Costs of producing heat from hydrogen

Being able to use low-carbon hydrogen as a fuel for heat production in a competitive way would offer the opportunity to decarbonize the heat uses of natural gas (residential heating, industrial heat) without resorting to electrification.
Although the electrification of heat production for industry is a suitable solution in terms of energy efficiency, it often remains difficult in terms of cost unless the industrial process presents particularities that can be exploited. Electrifying the heating of buildings with heat pumps is a good solution, but it brings issues of peak demand on the electrical network.
Today, the production of heat from hydrogen remains little studied because of the anticipated costs. The hydrogen prices usually discussed and published concern very pure hydrogen (>99.99%). This is quite normal, as the applications that are mostly targeted use hydrogen via a fuel cell, such as hydrogen mobility for example. The costs associated with the purification of hydrogen are high for blue hydrogen, they are lower for green hydrogen, but it is the hydrogen itself that is more expensive in this case.
The combustion of hydrogen in a burner does not require a very high purity and can accommodate a certain percentage of impurities like nitrogen or carbon dioxide.
So, we compared the cost of heat produced by natural gas with the heat produced by green and blue hydrogen. We use the reference costs from the IEA 2019 study which we adapt to take into account the impact of lower purity.
The results are given in the graph below.
The cost of heat with (in orange) or without (in blue) carbon credits in Canada
Green hydrogen can only compete with electric heat, and even then it needs the help of carbon credit type mechanisms. This is not so surprising since the cost of green hydrogen is determined by the cost of the electricity used to produce it.
The production of lower purity blue hydrogen is approaching competitiveness with natural gas and may even reach it with carbon credits. We can assume that pyrolysis hydrogen (turquoise) and biomass hydrogen (white) will eventually be in the same performance range as blue hydrogen. Note that the RCP mechanisms do not allow electrolysis to compensate for its lack of competitiveness.
This preliminary calculation is a simple indication of the trend, but it prompts one to keep in mind the color and purity of hydrogen when discussing heat applications.

Montréal, Québec, Canada

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