THP-E258: Hydrogen’s Best Path Forward For Steel, Cement, And Chemicals?

Paul Rodden • Season: 2023 • Episode: 258

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Welcome to The Hydrogen Podcast!

In episode 258, A great series from Canary Media discusses decarbonizing steel, cement and chemicals. I’ll go through one of the articles and give my thoughts on today’s hydrogen podcast.

Thank you for listening and I hope you enjoy the podcast. Please feel free to email me at with any questions. Also, if you wouldn’t mind subscribing to my podcast using your preferred platform… I would greatly appreciate it.

Paul Rodden

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Start Here: The 6 Main Colors of Hydrogen


A great series from Canary Media discusses decarbonizing steel, cement and chemicals. I’ll go through one of the articles and give my thoughts on today’s hydrogen podcast.

So the big questions in the energy industry today are, how is hydrogen the primary driving force behind the evolution of energy? Where is capital being deployed for hydrogen projects globally? And where are the best investment opportunities for early adopters who recognize the importance of hydrogen? I will address the critical issues and give you the information you need to deploy capital. Those are the questions that will unlock the potential of hydrogen, and this podcast will give you the answers. My name is Paul Rodden, and welcome to the hydrogen podcast.

In an article in Canary media’s series on decarbonizing steel, cement and chemicals, Julian Spector writes, We need green hydrogen to clean up heavy industry who’s making it, Julian writes, you can’t build something out of nothing. And this immutable fact poses a challenge for the essential Heavy Industries whose decarbonisation plans depend on cleanly produced hydrogen. The steel industry is betting on clean hydrogen to replace coal in the making of key input iron. Fertilizer suppliers want to replace hydrocarbons with hydrogen as the feedstock for synthesizing ammonia.

Cement manufacturers hope to rely on hydrogen as a clean heat source. Chemical refineries already use fossil derived hydrogen and need to clean it up to make their operations compatible with a livable planet. As detailed inCanary media’s the tough stuff series, the current best bet to decarbonize the building blocks of modern society depend on a steady supply of clean hydrogen readily accessible to industrial centers around the country. This simply does not exist today in the US and other countries. It’s only happening on a small scale. In a quote from Claire Behar, chief commercial officer at an integrated green-hydrogen venture called Hy Stor said, the projects in service now globally, we’re talking 10 megawatts, maybe 20 megawatts, we need to be breaking ground to date with these gigawatt scale projects in order to even come close to meeting our climate goals.

The success of the industrial decarbonisation project then requires not just reorienting massive incumbent industries around novel low carbon processes, but simultaneously inventing a whole new clean hydrogen supply chain. capable of feeding these enormous beasts hydrogen itself is not difficult to make it’s already produced at scale, using steam methane reforming a highly carbon emitting process. People have synthesized it without hydrocarbons for over a century as a byproduct of the chlor alkali process used to make chlorine gas. Hydrogen can also be produced more directly through electrolysis, which involves running an electric current through water. For hydrogen to be green, though the electricity tap for either of those last two processes needs to be verifiably carbon free. Gold standard green hydrogen would plug off grid renewables straight into electrolyzers.

If a producer runs electrolyzers from the grid, and buys credits for renewable power equal to consumption, that process can actually emit more carbon than dirty methane based production. This counterintuitive fact animates the debate on whether federal tax credits should require time matching renewable generation with hydrogen production. Other techniques can be clean without being green. nuclear powered electrolysis is not renewable, but it is carbon free. Methane reforming that effectively catches its emissions forever technically could be carbon free, though this remains to be proven both practically and financially. Even if the industry were to embrace the highest standard of green hydrogen, there are plenty of hurdles to overcome.

The vital hydrogen electrolyzer equipment itself is still maturing, and needs to improve in efficiency, production scale and cost just like solar panels and batteries needed a decade ago, and nobody has much experience hooking up electrolyzers into large scale hydrogen production sites, the equivalent of turning a pile of solar panels into a functioning power plant to make green steel, cement and chemicals then the US needs to figure out how to supersize carbon free hydrogen production post haste.

Several groups are already vying for position in this emerging not yet extant market. Their plans will take us green hydrogen production from zero to something in the coming year. Legacy industrial gas providers Air Liquide, Air Products, Linde, Messer are scoping out green hydrogen facilities to complement their existing carbon based operations. Separately, clean tech innovators are applying less From the solar boom to green hydrogen project development, in some cases, bundling, electrolyzers and clean electricity generation at the same site. Legacy oil and gas majors are talking about leveraging their immense engineering capabilities to produce hydrogen while capturing emissions from dirty methane based processes.

Okay, I need to break away from the story for a second to share a quick word from our sponsor, From water electolyzers to flow batteries and fuel cells, Nafion™ Proton Exchange Membranes play a major role in advancing the Hydrogen Economy. Through their high conductivity, superior strength, and chemical durability, Nafion™ membranes provide the performance needed to make green hydrogen safer, more sustainable, and more affordable. Learn how Nafion™ ion exchange materials support the decarbonization of energy across the globe at Now back to the show.

Congress grease the wheels by passing the most enticing green hydrogen production tax credits ever in the IRA of 2022. If the unexpectedly public jockeying over the fine print on those tax credits is any indication a lot of well resourced corporations are itching to jump into the fray and collect those benefits. And earlier this month, President Biden announced the much anticipated winners of $7 billion for seven regional hydrogen hubs, intended to jumpstart the US hydrogen economy by creating supply and demand in close proximity. In other words, a hazy American green hydrogen economy is starting to come into view. Here’s the uncertain path from the state of play today to a future with green hydrogen to clean up steel, cement, and more. Okay, the article continues on for quite some time. But there’s one point that I’d like to make. And that’s this last section of the article.

So what about gaseous expansion groups like Air Liquide and plug power hope to scale green hydrogen by selling it in liquid form to propel clean vehicles. The benefit of that approach is that customers are buying clean hydrogen for vehicles today, success does not depend on a non existent market springing to life. But the big still theoretical industrial users, makers of low carbon steel cement chemicals need gaseous hydrogen to decarbonize their processes. a different set of entrepreneurs is betting that if they get to work building green hydrogen gas production now, industrial customers will materialize to buy it. Developing hydrogen production can look a lot like developing competitive renewables projects this according to Jacob Susman, a longtime wind developer who’s launched hydrogen company, Ambient Fuels and 2021. He says you need to pick a spot on a map where it makes sense, then invest money to gain rights to the land and file for permits and grid connection.

Once the key ingredients are secure, you can attract customers, and that’s when you spend the big dollars to build out the site. Ambient hasn’t completed any hydrogen production projects yet, but in May it raised 250 million from climate tech financier Generate Capital to support its build out specimens earlier projects could start producing in 2026 and the sector could reach escape velocity and 2028. This according to Susman. Hy Stor, a company developing an integrated green hydrogen production and storage facility is working to deliver green hydrogen gas in 2026 to industrial customers that will set up shop and the company’s 70,000 acre complex and coastal Mississippi. Now it just needs to move as fast as possible to build sufficient hydrogen production in time. In a quote from Hy Stor CCO Claire Behar, we’re really going from zero to 180 miles an hour we’re going to be on the gigawatt scale, we will be the largest.

Behar declined to specify who exactly the industrial customers are or whose electrolyzers the firm will install to produce the hydrogen. But she did say the company is breaking ground early next year. On the renewables installations that will power electrolysis and the salt domes that will store the gaseous hydrogen 1000s of feet below ground speed dictates high stores design choices, simply waiting for permission to interconnect a major renewable power plant to the grid could blow the 2026 deadline. So Hy Stor is building a mix of off grid wind, solar and geothermal generation at the site that will pump power directly into the facilities electrolyzers given the tight turnaround Hy Stor will focus on mature alkaline electrolyzers as well as pem electrolyzers for carbon free hydrogen.

The company plans to store the gas and 10 purpose built underground salt domes and sell it to customers that build facilities in the new industrial park to make things like green steel and fertilizer Hy Stor is far from alone and moving quickly to raise America’s green hydrogen production capacity would be green steelmakers don’t need to bank on new supply chain magically appearing rather, they need a new crop of hydrogen developers to secure land and electrolyzers lineup clean power and get building as soon as possible. Okay, so a good intro article on the hydrogen demand and generation and how to begin working together to decarbonize hard to abate sectors. Now, this article was a part of a much larger series on the topic of decarbonizing steel, cement, and chemicals, I highly suggest anyone interested to head over to Canary media to review the series.

But keep in mind while this and the other articles occasionally mentioned SMR as a potential hydrogen source, they focus mainly on electrolytic hydrogen from renewables, and are proponents of the three pillars. So read that with that in mind, but regardless of your stance on those topics, this article as well as the series does a great job of treating the energy transition is just that a transition, focus on solving one piece of the decarbonisation pie, and then move on to the next. But I also very much like the quote, from Jacob Susman on developing these projects, he says to pick a spot on a map that makes sense.

But that’s the tricky part, we built out the hydrogen advantage to help make that process much easier. But there is no boiler plate out of the box solution for determining that proper location. And since we’re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars for site generation, the time and capital that needs to be devoted to site selection should be significant. But I would disagree with Jacob on his last point. He says that once the site is determined, the money invested in gaining land rights and permits, then you attract customers. I believe that needs to be solidified before land investment gets underway. The land will be there. The offtake is the big question that needs answering.

All right. That’s it for me, everyone. If you have a second, I would really appreciate it. If you could leave a good review on whatever platform it is that you listen to Apple podcasts, Spotify, Google, YouTube, whatever it is, that would be a tremendous help to the show. And as always, if you ever have any feedback, you’re welcome to email me directly at So until next time, keep your eyes up and honor one another.

Hey, this is Paul. I hope you liked this podcast. If you did and want to hear more. I’d appreciate it if you would either subscribe to this channel on YouTube, or connect with your favorite platform through my website at Thanks for listening. I very much appreciate it. Have a great day.