Blog 10.03.21

Is Blue the new Green?

Blue the new Green. Image: SB

Henry Ford offered the Model T in any colour so long as it was black. Until recently, those wanting to be environmentally friendly had to go Green. But now their choice has broadened to Blue.

Confused?  So are we. 

You can now buy swimming trunks made from blue nylon (recycled from reclaimed fishing nets) and soon blue hydrogen (made from natural gas with carbon capture) could be piped to your home boiler.

Since when did Blue become the new Green? 

Hard to say.  But Gunter Pauli, the founder of the first major eco-friendly detergent company Ecover, may have something to do with it. Some time ago he popularized the term Blue Economy, which refers to ocean-derived commercial activity, in a book by the same name extolling ways to ensure the oceans are used sustainably.

Blue plastic

Recent efforts to rid the sea of plastic has seen Blue used to describe the recycled products made from reclaimed fishing nets and other flotsam.  These are offered by brands like adidas with its Primeblue range.

It seems Blue has been co-opted to describe anything ocean-related that has a sustainability tinge, such as Blue Mining which describes efforts to ensure undersea mining is sustainable.

Hydrogen, a colourless gas, is the latest to get a Blue moniker.  This is because the carbon-free high-energy gas promises to help in the fight against climate change by greening the biggest carbon emitters, such as steel mills, where it can deliver the massive energy injection currently provided by fossil fuels. 

But to fulfil its climate mission hydrogen has to be turned green or blue, meaning it is not made with, or from, fossil fuels.  Making hydrogen calls for a lot of energy and its manufacturing methods are now identified by at least six colours depending on the energy source and resulting carbon emissions.  

Here, courtesy of Gas Connect Austria  and the FT (useful article on the future of hydrogen) is a quick hydrogen colour guide.

  • Blue hydrogen. CO2 emissions during production from fossil fuels are stored using Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology.  Carbon neutral, but very little is produced today because of a lack of CCS projects.  
  • Brown hydrogen. The cheapest method but the most environmentally damaging because coal is the power source.
  • Green hydrogen is produced by electrolysis of water, using only electricity from renewable sources, making it carbon free. Currently very expensive. (See pink, below).
  • Grey hydrogen is extracted from fossil fuels − the most widely used method. Natural gas is heated with steam and converted into hydrogen and CO2, which is released.
  • Pink hydrogen is obtained by electrolysis using nuclear electricity.  Similar to green hydrogen.
  • Turquoise hydrogen is produced by the thermal splitting of methane (methane pyrolysis). Instead of creating CO2 as a by-product, this method produces solid carbon. Turquoise hydrogen is carbon neutral if renewables generate the heat and the carbon is permanently bound as a solid.  The process is still to be proven at scale.

All clear?  Given the use of colours to describe other issues in the ESG spectrum, we can foresee further confusion and many misunderstandings in the future. Take Pink, for example…


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