Study finds blue hydrogen worse than gas or coal

The carbon footprint of creating blue hydrogen is more than 20% greater than using either natural gas or coal directly for heat, or about 60% greater than using diesel oil for heat, according to joint research by Cornell and Stanford universities in the US.

The paper, which was published in Energy Science and Engineering, warned that blue hydrogen may be a distraction or something that may delay needed action to truly decarbonise the global energy economy.

A research team claimed blue hydrogen requires large amounts of natural gas to produce and said that even with the most advanced carbon capture and storage technology, there are a significant amount of CO2 and methane emissions that won’t be caught.

Blue hydrogen sounds good, sounds modern and sounds like a path to our energy future, it is not

Professors from the universities calculated that these fugitive emissions from producing hydrogen could eclipse those associated with extracting and burning gas when multiplied by the amount of gas required to make an equivalent amount of energy from hydrogen.

The paper comes hot on the heels of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report claiming methane has contributed about two-thirds as much to global warming as CO2 and as many governments are looking to invest in hydrogen production.

Robert Howarth, a Cornell University professor and co-author of the study, said: “Political forces may not have caught up with the science yet. Even progressive politicians may not understand for what they’re voting. Blue hydrogen sounds good, sounds modern and sounds like a path to our energy future. It is not.”

The UK is high up on the list of countries aiming to put blue hydrogen at the core of its energy transition agenda. UK energy consultancy Xodus recently launched a new report urging a bolder vision to enable the country to become a global leader in the adoption of hydrogen. The researchers, on the other hand, recommended a focus on green hydrogen, which is made using renewable electricity to extract hydrogen from water, leaving only oxygen as a byproduct.

“This best-case scenario for producing blue hydrogen, using renewable electricity instead of natural gas to power the processes, suggests to us that there really is no role for blue hydrogen in a carbon-free future. Greenhouse gas emissions remain high, and there would also be a substantial consumption of renewable electricity, which represents an opportunity cost. We believe renewable electricity could be better used by society in other ways, replacing the use of fossil fuels.”

Adis Ajdin

Adis is an experienced news reporter with a background in finance, media and education. He has written across the spectrum of offshore energy and ocean industries for many years and is a member of International Federation of Journalists. Previously he had written for Navingo media group titles including Offshore Energy, Subsea World News and Marine Energy.


  1. Green hydrogen is a dead end too; but we keep seeing the same cycle of climate scams over the past two decades. About time for “peak oil” to get another whirl don’t you think? And why not do the same study on wind and solar? Because it would never get published and if it did those researchers would never get another grant, raise, tenure or invitation to junkets, soirees even local faculty functions.

  2. I hate people who always find a problem in something without giving an alternative option. I saw another similar article that said EV based economy will cause more harm to the climate then it will solve the climate issue. In that case what’s the alternative. Nothing? Then why do we need all the technology, everyone should simple go to forest and live there with nature without any need for any man made things then the climate would be clean. But is that practical. It’s not. Then what’s the use of these kind of useless studies. A

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