Source: California Energy Markets
Editor's note: Hydrogen for the Holidays is a series of stories to end 2021 and begin 2022 that takes a closer look at several angles of the energy resource—from supply to storage to the companies building the technological bridge to consumers.
Hydrogen is increasingly seen as an important variable in the transition to clean energy in transportation. California is counting on a growing capability to produce and store hydrogen in the next decade to help meet many of its net-zero emissions and climate change goals.
But where is the hydrogen market now?
Bill Quirk, California Assembly representative from District 20, which covers the southern East Bay portion of the San Francisco Bay Area, recently spoke at the Hydrogen North America conference, an industry event held virtually this year. Quirk, who holds a Ph.D. in astrophysics from Columbia University and worked at NASA and at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory before joining the Assembly, feels that the entire role of hydrogen needs to be reexamined to increase efficiency—from pricing to storage and supply sources.
"Refineries use hydrogen to turn crude into gasoline, so they make a lot of hydrogen," Quirk said during an interview with California Energy Markets. "However, in California, one-third of hydrogen has to come from solar or wind—green sources—and not that many places make green hydrogen. If that restriction was not in place, limited supply would not be an issue."
Quirk is not for lowering the standards for hydrogen production—on the contrary, he is advocating for a total review of green resources in order to identify the best ways to increase the sustainable hydrogen supply.
"Producing hydrogen is a major problem," Quirk said. "We have a lot of hydrogen fuel cells and not enough hydrogen to fuel them. The only way the market can go on is if auto manufacturers subsidize it with free fuel."
The hydrogen conference gave Quirk an opportunity to interact with his peers from other states, including Minnesota and Utah, as well as from across the political aisle. "We went across the board and asked, 'What is your state doing to face the supply shortage?'" Quirk said.
"We went beyond introductions and talked about what programs and innovation could possibly be part of the solution."
Quirk sees dramatically increasing the supply of liquid hydrogen as a prominent solution that needs more attention and resources.
"The problem is that most facilities do not use liquid hydrogen and are focused on gas hydrogen," Quirk said. "Most hydrogen comes from natural gas and superheated steam from gray hydrogen. There are plenty of these sources, but they are not green hydrogen sources."
Gray hydrogen comes from natural gas and is produced by fossil fuels, and is the least renewable form of hydrogen.
Quirk is advocating for more supply resources and research for the implementation of hydrogen fuel in 2022 and beyond. "We need more efficient vehicle solutions, like a natural gas vehicle or gray hydrogen vehicle," Quirk said. "And more planning about implementing gasless hydrogen instead of making it the exception to the supply rule."