Hydrogen tanker truck driving on lakeside highway

The hydrogen horizon

Water’s role in safeguarding the energy transition

Accelerated development of the hydrogen economy is crucial to tackle climate change. It’s therefore vital that leaders address the hydrogen-water nexus head on – turning risk into opportunity.

The hydrogen economy is on the cusp of rapid growth. Production plants’ sites are planned. Investment is committed. Targets are set. The excitement around hydrogen is understandable. It has huge potential to decarbonise sectors like chemical, heavy, aviation, and shipping. Yet the opportunity is at risk unless decision-makers are laser focused on the energy-water nexus from the outset.

As the impact of climate change intensifies, water will only become more scarce. And the risk to hydrogen production will only become more acute. This risk is commonly underestimated – particularly the amount of water needed for cooling. Here, our analysis shows that the amount of water needed can be up to six times greater than figures commonly quoted in public.

11.1 billion litres
Anticipated annual water usage of a 1GW hydrogen plant, equivalent to connecting 220,000 consumers to a water network
10 million tonnes
Amount of low-carbon hydrogen both the US and EU aim to produce by 2030

Decision-makers, including governments and hydrogen project developers, can act now to check the risk keep the growth of the hydrogen economy on the right track. They already focus on plants' cost efficiency to keep costs down. Now they must give the same attention to water efficiency to keep plants running.

This report explores the following:

  • In-depth calculations of total water consumption of green hydrogen – including cooling and water purification
  • Overview of hydrogen projects in the UK, US, and Australia
  • Recommendations to hydrogen developers on steps they can take to prioritise water usage and risk into hydrogen production – including in plant design and location selection
  • What role regulators can play in supporting hydrogen developers to address their water consumption
  • Novel solutions to make hydrogen more efficient.

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