Hydrogen – The Fuel of the Future

The universe's most prevalent element is hydrogen. However, it is present in enormous amounts as a component of the water in oceans, ice caps, rivers, lakes, and the atmosphere. Hydrogen is a clean fuel. It is the most prevalent chemical element and is thought to make about 75% of the universe's mass which can also be replaced with methane. Besides water, plants, animals and humans all do carry numerous hydrogen atoms. Although it is found in almost all living organisms' molecules, it is extremely rare as a gas and only makes up less than one part per million by volume.

Usage of Hydrogen

  • In the chemical industry, hydrogen is used for producing cyclohexane and methanol. These compounds are intermediates in the synthesis of polymers and medicines. Moreover, hydrogen is also used for producing ammonia for agricultural fertilizer by using the Haber process.
  • For the purpose of creating flat glass sheets, hydrogen is employed in the glass industry as a protective environment.
  • It is utilized as a cleansing gas in the electronics sector during the production of silicon chips.
  • One of hydrogen's earliest practical applications was to fill balloons and airships owing to its low density.

The Color Spectrum of Hydrogen

  • Blue Hydrogen: It is mostly made from natural gas using a technique called steam reforming, which combines natural gas and heated water to create steam. During the production of hydrogen, carbon dioxide is used as a byproduct. Owing to the fact that the steam reforming process doesn't actually prevent the production of greenhouse gases, blue hydrogen is occasionally referred to as low-carbon hydrogen. The blue hydrogen market was valued at over USD 18 billion in 2022, and it is anticipated to grow at a rate of over 12% between 2023.
  • Green Hydrogen: It is produced by electrolyzing water with clean electricity. This clean energy is generated in excess from renewable energy sources, such as solar or wind energy. Green hydrogen currently makes up only a small portion of the overall hydrogen produced. This is majorly due to the high cost of production associated with green hydrogen. As it gets more prevalent, green hydrogen is poised to become less expensive, just as the cost of wind energy has gradually decreased over the years. The global green hydrogen market is expected to rise from its current value of USD 1.7 billion in 2022 to USD 515.66 billion by 2035, growing at a CAGR of 61% during 2023-2035. Furthermore, owing to significant investments made by European economies in the pursuit of an energy transition to a clean hydrogen-based economy, Europe currently holds the largest market share for green hydrogen.
  • Grey Hydrogen: Using steam methane reformation, grey hydrogen can be produced from natural gas, or methane, without releasing any greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Approximately 70 million tonnes of grey hydrogen, produced from unrestricted natural gas or coal, are utilized annually, primarily for the manufacturing of ammonia fertilizer, chemicals, and oil refining.
  • Black and Brown Hydrogen: In the hydrogen spectrum, black and brown hydrogen are the complete opposite of green hydrogen and are the most harmful to the environment. Recently, Japan and Australia unveiled a new brown coal that had to be used in a hydrogen project. On the other hand, in Australia, brown coal would be used to create liquefied hydrogen. This liquid hydrogen which is to be used in low-emission applications, would be transported to Japan. The market for brown hydrogen is anticipated to increase to USD 56 billion by 2035, growing with a CAGR of near to 5% between 2023 and 2035.
  • Pink Hydrogen: Pink hydrogen is produced by using nuclear energy via the electrolysis process. This nuclear-produced hydrogen is also known by purple hydrogen or crimson hydrogen. Nuclear power plants can produce steam for more effective electrolysis or steam methane reforming using fossil fuels, which can be utilized to produce hydrogen.
  • White Hydrogen: It is a type of naturally occurring geological hydrogen. White hydrogen is produced by a process known as fracking. This type of hydrogen is found in subsurface deposits. Currently, no such methods are available to utilize white hydrogen.

Cost of Hydrogen

Hydrogen is expensive to produce and is not readily available it is less common in the environment than other gases. For its manufacturing, procedures like water electrolysis are necessary. This technique takes a long time and is highly expensive. Furthermore, compared to fossil fuel-based hydrogen, which costs roughly USD 1.80 per kg, hydrogen produced from renewable energy ranges in price from USD 3 to USD 6.55 per kilogram.

Which Country Around the World is Leading in Hydrogen?

  • China: China published its first hydrogen roadmap in 2016. This helped the nation to become the leader in the development of fuel cell trucks and buses. The nation is also known to have the third-largest FCEV fleet in the world. China currently uses more than 24 million tonnes of hydrogen annually, which is more than any other nation. Furthermore, China has listed six future sectors in its 5-year economic plan. Among these six sectors, focus on hydrogen is one of them. By 2050, it is predicted that hydrogen would make up 10–15% of China's energy consumption. The country is also known to have large hydrogen energy storage systems to support the hydrogen economy.
  • United States: With more than 10% of the world's demand coming from the US, it is the second-largest producer and user of hydrogen behind China. The three states that produce the most hydrogen are Texas, Louisiana, and California. Nearly all of the hydrogen produced in the US today is utilized for food processing, metal treatment, fertilizer production, and petroleum refining. In the United States, annual production of hydrogen is around 10 million metric tonnes.
  • Europe: As the EU strives to become the industry leader in clean hydrogen, the European Clean Hydrogen Alliance was established to facilitate investment and large-scale deployment of clean hydrogen projects. Different bloc members appear destined to become significant hydrogen importers, exporters, or transit hubs. According to data nearly half of Europe's total hydrogen usage as of 2020 came from refineries.
  • Japan: Japan became the first nation to create a national hydrogen strategy as part of its goal to establish the world's first "hydrogen society" by implementing the fuel across all sectors. The nation is developing long-term supply arrangements for importing hydrogen from foreign nations. The nation lacks the natural resources required to install adequate quantities of wind or solar to generate clean hydrogen at scale. As per estimates Japan's chemical sector consumed 42 million cubic meters (+11.4%) more hydrogen in past few years.

How is Hydrogen Produced?

The process of hydrogen generation is from a wide range of household sources, including biomass, fossil fuels, and water. Some of the processes include:

  • Electrolysis: Water is split into hydrogen and oxygen by an electric current. If the electricity required for electrolysis process is generated from renewable resources, the producing hydrogen is then said to be renewable. This generated green hydrogen would have many benefits for reducing emissions.
  • Fermentation: By converting biomass into sugar-rich feedstocks, hydrogen can be produced through fermentation.
  • There are several hydrogen generation techniques being developed nowadays:

  • High-Temperature Water Splitting: Nuclear or solar concentrators' high temperatures promote the chemical reactions that split water into hydrogen.
  • Photoelectrochemical Water Splitting: Hydrogen is created from water using photoelectrochemical devices, which harness sunlight energy and specific semiconductors.

Latest News

  • India intends to increase the capacity of its green hydrogen energy by 175 GW. The country aims to produce 5 million tonnes of green hydrogen by 2030. Furthermore, Indian green hydrogen ecosystem development could aid in worldwide decarbonization.
  • Chinese researchers have achieved strides in the usage of oxygen evolution reaction (OER) energy through the use of layered double hydroxides, with the aim of producing hydrogen for renewable energy sources efficiently.
  • One of the first and biggest clean hydrogen projects in the US, the HyGrid Project. It is anticipated that it will heat about 800 homes and contribute to the decarbonization of the current gas networks.
  • In the United Kingdom, an experiment with blends of hydrogen is being performed by FutureGrid in off-grid gas pipelines. Meanwhile, another organization, Project Union, is looking into the creation of a hydrogen "backbone". This backbone is poised to connect industrial clusters all over the nation.

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