A net-zero world 'would require 306 million tonnes of green hydrogen per year by 2050': IEA

Achieving global net-zero emissions by 2050 will require about 306 million tonnes of green hydrogen derived from renewable energy each year, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA) report.

The landmark IEA study, which sets out the steps needed to get the world to net-zero emissions by mid-century, also says that 197.6 million of blue hydrogen would be required annually, derived from natural gas or coal with carbon capture and storage (CCS).

A further 16 million tonnes of low-carbon electrolytic hydrogen would be also produced annually from electrolysis powered by nuclear power and fossil-fuel power plants with CCS.

In total, the report says, 520 million of renewable and low-carbon hydrogen would be used across a wide range of industries. By comparison, 87 million tonnes of largely grey hydrogen were produced from unabated natural gas and coal in 2020, mainly for use in the chemicals and oil refining sectors.

The 322 million tonnes of green and electrolytic hydrogen in 2050 would require a global electrolyser capacity of 3,585GW, up from about 300MW today, and roughly 14,500TWh of electricity — about 20% of the world’s electricity supply (71,164TWh).

“Rolling out electrolysers at the pace required in the NZE [Net-Zero Emissions by 2050 scenario] is a key challenge given the lack of manufacturing capacity today, as is ensuring the availability of sufficient electricity generation capacity,” the IEA report says.

Of the 538 million tonnes of hydrogen needed in 2050 — eight million tonnes of which would be grey — about 25% will be produced and used at the same industrial facilities, with the remainder produced and sold on a global hydrogen market.

The IEA says that blue hydrogen from natural gas will cost around $1-2 per kg by 2050, with green hydrogen at $1-2.50/kg.