Editorial Feature

A Hydrogen-Powered Future: Applications for Green H2

Green hydrogen has emerged as essential in achieving energy transition and assuring a sustainable future. The lower cost of manufacturing green hydrogen using renewable energy sources and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions have given clean hydrogen an unparalleled boost. Green hydrogen will be vital in decarbonizing several sectors, including industry, transportation, and energy storage.

green hydrogen

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What is Green Hydrogen?

Green hydrogen is generated by water electrolysis using electricity from renewable sources. Electrolysis employs an electrical current to break down water molecules into oxygen and hydrogen using electrodes. Its production emits substantially less greenhouse gases than grey or blue hydrogen production.

Green hydrogen's primary goal is to limit global warming to 1.5 °C, reduce reliance on fossil fuels by substituting grey hydrogen, and provide a broader range of end uses in certain economic sectors, subsectors, and activities. However, utilizing other methods, such as renewable-powered electrification, could prove technically challenging to decarbonize these applications.

Benefits of Green Hydrogen and Applications

Green hydrogen does not produce greenhouse gases during production or usage. It can be produced utilizing sustainable energy sources, such as water electrolysis with solar or wind energy, and in various applications, including transportation, energy generation, and storage.

Green hydrogen can be utilized in hydrogen-powered vehicles, such as vessels, trains, and planes, reducing air pollution emissions during transportation. It can also be used in fuel cells to produce electricity stored for later use.

It is used as a raw material in the chemical, petroleum products, pharmaceutical, cement, and steel sectors, replacing fossil fuels and lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

Current and Future Applications of Green Hydrogen

Hydrogen has the potential to play an essential role in attaining a net zero economy, provided it can be mass-produced without relying on fossil fuels. Hydrogen's characteristics make it a great complement to intermittent renewable energies and a viable solution for sectors where electrification is challenging, such as heavy industrial and long-haul transportation. Green hydrogen plays a vital role in the following applications:

Green Hydrogen in Industry

Hydrogen is primarily used in industry, specifically for oil refining, ammonia manufacturing, methanol generation, and steel production. Since all of this hydrogen is produced using fossil fuels, clean hydrogen has the potential to reduce emissions significantly.

Hydrogen is primarily utilized in the chemical industry to manufacture ammonia and fertilizers and in the petrochemical sector to produce petroleum products. Furthermore, it has started to be employed in the steel industry, which is under intense scrutiny due to its polluting effects. Green hydrogen allows for altering some of the industry's processes to be less environmentally harmful.

Green Hydrogen in Transportation

Green hydrogen is employed in transportation as a sustainable mobility substitute. Cars that run on this sustainable energy feature a hydrogen tank that links to the fuel cell, which generates electricity to power the engine.

Fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) represent a shift in the energy and transportation sectors toward fuel with a carbon-neutral impact. They currently account for just 0.5% of low-emission vehicle sales. However, the International Energy Agency reports that the market for FCEVs is growing. Hyundai has declared plans to manufacture 500,000 hydrogen vehicles by 2030, and Paris has begun constructing a fleet of hydrogen-powered taxis.

In transportation, the competitiveness of hydrogen fuel cell automobiles is determined by fuel cell costs and refilling stations, whereas the aim for trucks is to lower the supplied cost of hydrogen. Shipping and aviation have restricted low-carbon fuel alternatives, presenting an opportunity for hydrogen-based fuels.

Green Hydrogen for Energy Storage

One of the most significant advantages of hydrogen is that it can be utilized as an energy "carrier" and energy "source". This approach shows great promise for overcoming the primary challenge of intermittent renewable resources like wind and solar electricity. Today, the most common development and implementation method is to connect a renewable energy plant to an electrolyzer.

During peak generation times, extra electricity can be converted into hydrogen, which can be stored perpetually. When production levels fall or demand rises, a generator turns the stored hydrogen back into electricity, fed into the grid to ensure a consistent and broadly predictable energy supply.

Green Hydrogen in Domestic Use

Several environmentally friendly initiatives are currently in progress regarding domestic use, including substituting the natural gas system with a green hydrogen system that supplies heat and electricity to families without emitting pollutants.

Green hydrogen is playing a vital role in the economy's decarbonization. However, its implementation still has obstacles, including lowering production costs, optimizing storage, and implementing minimal infrastructure.

Current Limitations in Widespread Use of Green Hydrogen

The clean and extensive use of hydrogen in worldwide energy transitions has several challenges. The cost of producing hydrogen from low-carbon energy is currently high. According to an IEA analysis, the cost of generating hydrogen from renewable electricity might drop by 30% by 2030 as renewable energy costs fall and hydrogen production scales up. Mass production can benefit fuel cells and electrolytes (which convert power and water into hydrogen).

The development of hydrogen infrastructure is inefficient and prevents wider use. Consumer hydrogen pricing is heavily influenced by the number of refueling stations, their frequency of use, and the amount of hydrogen delivered daily. National and local governments, industry, and investors must work together to plan and coordinate actions to address this.

Natural gas and coal currently produce almost all of the hydrogen needed. Hydrogen is already used on an industrial scale worldwide, yet its generation emits more CO2 per year than Indonesia and the United Kingdom combined. To achieve a clean energy future, it is necessary to capture CO2 from hydrogen production from fossil fuels.

Solutions and Strategies to Boost Green Hydrogen Usage

Increasing commercial requirements for clean hydrogen can enhance the potential of green hydrogen. Clean hydrogen solutions are available, but the costs remain high.

Policies to develop long-term markets for clean hydrogen, particularly to limit emissions from fossil fuel-based hydrogen, are required to support investments by producers, distributors, and users. Scaling up supply chains can reduce costs for low-carbon power and fossil fuels by collecting, utilizing, and storing carbon.

Novel hydrogen applications, clean hydrogen supplies, and infrastructure construction are at the highest risk point on the deployment curve. Targeted and time-limited loans, guarantees, and other measures can assist the private sector in investing, learning, and sharing risks and profits.

Promoting R&D to reduce expenses can also enhance the use of green hydrogen. Along with cost savings from economies of scale, R&D is critical for lowering costs and improving performance, such as fuel cells, hydrogen-based fuels, and electrolyzers. Government activities, particularly public funding, are crucial in shaping the research agenda, taking risks, and attracting private resources to innovation.

Global Initiatives and Case Studies

ArcelorMittal and Fertiberi established the most ambitious hydrogen-based project, HyDeal. By 2030, the goal is to construct a massive 9.5 GW solar power plant with a 7.4 GW electrolyzer capable of producing over 300,000 tons of "green" hydrogen annually. This flagship project is being driven forward by VINCI Engineering and its specialized HyFinity brand.

Another significant project that demonstrates the potential usage of green hydrogen is the Jupiter 1000 project. Actemium partners in the Jupiter 1000 project, which GRT Gaz leads. The project was launched in 2020 in Fos-sur-Mer, France, and includes an industrial demonstrator for producing synthetic methane via an electrolyzer powered by a local renewable energy facility and a unit for capturing CO2 emissions from the adjacent steel production plants. The synthesized methane is fed into the gas infrastructure, where industrial and residential consumers can use it. The initial carbon atom discharged into the atmosphere is retrieved and recycled. This innovation dramatically minimizes CO2 emissions from the upstream gas manufacturing stage.

The Role of Policy and Investment in Green Hydrogen

The consumption of green hydrogen could be a crucial factor in combating climate change, but policymakers, industry leaders, and investors must support critical infrastructure and stimulate R&D. Many developing countries regard industrialization as the key to economic progress and success. Policies and regulations like Europe's "Green Deal" and the United States' Inflation Reduction Act can provide governmental and financial incentives for decarbonizing major industries.

The challenge for the developing world is to derisk investments in new energy infrastructure and technology mixes to increase cheap energy access, assure energy security, and entice investors to start new sectors, resulting in job creation, revenue generation, and tax income.

This requires effective knowledge-based policy and regulation and market-making subsidy regimes. This is particularly relevant for the significant investments needed to scale green hydrogen.

Conclusion and Future Prospect

Due to its adaptability, green hydrogen is gaining both economic and political support. It could play a critical role in attaining a carbon-free future, and its widespread application will be necessary for decarbonizing energy-intensive industries like cement and steel manufacturing.

The worldwide need for green hydrogen is expected to rise by 700% by 2050, which will have far-reaching consequences for present value chains while generating novel revenue streams for nations strategically positioned in the growing green hydrogen market.

References and Further Reading

Guan, D., Wang, B., Zhang, J., Shi, R., Jiao, K., Li, L. & Ni, M. (2023). Hydrogen society: From present to future. Energy & Environmental Science, 16(11), 4926-4943. https://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlelanding/2017/1w/d3ee02695g/unauth

Panchenko, V. A., Daus, Y. V., Kovalev, A. A., Yudaev, I. V., & Litti, Y. V. (2023). Prospects for the production of green hydrogen: Review of countries with high potential. International Journal of Hydrogen Energy, 48(12), 4551-4571. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0360319922047309

Zainal, B. S., Ker, P. J., Mohamed, H., Ong, H. C., Fattah, I. M. R., Rahman, S. A., ... & Mahlia, T. I. (2024). Recent advancement and assessment of green hydrogen production technologies. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 189, 113941. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1364032123007992

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Usman Ahmed

Written by

Usman Ahmed

Usman holds a master's degree in Material Science and Engineering from Xian Jiaotong University, China. He worked on various research projects involving Aerospace Materials, Nanocomposite coatings, Solar Cells, and Nano-technology during his studies. He has been working as a freelance Material Engineering consultant since graduating. He has also published high-quality research papers in international journals with a high impact factor. He enjoys reading books, watching movies, and playing football in his spare time.

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