While solar and wind technologies may seem like the obvious answer, they can’t provide the constant power supply required to sustain our homes and businesses. Storing that energy isn’t an option yet, either; batteries and other existing solutions aren’t large enough or affordable enough to harness renewable energy production to meet peak energy demand when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing. What we need is an economically viable solution that combines a zero-emissions fuel with a technology that can fill in the inherent gaps and fully replace fossil fuels.
In response, there is a renewed push to incorporate an energy source that has been around since the beginning of time: hydrogen (H).
What is hydrogen?
Hydrogen is the smallest and lightest atom, the most abundant substance in the universe, and the richest energy source for stars. On a periodic table, you’ll find it in the #1 spot.
Pure hydrogen occurs on Earth only in molecular form (H2) and is typically found in compounds such as natural gas, biomass, alcohols, and water (H2O). Because converting these compounds into pure hydrogen does take energy, hydrogen is often thought of as an energy carrier or storage medium rather than as an energy source in itself. The hydrogen market currently produces roughly 70 million metric tons annually and is expected to reach 121 million metric tons a year by 2026.1
How is hydrogen produced?
While the concept of a sustainable hydrogen-based fuel economy is just starting to gain momentum, the technology for hydrogen production has been in development since the 19th century.
Today, hydrogen is commercially produced in one of four ways. Three of the solutions – steam methane reformation (SMR), oxidation, and gasification – require fossil fuels. In fact, 95% of the hydrogen produced today is made with fossil fuels.2
The fourth solution is electrolysis, which, when completed with renewables, creates a zero-emissions fuel source: green hydrogen, the solution that just might pave the way to our green future.