Thursday's paper stated that hydrogen production is difficult to justify from an environmental standpoint, even at sites such as this Shell project in Germany that use renewable energy.
Although hydrogen is considered a viable and sustainable energy option, a Thursday study found that it could cause higher greenhouse gas emissions than conventional coal.
This study focuses on an energy source that President Joe Biden has lauded, the International Energy Agency and several major energy companies.
The authors criticize "blue hydrogen", saying that it "appears hard to justify on climate grounds."
According to an article in Energy Science and Engineering, "Blue hydrogen is not hardly emission free", which refers to the wide support for the fuel in Washington and elsewhere.
The Senate approved Biden's $1.2 billion infrastructure bill on Tuesday. It does not include "blue hydrogen", but $8 billion is provided for funding at least four "regional clean hydrogen hubs".
Researchers warned that the fuel, which uses carbon capture and stored (CCS) as part of a clean-energy strategy, "only works to a degree it is possible to store long-term indefinitely carbon dioxide into the future without leaking back to the atmosphere."
In June, the US Energy Department announced funding of $52.5 million for 31 projects that support "next generation clean hydrogen."
A 2019 IEA report praised hydrogen's potential to "become a crucial part of a more secure and sustainable energy future."
According to Mark Jacobson of Stanford University and Cornell, the production is very energy-intensive. Emissions are released from heating and pressing, as well as from the use natural gas to make hydrogen.
Blue hydrogen may contain some emissions, but the paper points out that energy is also needed for carbon-capture.
According to the paper, this "provides no benefit" since the combined carbon dioxide and methane emissions from blue and gray hydrogen are higher than those for natural gas, diesel oil, or coal.
The authors stated that blue hydrogen should be viewed as a distraction that could delay the necessary action to decarbonize the global energy system.
Robert W. Howarth et. al., How green hydrogen is? Energy Science & Engineering (2021). Robert W. Howarth and colleagues, How green are blue hydrogen? (2021). DOI: 10.1002/ese3.956