How to guarantee a renewable product

Primary energy source determines the color assigned to hydrogen by CertifHy, © Hinicio

The CertifHy system for tracking the origin of green (renewable) and blue (low-carbon) hydrogen has moved past the pilot stage and can now be used throughout the EU to certify the gas and issue guarantees of origin.

The recent dynamism in the hydrogen market has led to discussions about the methods by which it is produced and the sustainability of different production pathways.

At issue are the expansion and use of renewable energy in every sector, but most of all in transportation, and the environmental footprint of markets that are difficult to decarburize. Examples of the latter include the chemical, petrochemical, petroleum refining and steel industries.

Current German and EU color schemes, if you will, range from gray to blue and turquoise to green. Two factors determine the color of hydrogen, which typically is almost impossible to see with the naked eye. One of them is primary energy demand, the other is the GHG footprint of production along the entire supply chain.

Sustainability criteria provide a sense of direction

In 2019, the stakeholders in CertifHy agreed on standardized requirements throughout Europe [1]. This has made the continent the leading force in tracking hydrogen production, a development followed closely by governments in Asia, the Americas and the Pacific. There are calls from many quarters for a single set of definitions and criteria to be used around the globe. CertifHy would be the ideal basis for this kind of standardization effort, since it was created based on broad consensus among EU countries and under the longtime watch of international observers.

One of the main criteria for issuing or refusing a CertifHy guarantee of origin is the GHG footprint of the selected production method. The footprint must be at least 60 percent below that of hydrogen produced from burning natural gas, or not exceed the yearly average of natural gas-based systems if a plant uses more than one type of energy source. For example, hydrogen generation plants that run on both fossil and clean sources of energy cannot rely mainly on coal-sourced electricity and only a small proportion of green electricity to power their electrolyzers. The purpose of this requirement is to prevent issuing certificates for systems that cause a net increase in GHG emissions compared to conventional hydrogen production.

read more in H2-international May 2020

Matthias Altmann, Patrick Schmidt
Both for Ludwig-Bölkow-Systemtechnik, Ottobrunn (near Munich)

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