Hydrogen hype: A climate-neutral future with green hydrogen

Will hydrogen become a model for the future? Latest developments make hydrogen a "game changer"

Hydrogen hype sustainable
Source and Copyright by Freepik

Author: Sarah

Hydrogen has the potential to realise net-zero strategies by becoming a substitute for fossil fuels. The problem for scaling up has been the cost and production of clean hydrogen. However, as demand for solar and wind energy increases, these costs may decrease in the future, making hydrogen viable on a mass scale. Moreover, the technology is now advanced and thus enables the development of hydrogen on a large scale - not only as a low-carbon energy carrier, but also as a storage resource.

Hydrogenium for environment and industry?

Hotly debated a few years ago, especially in the automotive industry, hydrogen technology has made little progress since then - something that should now change. Resourceful scientists are working on how to produce hydrogen without using too much renewable energy. The goal is to establish hydrogen as an energy carrier for large-scale industry and to replace fossil fuels once and for all. Hydropower is therefore now a promising energy resource for a climate neutral future.

hydrogen hype climate neutral

Hydrogen Train, Source & Copyright by Alstom

What is hydrogen? In a nutshell:

Hydrogen is a chemical element that occurs on our planet and is mainly directly bound to oxygen - as water. The pure gas H₂ occurs less frequently and must therefore first be released from the bond or split off from it, using complex electrolysis processes. The challenge in extracting the chemical element is to use energy resources that are as climate-neutral as possible. The relevant ecological difference in hydrogen technology is made by the production process of hydrogenium.

The different manufacturing processes are marked by colours. Green, turquoise, blue or grey - each colour stands for a production process with very different COXNUMX emissions. The fact is: today, around XNUMX% of all hydrogen is produced in reactions with coal and natural gas and is considered "grey hydrogen". It does absolutely nothing to help reduce COXNUMX emissions. The goal is therefore to produce hydrogen from low-carbon energy sources, so-called "green hydrogen", and to expand its use to the transport and power generation sectors.

The colors of hydrogenium

    • Green Hydrogen: Produced by electrolysis of water with the help of renewable electricity; only oxygen remains and is therefore climate-neutral
    • Grey Hydrogen: The most harmful way of producing hydrogen as it is made from fossil fuels with significant CO₂ emissions
    • Turquoise Hydrogen: Critical from an ecological point of view, as it is produced from natural gas, but with the potential for climate-neutral production, as CO2 does not enter the atmosphere as solid granules
    • Blue Hydrogen: Also produced from fossil fuels, but the CO2 can be stored underground using CCUS (Carbon Capture). CCUS (Carbon Capture) can be stored underground

hydrogen hype climate neutral

Green Hydrogen Production, Source & Copyright by EnBW

Is H2 the driving force of tomorrow?

So far, hydrogen has mainly been used in industry for the production of ammonia, hydrochloric acid, methanol and aniline. However, the most important argument for a far-reaching expansion of hydrogen as an energy carrier is its use as a storage medium for fluctuating electricity from solar or wind energy. At the COP26 summit, many proponents presented hydrogen as a promising alternative and triggered a veritable "hydrogen hype".

For the automotive industry, the hydrogen-powered fuel cell is now a potent alternative to previous drive energies. In a fuel cell, oxygen and hydrogen combine to produce energy and water. As with battery technology, the energy then drives an electric motor. The energy is thus self-generating in the fuel cell. The only shortcoming for the mobility sector, is the scarcely existing infrastructure of hydrogen filling stations. But this can be worked on. Because it is a recognised alternative, especially for public transport.

Hydrogen as the game changer of the future

However, lower renewable energy costs alone are not enough. For cost-effective production of clean hydrogen, the value chains for electrolysis and carbon management must be further expanded. Policymakers must be able to meet the demand for green hydrogen from industry, transport and energy. This will certainly require imports and subsidies for the transition from cheaper energy sources.

If consumers and producers get the right signals and politicians set the right course, the potential of hydrogen to protect the climate and implement the energy transition can be fully exploited. This can create an ecological "gamechanger" for the energy industry, fresh from the laboratory.

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