On this episode of Net-Zero Carbon, Danny Gomez, managing director of financial and emerging markets at FreightWaves, is joined by Mike Hopkins, CEO of Bakken Energy, to discuss the basics of hydrogen and why hydrogen is an attractive fuel source for hard to abate emissions in long-haul trucking.
About 95% of hydrogen produced in the U.S. today is considered gray hydrogen, which is made by natural gas reforming, according to the Department of Energy. This process produces hydrogen and releases carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide.
In terms of environmental impacts and greenhouse gas emissions, hydrogen produced from natural gas is better than that produced from coal but not as clean as green hydrogen, which is produced by using renewable energy.
A lot of natural gas in the U.S. gets flared, meaning it gets burned off at oil fields. That releases large amounts of methane, a superpotent GHG, into the atmosphere. Bakken Energy is on a mission to end flaring and instead use that natural gas to produce hydrogen.
The company uses an energy-efficient technology called auto reforming to produce hydrogen. About 95% of the carbon dioxide emissions are then captured and sequestered underground locally, according to Hopkins.
He said the industry is starting to move away from using colors to describe hydrogen and instead relying on the carbon intensity of producing hydrogen in different ways.
Using hydrogen in trucking
There has been an understanding that ramping up renewable energy production and electrifying everything would decarbonize the economy, Hopkins said. But those solutions don’t work for every sector, especially those such as shipping, aviation and long-haul trucking. That’s where clean hydrogen comes in.
“If you look at … where most of the innovation is going, it’s in these difficult to decarbonize segments of the economy that are prime candidates for hydrogen. And then it’s all about how do you make it available? How do you make it affordable?” Hopkins said.
Making hydrogen affordable is one of Bakken Energy’s aims.
Two ways that hydrogen is being considered for trucking is by using it in internal combustion engines or by feeding hydrogen into a fuel cell that would run a motor in an electric truck. In the latter case, you wouldn’t need a large, heavy battery in order to power an electric truck, Hopkins said.
One of the limiting factors in terms of hydrogen adoption is the lack of a “midstream transportation distribution system,” which exists for diesel, gasoline and natural gas. However, Hopkins and Gomez discussed how hydrogen could be more than a transition fuel.
“The beauty of hydrogen, once you have it … is it’s an amazing energy source. It’s truly zero carbon. It has no emissions other than water. It’s a perfect energy source. But you have to look at how it was made,” Hopkins said. “If in the process of getting that, you’re incredibly polluting, that’s not helping anybody.”