highly problematic.

Read the full article…

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