What is Hydrogen Energy?
Hydrogen energy is a clean source of energy that’s obtained through burning hydrogen gas. Hydrogen energy is preferable to energy obtained from burning natural gas as it doesn’t release any greenhouse gases or carbon dioxide in its process.
As the UK heads towards its 2050 net-zero target, hydrogen energy is becoming increasingly adopted by many manufacturers. Through the adoption of hydrogen energy, businesses are able to increase the sustainability of their products, reduce waste and inspire innovation.
How Is Hydrogen Energy Produced?
In order for hydrogen energy to be produced, pure hydrogen gas first needs to be acquired. Hydrogen can be produced through a range of different processes. Depending on the method used to produce it, hydrogen is given colour-coded nicknames.
Hydrogen is most commonly produced using the steam-reforming process, which combines high-temperature steam with natural gas to extract hydrogen (blue hydrogen).
In addition, hydrogen can also be extracted from water using the electrolysis process (green hydrogen). This process requires more energy than steam-reforming; however, this energy can be sourced from renewable resources such as solar, wind and nuclear.
Where Is Hydrogen Energy Used?
Hydrogen energy can be used in any system or product that can safely burn hydrogen as a fuel:
- Automotive industry: hydrogen energy is already being used in hydrogen-powered cars and vans, which are then classified as zero-emission vehicles.
- Marine industry: hydrogen energy can be used in the marine industry in hydrogen-powered yachts and boats.
- Aerospace industry: hydrogen energy can be used in the aerospace and aviation industry in hydrogen-powered planes, drones and spacecraft.
- Railway industry: hydrogen energy can be used in the railway industry in hydrogen-powered trains.
- Indoor heating: hydrogen energy can be used for hobs, radiators and boilers in households.
Advantages of Hydrogen Energy
There are numerous advantages to using hydrogen as an energy source:
- Zero-emission: Burning hydrogen only produces steam and warm air as byproducts – no greenhouse gases or harmful pollutants. Therefore, hydrogen combustion is considered a zero-emission process.
- Easy transportation: Hydrogen can be easily transported through gas pipelines. This minimises the chances of energy disruptions and reduces the requirement for the costly infrastructure of a hydrogen transmission network.
- No culture change: Many common household products, such as hobs and radiators, already utilise gas as fuel. Hydrogen equivalents of these products would be very similar and not require a culture change.
- Readily available: Hydrogen is a practically limitless source of fuel, as it can be extracted from water.
- Highly efficient: Hydrogen energy is much more efficient than fossil fuels, leading to long usage times, fast refuelling times and reduced fuel consumption.
- No noise or visual pollution: In addition to not emitting any harmful byproducts, hydrogen energy also doesn’t create any substantial noise or visual pollution, making it suitable for consumer products and urban adoption.
Limitations of Hydrogen Energy
Although the advantages of hydrogen energy far outweigh its drawbacks, the main limitation of it is that not enough of the current hydrogen in circulation is green hydrogen.
Most of the hydrogen produced is currently blue hydrogen, which utilises natural gas as a resource, releasing greenhouse emissions in its process. Ideally, green hydrogen would be the most common source of hydrogen energy, as it is the cleanest type with no greenhouse emissions involved in any stage of the process. This would require massive investments in renewable sources and related power grid infrastructure to connect renewable power to green hydrogen-producing hubs or plants.
Green hydrogen plants would also require higher start-up costs. This cost, however, is starting to be reduced through rapid technological advances and economies of scale.
Technologies such as innovative adhesives allow manufacturers to reduce this cost by offering high-performing solutions for manufacturing, repairing and maintaining hydrogen-powered cars and hydrogen pressure vessels for storing hydrogen; along with many more applications to support hydrogen adoption.
By investing in hydrogen energy, manufacturers enable further innovation in the field, thereby accelerating the rate at which we can reach total green hydrogen adoption around the world.