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Climate Solution- Sustainable Ag.

Modern Farming


Benefits of Sustainable Agriculture

Sustainable agriculture turns farms into thriving ecological lands that produce food crops, in addition to using plants that increase farms’ biodiversity while sequestering atmospheric carbon. The health of ecosystems, including soil nutrition, on the farm, is a top priority when agriculture is managed sustainably

In most traditional farming of the past, a significant amount of nutrients are removed from the soil without being replaced. Major contributing factors to the depletion of healthy soil on farms globally are:

  • over-tilling the land
  • monoculture (just growing one type of crop on sections of farmland, not implementing crop rotation and planting a variety of crops)
  • synthetic fertilizers and pesticides

From processes like these, there is constant degradation of soil nutrients, leading to poor fertilization from year to year. On farms that use these unsustainable farming practices, there is an increase in weeds, bugs, and vermin. Basically, the farmer slowly loses control of the farm as a whole when the quality of the soil is not managed over time.

The solution to these ecological problems is sustainable agriculture. Sustainable ag. involves land-use practices that restore, protect, and maintain ecosystems and biodiversity on farms. Conventional farmlands are thus transformed into ecologically thriving carbon sinks.


Sustainable Ag. Techniques; Cover Crops, Polyculture, and more

It is important for the farmer implementing sustainable agriculture techniques to understand the relationship between all of the farm’s organisms and the farm’s environment. This understanding is needed in order to create biodiversity on the farm optimally. The sustainable farmer must focus efforts on maintaining nutrients within the farm’s soil, water, and air.

A few sustainable agriculture practices that increase soil health are:

  • seasonal use of cover crops
  • concerted efforts to maintain proper soil nutrition
  • no-till or low-till farming
  • crop rotation
  • polyculture (vs. monoculture)

Cover crops refer to a variety of crops grown on farmland during off-seasons in order to maintain soil health. Examples of cover crops include legumes like alfalfa, various grasses, and cereal crops like rye, oats, and barley, brassicas like turnips and radishes, and turnips and non-legume broadleaves like flax and spinach.

Polyculture is also a practice of introducing a variety of crops on farmland, including multiple species of plants. In the case of polyculture, crops and plants are rotated to different sections on the farmland year-round. Even if polyculture is implemented on a farm, crop rotation and low/ no-till farming should be continually practiced year-round in order to ensure the health of a farm’s ecosystems and soil.

Biodiversity of a farm’s crops, plants on the farm, and other ecosystems on the farm, as well as proper soil nutrition – deter pests. Polyculture also helps maintain a farmland’s healthy ecosystems; also reducing the need for synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.


Creating Carbon Sinks

Real-world examples of sustainable agriculture predominantly include farms that work to satisfy human food demand; while maintaining biodiversity and healthy ecosystems on the farmland. Sustainable agriculture transforms otherwise conventional farmland into environmentally-friendly carbon sinks.

Sustainable farms enhance environmental quality and agricultural economy through the enhancement of the health of a farmland’s natural resources. For example, carbon farming is a sustainable agriculture practice that maintains healthy soils and is common practice in most organic farming. Practices to maintain soil health are found in regenerative agriculture, as well as permaculture (see the section on permaculture below, and please see Green City Times’ article on Regenerative Agriculture). 


Project Drawdown recognizes these sustainable practices as top climate solutions – all of which serve to create agricultural carbon sinks:

  • “Land is a critical component of the climate system, actively engaged in the flows of carbon, nitrogen, water, and oxygen—essential building blocks for life. Carbon is the core of trees and grasses, mammals and birds, lichens and microbes. Linking one atom to the next, and to other elements, it’s the fundamental material of all living organisms.” FROM  –  drawdown.org/sectors/land-sinks
  • “Plants and healthy ecosystems have an unparalleled capacity to absorb carbon through photosynthesis and store it in living biomass. In addition, soils are, in large part, organic matter—once-living organisms, now decomposing—making them an enormous storehouse of carbon. Land can therefore be a powerful carbon sink, returning atmospheric carbon to living vegetation and soils. While the majority of heat-trapping emissions remain in the atmosphere, land sinks currently return a quarter of human-caused emissions to Earth — literally.”   FROM   –   drawdown.org/sectors/land-sinks
  • “Multistrata agroforestry systems mimic natural forests in structure. Multiple layers of trees and crops achieve high rates of both carbon sequestration and food production.”    FROM  –   drawdown.org/solutions/multistrata-agroforestry
  • “An agroforestry practice, silvopasture integrates trees, pasture, and forage, into a single system. Incorporating trees improves land health and significantly increases carbon sequestration.”    FROM   –   drawdown.org/solutions/silvopasture
  • “Pumping and distributing water is energy intensive. Drip and sprinkler irrigation, among other practices and technologies, make farm water use more precise and efficient.”  FROM  –   drawdown.org/solutions/farm-irrigation-efficiency
  • “Building on conservation agriculture with additional practices, regenerative annual cropping can include compost application, green manure, and organic production. It reduces emissions, increases soil organic matter, and sequesters carbon.”  FROM   –   drawdown.org/solutions/regenerative-annual-cropping

Shropshire Agroforestry Project – Shropshire, England



Soil Nutrition
The degradation of agricultural natural resources is the leading issue in depleting a farm’s soil nutrient levels and the health of farmland ecosystems. Sustainable agriculture makes efficient use of non-renewable natural resources. Synthetic pesticides, excessive tilling of the soil, and monoculture (re-planting the same crop, or same type of crop, on the same land season after season, lack of crop rotation) lead to degradation of a farm’s soil health.
A successful sustainable farm must focus a substantial amount of time year-round on healthy soil nutrition to help maintain long-term quality crop and plant growth.
Carbon, nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, phosphates, and other soil nutrients, are necessary proper for good soil nutrition. A healthy soil PH level, and healthy salt content in soils, as well as proper soil nutrients; all can be enhanced in farm soil simply by optimally reusing crop leftovers, farm plant debris, or even some ‘green’ livestock manure for natural fertilization.
Other important techniques to improve soil health on farms include the implementation of polyculture, cover crops (to keep the land productive vs. barren during off-seasons), and no-till or low-till farming. These sustainable agriculture techniques not only improve the health of a farm’s ecosystems but help fight climate change by sequestering carbon from the atmosphere; creating both healthy farmland and a healthy planet.

What are easy ways to reduce a farm’s carbon footprint?
In focusing on possible, easily overlooked, improvements in farms trying to successfully implement sustainable agriculture – issues with poor irrigation, and other water quality issues can always reduce the quality of agriculture. The use of treated, reclaimed rainwater and greywater, on a farm, are easily implemented sustainable agriculture practices; that also serve to save water resources. 
Another example of sustainable farming is the independent production of nitrogen through the Haber process; which uses hydrogen produced from natural gas or possibly created with electricity (ideally from renewable energy) via an electrolyzerThese farming techniques are a part of the emerging regenerative agriculture process.
In sustainable agriculture, it’s important to manage long-term crop rotations to improve soil nutrition. Sustainable farming still entails improving the farmer’s carbon footprint and the quality of ecosystems in their farmland. Natural fertilizer processes help with creating healthy soil. Natural resources are also an important consideration.
Farmers must manage natural resources (crops, plants, trees, rainwater, etc…), and manage the level of non-renewable energy resources used on the farm. With added efficiency on the farm, certain crops, plant and animal waste, tree, and plant croppings, etc… can also be used as sources for biomass/ biofuel production.

For information on how agricultural renewable resources (i.e. biomass) can be developed and optimally produced on farms, please see the following Green City Times’ articles: 

Cellulosic biofuel – fuel solutions

Anaerobic digestion – a proven solution to our waste problem

Renewable energy: biomass and biofuel


Besides increasing biodiversity on farms (through polyculture and agroforestry techniques, for example), maintaining healthy farm ecosystems, and a focus on soil nutrition; other critical considerations in sustainable agriculture are:

  • Managing water wisely
  • Minimizing air, water, and climate pollution
  • Rotating crops and embracing diversity. Planting a variety of crops can have many benefits, including healthier soil and improved pest control. Crop diversity practices include intercropping (growing a mix of crops in the same area) and complex multi-year crop rotations.
  • Planting cover crops. Cover crops, like clover or hairy vetch, are planted during off-season times when soils might otherwise be left bare. These crops protect and build soil health by preventing erosion, replenishing soil nutrients, and keeping weeds in check, reducing the need for herbicides.
  • Reducing or eliminating tillage.  Traditional plowing (tillage) prepares fields for planting and prevents weed problems, but can cause a lot of soil loss. No-till or reduced till methods, which involve inserting seeds directly into undisturbed soil, can reduce erosion and improve soil health.
  • Applying integrated pest management (IPM). A range of methods, including mechanical and biological controls, can be applied systematically to keep pest populations under control while minimizing use of chemical pesticides.
  • Integrating livestock and crops. Industrial agriculture tends to keep plant and animal production separate, with animals living far from the areas where their feed is produced, and crops growing far away from abundant manure fertilizers. A growing body of evidence shows that a smart integration of crop and animal production can be a recipe for more efficient, profitable farms.  [BULLET POINTS FROM  – ucsusa.org/what-sustainable-agriculture]


[As noted above, regenerative agriculture techniques and sustainable agriculture practices are key to reversing the global effects and negative trends of unsustainable ag. practices. Sustainable agriculture practices include increasing the use of permaculture; as well as urban and community gardening.]


Permaculture



The simulation of natural ecosystems, both in agriculture and green urban planning, has the potential to help reduce man’s carbon footprint on the earth.

Some fields of permaculture and urban gardening include Ecological Design, Ecological Engineering, Environmental Design, Integrated Water Resource Management, and Sustainable Architecture. All of these professions work with nature rather than against; working toward the goal of sustaining both nature and society for future generations.

The depletion of the earth’s resources due to the processes of mass production and consumption, inefficient waste management, and the destruction wrought on nature due to fossil fuel infrastructure development are reasons for the need for permaculture and urban gardening techniques in agriculture.

The need to work with existing resources in order to save the environment, and people alike, is a goal that has many nations working toward carbon neutrality in agriculture, as well as eco-conscious techniques in agriculture to preserve biodiversity. Chemical fertilizers and other environmentally hazardous methods like pesticides are the way of the past in agriculture. The future of gardening/ agriculture lies in sustainable methods like urban gardening (techniques that can easily be applied to larger-scale agriculture/ farms).


Urban gardening

Urban gardening, or urban agriculture, includes elements of the following practices:

  • Gardening for your residence
  • Rain gardening
  • Community, school, and rooftop gardens
  • Indoor gardening
  • Vertical farming

Here is a handy guide to urban gardening:

“City gardens need not be limited to growing just a few plants on the windowsill. Whether it’s an apartment balcony garden or a rooftop garden, you can still enjoy growing all your favorite plants and veggies. In this Beginner’s Guide to Urban Gardening, you will find the basics of city gardening for beginners and tips for handling any issues you may come across along the way.”

Read more at Gardening Know How: Urban Gardening: The Ultimate Guide To City Gardening


Other sustainable solutions for the global conservationist community; carbon offsets

In addition to sustainable agriculture practices by farmers, steps that can be taken by individuals to help with environmental sustainability include: going paperless, going vegetarian (or at least eating less red meat), recycling and buying recycled products, and using Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood products.

Other personal lifestyle solutions to help with global sustainability efforts include using more cloth and alternative products (like bamboo products for sustainable lifestyles), eating less fast food, and eating vegan meals as often as possible instead of meat.

Going with a more sustainable diet is a way of supporting the use of agricultural land for regenerative farming ultimately used in diet and manufacturing of consumer products. Regenerative ag. produces organic foods sold at farmer’s markets. Another easy way to support sustainability efforts is by shopping at, and supporting, farmer’s markets.

Paper products were once trees, so reducing your use of paper products in your daily life will really translate into saving trees. Additionally, meat, and fast-food restaurants, contribute to deforestation because deforested land is often land used for cattle grazing.

In many cases, carbon offsets are purchased by international companies in industries running polluting factories, using carbon-intensive fuel for energy, and manufacturing fossil fuel-intensive products; and this often includes companies involved in deforestation. However, carbon offsets can also be purchased by individuals – online, at retail outlets, gas stations, etc…


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The future generation of batteries

What are future generation of batteries going to be?


Advanced li-ion batteries

Next-generation lithium-ion (li-ion) batteries are being developed, and varieties are already currently in the marketplace. These next-gen li-ion batteries have 2-7X the efficiency of current batteries, often while reducing costs. New varieties of advanced li-ion batteries maintain a stable capacity for 20+ years. Next-gen li-ion batteries can charge in minutes, are rechargeable, have a higher capacity, and are more cost-efficient than previous battery generations.

The most common type of high capacity, widely used, advanced batteries being developed today are li-ion batteries made in combination with other metals. Developing advanced batteries ends up creating a unique battery technology (like li-ion cobalt oxide, which is frequently used today in portable devices – cell phones, laptops, etc…).

[Another metal commonly used in batteries for a wide variety of products and electric vehicles (EVs), and often combined with other metals and elements – is nickel. “Nickel (Ni) has long been widely used in batteries, most commonly in nickel-cadmium (NiCd) and in the longer-lasting nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) rechargeable batteries…”.]


Next-gen battery technologies

Here are a few other examples of advanced li-ion next-gen battery technologies currently in the market (but less widely commercially available than li-ion cobalt varieties. (Here is a YouTube video on li-iron phosphate batteries, also known as LFP batteries). Lithium-iron-phosphate batteries are currently a popular battery solution for some stationary battery applications. Other advanced battery technologies currently in development include:

All of these promising, best-in-class batteries based on advanced li-ion chemistry are more efficient than the products of previous li-ion battery generations; and are also lighter, longer-lasting, often still rechargeable while also developed to charge quickly; and have a higher energy capacity.

These cutting-edge li-ion batteries based on the latest battery chemistries are emerging into the mass marketplace; as they transition from R&D, beta-testing, and demonstration phases. Advanced next-gen li-ion batteries could revolutionize battery technology for:

  • smartphones, computers, tablets
  • EVs
  • grid energy storage
  • commercial/ municipal buildings
  • RVs, boats
  • aerospace applications, other industrial applications, and much more.

Battery recycling

The next step in ensuring that future generations of li-ion batteries are actually a sustainable solution is a concerted effort by battery manufacturers to develop batteries with future recycling options built-in the battery design. Here’s a snippet from C&EN about the importance of having future recycling requirements in mind as a priority for battery manufacturers:

Lithium-ion batteries have made portable electronics ubiquitous, and they are about to do the same for electric vehicles. That success story is setting the world on track to generate a multimillion-metric-ton heap of used Li-ion batteries that could end up in the trash. The batteries are valuable and recyclable, but because of technical, economic, and other factors, less than 5% are recycled today.

The enormousness of the impending spent-battery situation is driving researchers to search for cost-effective, environmentally sustainable strategies for dealing with the vast stockpile of Li-ion batteries looming on the horizon.   FROM –  cen.acs.org/materials/energy-storage/time-serious-recycling-lithium


Cobalt controversy

One glaring issue with li-ion batteries is the lack of sustainability in sourcing the critical rare earth metals used in li-ion batteries. Especially problematic is cobalt sourced from Congo (cobalt is frequently found in batteries in smartphones, portable computers, and EVs).

Cobalt sourced from Congo (which supplies roughly 2/3 of the world’s cobalt), and then used in li-ion cobalt oxide batteries (as well as other batteries – for issues such as battery durability and the like) are unsustainably and unethically sourced. Cobalt from Congo is the product of cobalt mining rife with human rights abuses (child labor, labor for insufficient wages, labor in hazardous, unregulated conditions), unmitigated environmental and social injustices, and other unsustainable practices.

Cobalt is found in many varieties of li-ion batteries, and even nickel-based batteries, and other batteries that use a combination of metals and elements. However, there are batteries with no cobalt or other unsustainable rare earth metals (such as those promising battery types mentioned above in this article). There are manufacturers producing li-ion cobalt-free batteries, as well as many battery manufacturers committed to using cobalt that is not sourced from Congo; but rather other parts of the world that do not have human rights abuses in cobalt mining.

Since child and slave labor have been repeatedly reported in cobalt mining, primarily in the artisanal mines of DR Congo, technology companies seeking an ethical supply chain have faced shortages of this raw material and the price of cobalt metal reached a nine-year high in October 2017, more than US$30 a pound, versus US$10 in late 2015. After oversupply, the price dropped to a more normal $15 in 2019. As a reaction to the issues with artisanal cobalt mining in DR Congo a number of cobalt suppliers and their customers have formed the Fair Cobalt Alliance (FCA) which aims to end the use of child labor and to improve the working conditions of cobalt mining and processing in the DR Congo.

Members of another ethical cobalt mining organization, the Responsible Cobalt Initiative, include FairphoneGlencore, and Tesla, Inc. Research is being conducted by the European Union on the possibility to eliminate cobalt requirements in lithium-ion battery production. As of August 2020 battery makers have gradually reduced the cathode cobalt content from 1/3, to 2/10, to currently 1/10, and have also introduced the cobalt free LFP cathode into the battery packs of electric cars such as the Tesla Model 3. In September 2020, Tesla outlined their plans to make their own, cobalt-free battery cells.FROM  –    wikipedia.org/wiki/Cobalt#Batteries


Summation of Current Advanced Battery Technologies

Widely commercially available advanced li-ion batteries (such as li-ion cobalt oxide, or the promising LFP batteries gaining popularity for home energy storage and EVs) remain the most prominent high capacity batteries widely available in today’s market. These advanced batteries are produced for smartphones, laptops, EVs; as well as small-scale (residential/ commercial building), and large-scale (grid, industrial) energy storage.

However, sodium-ion batteriesgraphene-based batteries, and zinc-air batteries represent cheaper, more abundant, more environmentally-friendly material than lithium; that could produce a less expensive battery with possibilities for long-term energy storage and applications for a wide range of products – if R&D in these technologies yields batteries that can be widely commercially marketed.

Lithium-vanadium phosphate batteries are a next-generation battery solution that shows promise; as they can extend the range of EVs, for example. These batteries potentially have greater power than advanced batteries found in many EVs today, but also greater safety than the batteries found in smartphones and laptops.

In addition, recharging lithium-vanadium batteries could be faster than batteries currently used in EVs and computers. Other promising advanced next-gen battery types with varying degrees of research and development, and at different levels of marketability, include various types of flow batteries.


Flow batteries

Flow batteries, such as vanadium flow and zinc-iron redox flow, have a longer battery life than conventional li-ion batteries. Flow batteries have a battery life of over 20 years, quickly charge and discharge; and easily scale up from under 1 MW to over 10 MW. Vanadium flow batteries represent high capacity energy storage, can be idle when solar and wind aren’t producing, and then discharge instantly. They have the unique ability to charge and discharge simultaneously and to release large amounts of electricity quickly.

As they are inexpensive to scale up, vanadium flow batteries represent an opportunity for reliable, affordable large-scale energy storage. At this point, many types of flow batteries are still in the R&D phase due to the expense of manufacturing these batteries; with only limited commercial availability. However, commercial deployment of flow batteries is seen in some areas worldwide today, including some large markets – such as throughout Australia and Asia.

Unlike vanadium flow batteries, which currently represent a great, realistic battery alternative, lithium-air batteries only theoretically represent a great battery alternative. Lithium-air batteries could triple the range of EVs; and could give fully charged EVs the same range as maximum range gasoline cars with a full tank. However, whereas vanadium flow batteries can charge and discharge repetitively with no problem, it has been notoriously difficult to manufacture rechargeable varieties of lithium-air batteries.



New, promising batteries are currently being manufactured with everything from:

  • li-ion + cobalt, phosphate, manganese, silicon
  • combining these elements, along with nickel – for lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxides, or NMCs as these batteries are known)
  • batteries based on vanadium, zinc, sodium, or even graphene.

Advanced R&D is being done on “superconductors“, flow batteries, solid-state batteries, and various metal or air-flow type batteries. Additionally, there are experimental combinations such as lithium-sulfur, lithium-nickel-manganese-cobalt, and lithium-titanate oxide. New advanced next-gen batteries are quickly gaining ground both in terms of R&D, as well as deployment. Advancements in next-gen batteries will help add renewable energy storage to the grid, add charging capacity to our cell phones and laptops, and help extend the range of electric cars to compete with gasoline ones.



Please also see:

renewable energy storage


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Clean Hydrogen Power

Clean and GREEN H2 |


Hydrogen and the Clean Energy Transition

Hydrogen is one of the most promising emerging energy technologies to fill the rising global demand for clean low carbon and emission-free energy sources. The recent global societal shift towards environmental sustainability, and the global imperative for climate action, have significantly altered energy consumption patterns.

Clean and renewable energy companies are booming. Solar companies experienced their highest production and distribution rates in 2020, enhancing the national use of renewable power. In addition to solar, other renewable energies and emerging next-generation clean energy technologies (such as hydrogen and carbon capture) are also having breakthrough years. President Biden has influenced alternative energy sourcing by establishing ambitious sustainability standards in the U.S. – such as net zero by 2050, and a carbon-neutral electricity grid by 2035. The Biden administration also seeks to reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs) by 50-52% by 2030 (from 2005 levels).

Biden generated the Build Back Better (BBB) plan, seeking to invest in American society and the American clean energy sector. The proposed program allocates trillions of funding dollars for United States’ infrastructure (as well as other programs that benefit society), including funding for the clean energy industry, promoting technological advancements and system alterations.

The Build Back Better plan includes funding for hydrogen and carbon capture technological RD&D (as well as a variety of other next-generation clean energy technologies). Various parts of the BBB climate-related plan also include funding for clean energy infrastructure, EV charging infrastructure, financial incentives such as tax credits for renewable energy, and modernizing the US electrical grid (in addition to more clean energy programs). When the US diversifies production and use of clean energy (including clean hydrogen and carbon capture), national greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) are effectively reduced.

Fortunately, Congress did end up passing a part of the original BBB plan – the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). The IIJA does have some investment for technological measures described in this article and was signed into law by President Biden in November 2021. Unfortunately, it does not look like the rest of the original BBB will pass Congress during Biden’s first term. Still, both the development of hydrogen technologies and carbon capture technologies, have bipartisan support. The technological developments discussed in this article are set to continue advancing this decade (a bit more slowly than if the full BBB passed.)


Domestic Energy Production Challenges

Nearly 80% of America’s energy production and consumption (with the transportation sector included) is derived from fossil fuels. These finite natural resources (coal, oil, and gas) create atmospheric pollution during combustion (GHGs and other pollution). GHGs alter the planet’s natural temperature control process, degrading the global ecosystem. On the other hand, hydrogen represents clean energy; as hydrogen, itself, doesn’t release carbon or contribute to atmospheric pollution. 

The Earth absorbs sunlight, generating heat and warming the surface. The planet is capable of reabsorbing a finite amount of additional solar radiation or emitting it back to space. When GHGs invade the environment from the combustion of fossil fuels, they alter the atmosphere’s natural composition and change the process. GHGs have a higher sunlight-to-heat conversion rate and trap energy rather than sending it to space.

Over time, the entrapment and overproduction of heat raise Earth’s temperature. As the planet warms, the evaporation rate rises, oceans heat up, and global weather patterns are changed; resulting in extreme flooding in some global regions (from increasingly extreme storms), and elongated drought periods (causing wildfires, damage to agriculture, etc…) in others. Global warming also degrades aquatic ecosystems, causes rising sea levels, and adversely affects biodiversity worldwide (among other global adverse effects of climate change).

Hydrogen is a clean energy solution for energy storage and transportation to replace climate-change-causing fossil fuels. Right now, hydrogen can be used as a fuel source for cars and buses – and in the future, for long-haul shipping, heavy-duty trucks, and, hopefully, long-haul aviation.

Hydrogen can be used for energy storage. Hydrogen also represents a potential zero or low carbon emissions fuel source for HVAC in buildings; a zero carbon emissions solution for building heating. Hydrogen potentially performs all of these functions without contributing to global warming, air pollution, or climate change (zero carbon in the case of green hydrogen – whereas blue hydrogen represents a low carbon solution – see below for a description of the hydrogen production color spectrum).


What is Carbon Capture?

As the demand for zero and low carbon emissions energy sources rises, environmental engineers and scientists develop new clean production technologies. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) decreases GHGs in the process of producing hydrogen in natural gas power plants (as well as in energy generation from other fossil fuels, and other industrial processes). CCS + H2 production generates reliable low carbon power – hydrogen. After capturing the carbon emissions from methane reforming (in the blue hydrogen production process, described below), partial oxidation restructures the elements as they flow through a catalyst bed, creating clean hydrogen. The actual use of hydrogen for energy generates zero pollution and no carbon emissions.

Though carbon capture cannot directly generate hydrogen for sustainable energy uses, methane reforming in natural gas power plants can. Methane reforming in natural gas power plants combines Fahrenheit steam, combined with a catalyst. The process produces hydrogen and a relatively small amount of carbon dioxide (smaller than the natural gas energy-generating process). Carbon capture can be used to capture CO2 from the natural gas combustion, as well as the methane reforming cycle – a low carbon process to create clean hydrogen.

Environmental scientists and engineers develop carbon capture technology to reduce atmospheric pollution from manufacturing facilities and power plants. The technology can absorb 90% of carbon emissions, significantly decreasing GHGs.

Pre-combustion carbon capture turns fuel sources into a gas rather than burning them. Post-combustion capturing separates carbon dioxide from fossil fuel combustion emissions. The collection of CO2 travels to an alternate processing facility where individuals repurpose or store it, decreasing adverse ecological effects.


Hydrogen Production – the 3 Colors

Engineers have developed various methods of hydrogen production and differentiated them on a color spectrum. When companies create H2 from methane reformation without collecting carbon outputs, they generate grey hydrogen. This process releases 9.3 kilograms of GHGs for every kilogram of hydrogen. In order to create a sustainable, low carbon solution for future hydrogen production, the world must transition away from grey hydrogen to environmentally-friendly hydrogen production methods (grey hydrogen currently represents a vast majority of global hydrogen production).

Companies can capture carbon emissions in the methane reformation process, storing them to preserve the atmosphere, producing blue hydrogen. The CCS process can collect up to 90% of the CO2 emissions and place them underground for climate change prevention. The process is significantly more sustainable than grey hydrogen production.

The zero carbon emissions hydrogen production process uses renewable energy, electrolyzers, and water, generating green hydrogen. Advanced technological devices (electrolyzers) separate hydrogen (H2) from H2O using electrolysis. Solar panels and wind turbines power the systems, creating zero emissions throughout the practice.

Green hydrogen is the most sustainable version of the energy source. Industries can power their production using a 100% clean energy source (green H2), eliminating atmospheric pollution from the process.

The process of producing green H2 is much cleaner than the conventional, ecologically degrading hydrogen development practice of methane reforming. Traditionally, energy professionals generate H2 from fossil fuel sources, generating 830 million tons of GHGs annually. Producing green hydrogen from zero-emission sustainable sources can enhance its efficiency while reducing atmospheric degradation. Producing blue hydrogen still uses methane reforming, but by also using CCS technology, a cleaner method of producing hydrogen is being used.


Hydrogen Fuel Cell Energy
hydrogen fuel cell

The process of producing hydrogen can supply fuel for hydrogen-powered fuel cells, creating an alternate clean energy source for energy storage and transportation. The cells work like batteries, running off of the hydrogen inside of them. They contain one positive and one negative electrode, generating the cathode and anode.

The two electrodes contain an electrolyte. Hydrogen fuels the anode, and air powers the cathode, separating molecules into protons and electrons. The free electrons travel through a designated circuit, creating electricity. Excess protons move to the cathode, combining with oxygen and generating water as the output. Pure water is a sustainable alternative to other GHGs, and water is the only emission in hydrogen power generation.

hydrogen fuel cell bus – Berlin, Germany

Hydrogen fuel cells are used in energy storage, and hydrogen buses, as clean energy battery solutions. Read more about Europe’s extensive effort to expand the hydrogen bus presence on the continent here. The only emissions from hydrogen buses run by fuel cells are water.

Homeowners can also potentially utilize hydrogen fuel cells, shrinking their carbon footprints. Hopefully, hydrogen will be used in large home appliances in the future, such as electric HVAC units, electric furnaces, electric boilers, and other applications. Adopting electric home appliances can aid the transition away from fossil fuel-derived power sources. 

You can compare your carbon footprint and utility savings by first receiving an energy consultation. A professional energy consultant can unveil your property’s compatibility with hydrogen fuel cell power sources. They can also recommend energy efficiency practices, reducing your carbon footprint over time.


Benefits of CCS, Electricity, and Hydrogen Fuel Sourcing

President Biden set a national carbon-neutrality goal upon entering office. Meeting the objective requires a restructuring of the energy sector. Both hydrogen and carbon capture represent solutions to accelerate the low-carbon, clean energy transition. Biden plans on developing a carbon-neutral electric grid, sourcing 100% of U.S. electricity from clean energy sources.

Although still fairly expensive, clean hydrogen represents a highly efficient low-carbon power alternative. “Hydrogen can be re-electrified in fuel cells with efficiencies up to 50%, or alternatively burned in combined cycle gas power plants (efficiencies as high as 60%).”  [Quote from  –  energystorage.org/technologies/hydrogen-energy-storage]. We can effectively develop a carbon-neutral nation by diversifying our electricity sources.

Green and blue hydrogen development can provide sustainable support for the electric grid, be used in the transportation sector or energy storage (in hydrogen fuel cells), and even as a low carbon solution for HVAC units and other major appliances in buildings. CCS with hydrogen development (producing blue hydrogen) represents a low carbon source of clean hydrogen, while green hydrogen production represents a zero carbon source.

We can generate clean energy while eliminating further atmospheric degradation when we target significant pollution producers and replace dirty energy with clean energy sources like electricity and hydrogen. Both electric and hydrogen buses represent clean energy solutions. Utilizing electric vehicles (EVs) can increase society’s access to emission-less power. If you want to drive with zero emissions, you also have the option of choosing a hydrogen fuel cell car (although, currently, an EV represents the less expensive zero emissions option). With both electricity and hydrogen, ultimately the process of generating the energy must come from a low carbon or zero-emissions source in order to truly be a clean energy solution.

The process of using electricity and/ or hydrogen in buildings and transportation also reduces the enhanced greenhouse effect by decreasing atmospheric emissions. When we capture the elements before they reach the environment, we prevent the overproduction and entrapment of heat (as in blue hydrogen). Green hydrogen, or electricity powered by renewables, shrinks the carbon footprint of energy production closer to zero.


Enhancing Urban Sustainability

Many cities have recently increased their sustainability standards, regulating carbon emissions and pollution production processes. They are electrifying transportation, and buildings, requiring cleaner energy (as in renewable portfolio standards and clean energy standards). CCS used in combination with hydrogen power (blue hydrogen) production can support urban transformations towards clean, low-carbon energy. Green hydrogen power production can support the urban energy transition completely away from fossil fuel reliance towards zero-emission energy.


Article by Jane Marsh

Author bio:

Jane works as an environmental and energy writer. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of

Environment.co