Hydrogen Can Immediately Reduce Emissions for Heavy Industry

Rocky Mountain Institute’s latest research outlines how hydrogen produced with grid power could be used today to reduce carbon emissions in some hard-to-abate sectors.

Boulder, Colorado – January 28, 2020 – Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) today launched a new report, Hydrogen’s Decarbonization Impact for Industry: Near-term Challenges and Long-term Potential, which highlights the immediate emissions reduction potential of hydrogen as an alternative to fossil fuels in some industrial processes, like steel and heavy transport, regardless of how that hydrogen is produced.

RMI’s new research shows that in many developed economies where power grids have less CO2-intensive generation sources, such as the EU and the United States, hydrogen produced through electrolysis can immediately start decarbonizing the steel industry.

“What we found is that there is no reason to wait with transitioning the steel industry from current blast furnace technologies to using hydrogen,” said Thomas Kock Blank, a principal in RMI’s Industry program. “If we delay the fuel shift in heavy industry, shipping, trucking or other sectors, by the time there is a supply of green hydrogen at scale, we will already be overshooting a 1.5°C pathway.”

Additional findings from the report include:

  • For economies with a large portion of coal power in their grid, like India and China, hydrogen can still reduce emissions in the steel industry.
  • Despite a lower CO2-intensity than most power grid-based hydrogen sources, there is no role for steam methane reform (SMR) in decarbonizing industry sectors unless successfully fitted with carbon capture and storage (CCS).
  • Because electrolysis production with grid power will be at parity with SMR within the next 5-year period, EU and US policy should exclusively focus on electrolysis until CCS is a viable and scalable technology.
  • The alignment of high-potential for CO2 reduction and the large-scale of off-takers in sectors like steel and shipping, where demand is naturally aggregated in ports, provides a pathway for policy makers to achieve demand at scale. This can significantly accelerate the cost reduction of electrolysis technologies.

RMI has created an interactive website that allows users to explore the data across multiple dimensions. Learn more and download the report here:


Media Contact

Nick Steel
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Tel: +1 347.574.0887
E: nsteel@rmi.org

About Rocky Mountain Institute

Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) — an independent nonprofit founded in 1982 — transforms global energy use to create a clean, prosperous and secure low-carbon future. It engages businesses, communities, institutions and entrepreneurs to accelerate the adoption of market-based solutions that cost-effectively shift from fossil fuels to efficiency and renewables. RMI has offices in Basalt and Boulder, Colorado; New York City; the San Francisco Bay Area; Washington, D.C.; and Beijing.