The International Energy Agency (IEA) has proposed that hydrogen products could one day be accompanied by product passports, a recent report states.
Arguing they could ‘standardise processes, minimise costs, and maximise transparency’, product passports may enable buyers and regulators of hydrogen products to ensure that their own criteria for sustainability are met.
Having made a case for emissions intensity within the definition of hydrogen products, rather than vague terms such as ‘green’ or ‘clean’ hydrogen, the product passport would convey the associated values linked to each unique product.
It is suggested within the report that a product passport for a cargo of hydrogen or hydrogen-based fuels could be established in the form of a unique ID.
This ID, connected to a data repository accessible to trading partners and end users, could include data relating to the product’s emissions intensity rating, a simplified emissions intensity level, as well as other certificates, assessments or information on environmental and socio-economic considerations.
The idea, which is still in its infancy, came from considering how developers could be helped to access different markets while taking into account their needs to meet certain regulatory requirements.
Having a common methodology reflected within the passport would mean that the recipient of every cargo of hydrogen would know exactly what it contains in terms of its environmental impact.
Furthermore, as that hydrogen product is converted or transported, these other sources of emissions could be added to the passport.
Product passports have been suggested in other industries
The report acknowledges other organisations, such as the European Commission, who have advocated for the use of such passports, in the form of scanning a chip or QR code.
In 2019, the Global Battery Alliance conceptualised a ‘Battery Passport’ in an effort to bring transparency to the global battery value chain by collating and transferring data regarding the battery’s chemical make-up, manufacturing history, and sustainability.
Branding this example as ‘one of the most well-developed global examples’ of a product passport, the IEA concedes that hydrogen products face additional challenges.
A single cargo of hydrogen may contain hydrogen from multiple sources. Additionally, when hydrogen is incorporated into different hydrogen-based products, buyers will need access to the various values associated with each product.
It is also important to consider the different government regulations and criteria put in place that would need to be attached to each cargo of hydrogen to check whether it falls within line with different countries’ criteria.
Simon Bennett, Energy Technology Analyst at the IEA, said: “We saw that this was the case and that it might be necessary to have a system that took into account government preferences and different steps in the value chain.”
“And then we realised that the battery sector has already looked at this, and they’ve looked at it for multiple different mineral inputs and then steps in terms of the extraction processing and refinement in the minerals and chains.”
The idea will need further development
Ultimately, the IEA concede that hydrogen product passports are still a very early concept due to the varying regulations different countries have in place.
Once there is an agreement upon using the carbon emissions intensity as a metric to define hydrogen products, and all countries are united in the use of the same assessment methodology, passports may become a more serious consideration.
Jose M Bermudez, Energy Technology Analyst at the IEA, said: “We need to see how passports operate and how they are successfully demonstrated in other, simpler applications before we seen how these can be used in the case of hydrogen or its derivatives.
“We think that it is a good idea but we understand that it would be challenging and could take a lot of time to implement.”