Will carbon removal and green hydrogen reshape the US net-zero economy?

28 June 2023 by Tom Rochford
blog author

​​I attended two incredibly thought-provoking conferences recently, surrounding hydrogen and carbon dioxide removal (CDR), which attempted to unravel the challenges hindering the scale-up of clean energy innovations.

I came away from the World Hydrogen North America conference in Houston last month, feeling energised by the notion that there is enormous potential for hydrogen production in the continent.

North America is home to the largest rise in planned hydrogen projects globally which is forecast to increase due to demand and progression in the industry.

While there is great scope for using green hydrogen and CDR as a lever that will play a key role in building a more sustainable American economy the proof, as ever, will be in the pudding. We need to know what we are doing with hydrogen – and where we want to go with it, for it to succeed as a green energy powerhouse in the continent.

By this, I don’t just mean utilizing the energy source, but also considering transportation and storage of the low/zero carbon gas and asking ourselves whether we have the right resources to store a potential global commodity. For true success, the cost of imports needs to be lower than the cost of domestic production but transporting hydrogen remains a hurdle.

Hydrogen storage

The success and long-term viability of clean hydrogen atoms in the market depends on the demand pipeline and understanding the best answer for the elephant in the room - what do we do with this supply of hydrogen once we have it? 

One opinion raised was that the transportation sector will not be a big enough solution in the short-medium term despite an established, domestic customer base waiting in industrial manufacturing and fertilizer production. This pales in comparison to the opportunity for export to the EU and Asia - a proposition that could have easily been played in reverse not so long ago.

Since the introduction of the IRA (Inflation Reduction Act), the economics of production have dramatically shifted globally, the result of which is evident in the surge of international investment to early-stage domestic projects on this coastline alone. In fact within the 400-450 miles from Corpus Christi to Baton Rouge, there are now more than one hundred sustainable fuel, hydrogen and carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects in early-stage development!

The next few decades are forecast to see project financing in excess of $1trillion so we must hope the administration from 2024 onwards keeps momentum and remains at the forefront of the global hydrogen economy as regulation, permitting policy, and future funding decisions will be vital for debate over the next few years.

The future of carbon dioxide removal

The other conference that inspired me was Carbon Unbound in New York, which united global industry pioneers and showcased how renewable energy developers/independent power producers (IPPs) will have a big role to play in the engineered CDR solution space.

This discussion was raised in a few sessions, with my personal highlight being the talk about being on the road to “Gigaton-Scale Deployment” with Josh Santos, Adrian Corless,  Jason Hochman, and Nicholas Chadwick.

The conference raised other clean energy conundrums which made it clear to attendees that collaboration is key and that engineered CDR innovators can gain a lot from partnering with existing energy developers not only because of the institutional knowledge on the key issues of EPC/Permitting/Interconnection front but most importantly access to clean electrons.

As a final note from the carbon conference, it was emphasized we need to use as much, or more, clean energy than currently produced globally to scale the amount of direct air capture (DAC) for the planet to reach net-zero.

What are your thoughts on the future of hydrogen and carbon markets? If you are looking to advance your career in the renewable energy space, do get in touch.

Tom is a recruitment leader with nearly 10 years of experience partnering with companies ranging from start-ups to industry leaders across varied markets, globally. Predominantly Tom's experience has been in the development, manufacture & deployment of clean energy technologies, with particular success in the exec search space placing President & C-Suite executives. His experience spans: Project Development & Origination, Procurement & Supply Chain, Engineering & Construction, Finance, Operations, Sales & Marketing, Quality & HSE, Research & Development. Originally from the UK now living in NYC for the last few years, Tom joined Acre in 2023 to direct and expand our Sustainable Energy & Clean Technologies division in North America.


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