Hydrogen fuel as a low-carbon, energy expansion tool

Texas has an established track record of leading in the expansion of energy options — a legacy from Spindletop that has continued through wind energy and solar power to carbon capture and hydrogen technologies.

Hydrogen, in particular, is well positioned in the coming years to join that list of cost-effective and low-emissions sources of energy for many industries, presenting Texas with another opportunity to build up another energy industry and holding the promise for further economic growth while contributing further to the energy independence of the U.S.

But, first, what exactly is hydrogen when we talk about it as a fuel source?

Hydrogen is already commonly used in many industrial processes, from oil refining to the production of ammonia, methanol and steel.

A better option for long-haul transportation?

What is exciting now for energy planners is the use of hydrogen as an alternative fuel source for transportation. A natural application for this technology would be for long-haul transportation via truck or plane.

This mode of transportation utilizes hydrogen fuel cells, which create electricity through an electrochemical process. The end products of this reaction are electricity, heat and water.

Trucks moving goods across the country would fill up at hydrogen fueling stations, and the process for filling up trucks would be largely similar to the gas stations with which we are already familiar.

So far, so good. So what stands in the way of a hydrogen-fueled truck fleet stocking the state’s H-E-B’s or Whataburgers?

The biggest challenge is bringing the costs of fuel cells down to where they are competitive with current fuel stocks. It is expected, though, that costs will fall and will eventually become competitive with other low-carbon fuel options.

Other countries are prioritizing hydrogen fuel, such as Japan or China, and are investing to get more of these vehicles on the road there.

Will the U.S. act similarly to prioritize this promising new fuel source? If so, Texas is uniquely placed to take the lead in this new industry.

We lay out the reasons why in Part 2 of this series.