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Accelerating Decarbonization with Zero-Carbon Fuels

April 1, 2021 Work Area: Zero-Carbon Fuels

Conventional fuels provide more than 80% of global end-use energy today – accounting for a significant piece of our global carbon emissions. Zero-carbon fuels like hydrogen (“H2”) and ammonia (“NH3”) are energy carriers that emit no carbon dioxide when consumed, and could replace conventional fuels in some parts of heavy transportation, industry, and power generation.

Zero-carbon fuels are ready for pilot deployment, but clean production, appropriate infrastructure, and end-use technologies all require additional development and scale-up. That’s why CATF is collaborating with leaders from industry and other NGOs on research, development, and demonstration recommendations for zero-carbon fuels as part of the Carbon Free Technology Initiative.

Scale will be critical for reducing costs and enabling future deployment of zero-carbon fuels. “Hydrogen Hubs” that co-locate large zero-carbon fuels producers with a variety of consumers in close proximity (for example, at port areas) will accelerate progress on technology, promote industry learning and alignment, and provide initial zero-carbon fuels jobs. They could also seed later development of a web of connected low-emitting industry and transport centers.

The ultimate scale of zero-carbon fuels deployment that will be required is subject to some uncertainty, but some estimates indicate that hydrogen demand for “unlikely-to-electrify” sectors could exceed one billion metric tons per year by 2050 and could result in more than a 30% reduction in global CO2 emissions. CATF is evaluating scenarios of future zero-carbon fuels deployment in the US with NGO collaborators as part of the Decarb America Research Initiative. Initial results are available here.

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